Bar-B-Q (n): The fine art of cooking a cheap piece of meat, over low heat, for an extended period of time, thereby creating a culinary delight. See also: BBQ, Q, barbecue, barbeque.

Since the invention of fire, man has cooked meat over flames or coals. Modern man has perfected this to an art-form. Every region of the country has their own style of sauces, flavorings, meats to use, and styles of cooking. Many a good argument has been made over which is THE way to make good Q. Every Pitmaster, and pitmaster wanna-be, claims to have the best sauce, the best technique, and the best smoker. The funny thing is, they are all correct! Everyone makes their Q the way they like it! I like mine a little spicy, others don't.

But, to me (or more accurately FOR ME), my sauces, rubs and cooking techniques are the best. While there are very few absolutes in the Q world, the basics stay the same: Low heat and Slow cooking. My page contain many items of interest to both the novice pitmaster and the experinced pro!

Growing up in the West, many years ago, we always thought barbecue (bbq, barbeque, bar-b-cue) was a way to cook hamburgers, hot dogs and steaks (yes you could afford steaks in that time) over some fire and coals in a fire box. I read about North Carolina "barbecue". It sounded like wonderful pork dish with a clear sauce on it with just a hint of tang and smoke flavor. I spent a few years trying to learn that taste. Thanks to the internet, I was able to do that and much more. What is called barbecue is often referred to as "pulled pork"

I now own two smokers and make that pork barbecue with the Eastern North Carolina vinegar sauce, and also a variety of regional types of barbecue. Taking a tough brisket and cooking it to tender eating is satisfying skill. The smell of hickory smoke makes you salivate and you continue the quest for the best you can make. Everyone likes ribs. Most restaurants steam or parboil them to make them tender. This washes out the good taste of the meat also, so they cover them with a sweet sauce. Good ribs are made by slow cooking them for hours. This renders the fat, breaks down the collagen, and make a rib that is just full of flavor. I offer sauce on the side, but most folks don't want to cover up the smoky meat flavor. Meats that would not benefit and may actually suffer from prolonged low temperature cooking may be smoke cooked at temperatures from 250° to around 350° F. Poultry and tender cuts of beef and lamb are best smoke cooked.

Beef Steaks and roasts that are normally cooked rare such as rib eye and loin contain little collagen and should be cooked fast. I only sprinkle on a little salt and pepper or maybe some Montreal Steak Seasoning and cook them over a mature bed of coals to an internal temperature of 130° F. Use strong woods such as hickory, mesquite, and oak. Lamb Cook similar to beef. Remove most of the surface fat as it gets strong. Garlic, rosemary and mint complement lamb in rubs, marinades bastes or sauces. Strong woods may be used with lamb and lighter woods such as cherry, apple and pecan also do well. Here is a recipe I like for butterflied leg of lamb with mint.

Cold Smoking Cold smoking is carried out in a smokehouse or chamber at temperatures of 100° F. or less. The historic objective was to help in preserving meat or fish that had already been brined or cured with salt. Gentle heat dried the surface and the natural anti-microbial properties of smoke helped protect the meat from spoilage. Smoky taste was a secondary consideration and skill was required in the selection of wood and management of the fire to avoid strong and bitter flavors. Today, the primary objective of cold smoking is to develop the intricate flavors resulting from the skilled application of seasonings and smoke. Temperatures exceeding 120° F starts the cooking process and cooked meat does not keep as well. It is still necessary to cure or salt any meat or fish that is to be cold smoked because it will spend many hours in the danger zone of 40° to 140° F. which favors the growth of food poisoning and spoilage bacteria.

Many people misuse the term barbecue. It has come to be applied to anything cooked on a grill, or even in the oven if a spicy tomato based sauce is applied. Barbecue is not a dish, or a cooking device, it is a method of cooking.

There is a distinct difference between grilling and barbecueing, however, and each has its own place. Grilling is done over the direct heat of a fire. The object is to sear the outside and concentrate the juices on the inside. The grilled flavor is caused by the searing, or browning, of the outside of the food. The process is similar to that which forms the brown crust on a loaf of baked bread. Grilling is a healthful method of cooking because additional oils or fats are seldom used, and as the food cooks the fat renders out and drips through the cooking grate.

Barbecue on the other hand is the process of cooking meat at low temperatures for long periods of time. The best definition I have seen comes from Chris Schlesinger, owner and chef of The East Coast Grill restaurant in Cambridge, MA. and BBQ Pit by David Klose, Houston, TX.

Barbecue Defined:

A process whereby a large cut of tough meat is cooked by the smoke of a hardwood fire at low temperatures (210 degrees or less) for a long period of time, with doneness determined by the meat's tenderness.

Chris Schlesinger's, Foreword to Smoke and Spice

It's not difficult to get a spirited debate started as to whether true BBQ can be cooked on a standard grill. Of course, for that matter, it's not very difficult to get a heated debate going about nearly any aspect of BBQ. There are some techniques that can be used to achieve some pretty admirable results with a standard grill.

As for the stuff cooked in the oven, or the crockpot, soaking in BBQ sauce, it is just plain old baked or stewed meat. It bears no resemblance to real BBQ whatsoever, so don't kid yourself.

Garry's Home Cookin'

Eat first, ask questions later!


Created on ... March 2, 2001