A lot of people think that barbecuing is only for summer or warmer weather, but I find that to not be true. Barbecuing is for all weathers, especially smoking. Another misnomer is that you have to spend a butt load of money on a fancy smoker to get that perfectly smoked piece of meat. This is also not true. I have smoked some quality pieces of meat on a $20 charcoal grill from a discount store. It is not about the equipment, it is about the technique and the ingredients.
To smoke a piece of meat or some hearty vegetables, you need enough room to cook the food over indirect heat and something to create the smoke. Indirect heat is when the food is not directly above the heat source. The best smoke comes from chunks of wood (hickory or applewood are my favorites) soaked in water for a few hours and then placed directly over the heat to infuse the food with the smoke. The first hour or two is when the food absorbs the smoke, after that it does not penetrate any further so no more wood is required.
There is a lot of debate about whether to use a rub or not and whether that rub should be wet or dry. I have my opinion and that is all I can share with you.
I believe that for the most popular smoked items (brisket, pork shoulder, and ribs) it is best to rub them in yellow mustard and then coat them in a dry rub. The mustard helps the rub adhere to the meat and then, also, the vinegar in the mustard allows the rub to penetrate the meat.
It seems like everyone has their own rub and I encourage you to figure out your own as well, but I will also share mine with you. It is a pretty standard rub, but always produces a nice flavor throughout the meat.
Barbecue Rub Recipe
1 ½ cup paprika
1 1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar (darker makes it sweeter) (granules work better, but, if not, it should be well packed)
½ cup garlic powder
½ cup onion powder
1/3 cup oregano
1/3 cup kosher salt
1/3 cup chili powder
1/3 cup mustard powder
1/3 cup ground black pepper
This is great for smoking or grilling. It is best to rub the protein the night before you are planning on smoking or grilling it.
As for technique, my favorite is to check the protein every 1-1.5 hours and baste with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, turning when needed. When the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit, wrap the protein in foil loosely and continue to cook until the internal temperature reaches 205 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows for the protein to remain moist while getting extremely tender.
You can grill anything. If you are afraid it will fall through the grates, get a grill pan with small holes or use heavy duty aluminum foil and poke small holes in it. For vegetables, it is best to cook them over medium to medium-high heat stirring them to ensure an even cook.
For proteins, Sear them (get a good crust) over high heat and then move to indirect heat or lower the temp significantly. Always use a meat thermometer and check the internal temperature.
Fish: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
All Poultry: 165 degrees Fahrenheit
Pork: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
Beef: 145 degrees Fahrenheit (for medium)
All proteins (except fish) should rest for a minimum of 3 minutes, but for beef I always let mine rest, tented in foil, for 15 minutes. This ensures an even cook throughout and reserves the juices of the meat.
Also, before cooking, always bring your protein to room temperature before grilling or smoking. You should do this before you do any kind of cooking to be honest as it ensures an even cook throughout.
Another talking point that people have about barbecue is sauce. There are hundreds of sauces out there and each has their place. I have two sauces – a mustard sauce and a honey molasses sauce. They are simple and can be thrown together with items that are usually in your pantry.
Sweet Honey Molasses Barbecue Sauce
Yield 2 Cups
This is a great base barbecue sauce. You can spice it up with the addition of chilies or perhaps your favorite hot sauce. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t like it as sweet, cut back on the brown sugar and honey. The molasses is needed to give it that rich flavor.
2 C Organic Ketchup, No High Fructose Corn Syrup
1 T Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup packed brown sugar
3 T Molasses
2 T Honey
1.5 T White Vinegar
1 t ground mustard seed
Whisk together all ingredients, except the vinegar, in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to bubble up. Slowly whisk in the vinegar and continue to cook for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool completely before using.
Mustard Barbecue Sauce
Yield 2 Cups
A traditional South Carolina barbecue sauce with a good amount of tang, this is great on pork or chicken or even potatoes or rice.
1.5 C Yellow Mustard
1.5 Cider Vinegar
2 T packed brown sugar
1 T + 1 t Salt
3 T unsalted butter
4 T Worcestershire sauce
To taste – Freshly ground black pepper
Generous dash of hot sauce
Combine all ingredients, except butter, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk together until brown sugar is dissolved. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time and turn off heat. Let cool completely before using.
Alter the rub and the sauces to fit your tastes. I also make a nice Sriracha barbecue sauce, but that one stays close to my heart. You have to keep some secrets.
If you have any questions about barbecuing, feel free to comment below.