Good barbecue is as much science as it is art. Here are 7 tips to help ensure you get lip-smacking good results.
- Grilling is not Barbecuing
Grilling is done at high temperatures of 350 degrees (f) up to 900 degrees (f). Barbecuing is done “low and slow” — below 275 degree — and for long periods of time.
- Hot smoking versus Cold smoking
Traditional barbecue is cooked between 200 and 275 degrees (f). Poultry generally does better at even higher temps, 325 to 350 degrees (f). Classic examples of hot smoking: Pulled Pork, Ribs, Brisket.
Cold smoking is the method to use when you want to impart smoke flavor but not actually cook the food. Classic Examples of cold smoking: Bacon, salmon.
- The leaner the meat, the higher the temp
Chicken and pork tenderloins are best cooked between 325 and 350 degrees (f). This lends itself to indirect grilling.
Fattier cuts of meat, like Boston butt and brisket, need low temps and long cooking times to become tender.
- Sugar Burns
Sugar is a common ingredient in dry rubs and sauces (especially commercially available ones). The problem with high sugar content is that sugar burns which doesn’t taste good. When mixing your own rubs, go light with the sugar. Add it to your finishing sauce or glaze and apply it at the end of the cooking time.
- Temperature is Important
Knowing the temperature of the air in your smoker and the meat itself goes a long way toward producing great results. You want to know when temperature spikes occur so you can tame them. You also need to know when your meat has hit a temperature plateau. At this point, the connective tissues in the meat are dissolving, which creates pork that just falls apart. Get a couple probe thermometers — one for the meat and one for the air. It’s money well spent.
- Avoid the Danger Zone
Proper temperature control in your smoker will help you avoid the danger zone. The danger zone is time your meat spends going from refrigerator temperatures to bacteria can’t survive temperatures. Basically from 40 degrees (f) to 140 degrees (f). Also, be sure to only used thawed meats. Frozen meats will stay in the danger zone too long to be safe.
- Patience is a Virtue
The hardest part of making good barbecue is waiting until the meat is done. It will be done in it’s own sweet time. The best way to tell when meat is properly cooked is by it’s internal temperature. (see #5) When meat hits its plateau, it could stay there for 20 minutes or it could stay there for hours. Your patience will be rewarded.
- BONUS: HAVE FUN!
If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. Invite a friend over and shoot the breeze. Sip some lemonade. Read a book. You’re in it for the long haul!