3 Things Everyone Should Know About BBQ
I feel like I should preface this section to highlight that there are no rules to barbecue, only a large database of “best practices” in order to achieve a certain result.
Here is an example:
“If it isn’t low and slow, it’s not barbecue.”
False. Hot and fast is barbecue. In fact, folks are winning competitions all around the nation using the “hot and fast” method.
Both methods win competitions and can create amazing barbecue.
Here’s another example:
“You can’t make great barbecue from a pellet cooker.”
False again. I’ve witnessed folks win competitions using pellet cookers.
Barbecue is as much about culture as it is about great food and there is always more than one way to make great food. Hot and fast, low and slow, we will teach a variety of methods and approaches and more importantly, WHY folks use each of these methods.
I’ve been able to break down barbecue into three general rules of “best practices” that everyone should know and generally apply this information to each of their cooks and recipes.
The first thing everyone should know about barbecue is…
Great Barbecue is about TEMPERATURE, Not Time!!
Why? The results are everything.
Legendary barbecue has naturally found it’s way into these sweet spots of temperature before we really understood the science of “why” it is that way.
I can cook a brisket for 12 hours at 225F, but if that brisket doesn’t reach probe tenderness (normally between 196F to 208F), the result will not be the “melt in your mouth” or “this is the best piece of brisket ever” reaction. Brisket below certain temperatures is still tough, waiting however long it takes and cooking to temperature is a rule for amazing results.
I cringe when I see recipes say, “cook chicken at 300F for 45 minutes then serve.”
Umm… do me a favor, and always check the temperature.
Living in Salt Lake City, we live in a higher elevation than a lot of places around the country. Food generally takes longer to cook at higher elevations, that’s why it is imperative to cook to temperature and not by time! If I were to serve chicken at 45 minutes (this is random example, I know), and the internal temperature is only 140F, the chicken is not cooked to a safe standard and should not be eaten.
Cooking the chicken at 300F and pulling the chicken at 155F, allowing the meat to rest and the internal temperature of the protein to carry over into the safe zone (~160F), is how to cook chicken breasts that are never dry and always bursting with moisture.
Yes, there are tool to help you get the job done. In fact, I swear by some of them and use them multiple times each day and with every cook, even when I’m cooking potatoes! (Yes, potatoes have a perfect finishing temperature for whether you’re making mashed, baked, etc.)
Check out my post on Temperature Monitoring HERE for links to my favorite tools for helping you watch, monitor, and cook to the perfect temperature.
The second thing everyone should know about barbecue is…
Know What You’re Cooking With & Where You’re Cooking
There are dozens of smoker and grills styles on the market.
Pellet, kettle, gravity feed, offset, barrels, open fire, and more.
There is no right answer on which type of smoker to use, it all comes back to preference.
Don’t be pressured into buying a smoker for thousands of dollars unless you determine that smoker matches your preferences better than others.
We’re working on a “Grill Buying Guide” and will let you know when it launches. Until then, evaluate what you have currently before spending tons of money on a new cooker.
Does it meet your needs?
One of my good friends said, “I’ve wanted to cook a brisket for a while now, but I only have a kettle grill and it can’t make a brisket..”
What?? Not only can a kettle make a great brisket, but there are hundreds of resources available to walk you through the process.
When you’re cooking in high elevations, you are typically cooking in an environment with less humidity than somewhere that is sea level. Fires take longer to get to temperature and you should be aware of how much fuel your smoker consumes during the various seasons. Also, if you are in a dry climate, it is never a bad idea to consider how to add moisture to your smoker during longer cooks.
Tools are available to augment weather conditions for more repeatable results, and we will talk about those, but for now, get to know your smoker and the area you live. It does effect your cook times and strategies while cooking.
The third things everyone should know about barbecue…
Rest Your Meats
After you have spent all night cooking a brisket, or the last hour cooking a beautiful cut of steak, do yourself a favor and rest the meat.
Meat is muscle fibers. When meat has undergone the cooking process, the hotter the meat gets, the tighter the fibers pull. If you remove a steak from the heat and slice into it, the most flavorful juices end up on your cutting board instead of disbursed into the meat where you want them.
Resting the meat allows the juices to be reabsorbed into the fibers of the meat as they relax after cooking. Not only does this mean a juicier bite, but it means the meat is relaxed and the texture of the protein is also improved by resting.
Feel free to perform a test! Cook two steaks using the same method, cook time, seasonings, etc.
Cut one steak fresh off the grill, let the other rest for ten minutes.
Note the difference and know the gravity and importance of this process is even more important with large proteins that take hours to cook.
These are three basic strategies to creating amazing barbecue at home.
Pretty simple, right?
Check out my toolbox HERE