If you ever need to perk up a lagging party conversation, just bring up the topic of barbecuing. I’m not talking burgers and steaks, I’m talking about the low-n-slow melt-in-your-mouth sweet or spicy or smokey barbecue! I’ve seen eyes brighten and voices become louder as the chatter turns into an animated discussion of the merits and methodologies of barbecuing. I have friends who will wax poetic about the different special rubs they’ve created, and debate the length of time they like to slow roast their meats. And let me assure you, this is not a male-dominated field, just as many of my female friends are passionate about their barbecue.
Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start. ~Anthony Bourdain
My friends are not unusual in their enthusiasm for this style of cooking. In fact, there are barbecue cook-off contests all over the country. Different regions are known for different styles and flavors. If you want a good time and great food, attend one of these festivals and bring home some ideas to try on your own.
Barbecuing means different things to different people. Barbecue is often cooked on a grill or in a smoker. There’s a whole other group of folks who think the flame should be from a campfire or in a deep pit (think pit-beef). I have favorite barbecue recipes that I like to cook in the oven or slow cooker. Some folks insist that the best traditional barbecue is cooked low and slow.
My friends agree- these are the key components to a successful and tasty barbecue:
- Prep the meat: Some folks believe rubs are the way to go and others like to use their special sauce. Either way, the meat will have a smoky, tasty crust and moist tender meat inside the cut. ~~Tip: Concerned about sugar in sauce? Make your own tasty sauce. Or cook first with a rub and then serve sauce to dip. That way you can control how much sugar you consume.
- Equipment: Grills, open flames, smokers…take your fancy. Regardless of your equipment, always start with a clean cooking surface and oil the grates so the meat doesn’t stick. Make sure the grill closes well to ensure even temperature. When starting a charcoal or wood fire, don’t use starter fluid to ignite the fire. Instead use paraffin cubes or a charcoal chimney. It’s better for the environment and won’t affect the flavor of your meat.
- Extra Flavor: Many of my friends suggested tossing some mesquite, apple, hickory or cherry wood chips on the fire to add an extra layer of smoky flavor. Some gas grills come equipped with a smoker box where you place the chips, otherwise you can create a tinfoil packet for the chips. Poke a few holes in your packet to allow the smoke to escape and place it directly on the grill grate.
- Tools: Make sure you have the right tools on hand such as longer length tongs, spatula, fork and marinade basting brush. Don’t forget a meat thermometer to ensure your meat has cooked to the right temperature. A spray bottle with water is handy for any flame flare-ups.
- Cooking tips: My friends were very specific and serious about these tips:
- Start with room-temperature meat.
- To get a good sear, don’t move the meat around until it’s time to turn it.
- Don’t squish or flatten the meat.
If you are having friends over for a barbecue cookout, remember to include dishes for those that don’t eat meat. Just search in the DinnerTime Recipe Box for tasty vegetarian recipes.