May 10, 2006

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em

As soon as the weather starts to warm up, it’s time for Barbeque in my mind. I thought I knew all about BBQ until I moved to Kansas City, and what I realized was that I knew quite a bit about grilling, but real BBQ was something altogether different. Once I figured out a few secrets, I’ve never looked back. This issue, I’ll share some of those secrets as well as some shortcuts.

Keep in mind, there are many differing opinions about BBQ from the meat to the sauce and the fuel in the middle. I don’t have the time or expertise to cover every version, so I’ll stick with what I know, and maybe this will inspire you to give it a try and pickup one of the many books on the subject.

The main difference between grilling and BBQ, is Barbecue is “low and slow”, low temperature cooking for a long period of time, over charcoal, gas, or wood. In my book, some type of wood is used to impart the smoked flavor and give you the all important “smoke ring” coloration in the meat. For this recipe, we’ll use pork but the methodology could easily be used for beef or chicken, but you would adjust cooking times.

1. Brine it

2. Rub it

3. Smoke it

4. Rest it

5. Pull it

6. Sauce it

7. Sign Autographs

Brine it: Bring 1 Quart of water to a simmer in a sauce pan, and then stir in 1 Cup Sugar and ½ Cup Kosher Salt. Stir until everything is dissolved and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and add ice to make 1 Gallon. Place 1 to 3 whole Bone In Boston Pork Butt (Boneless or Shoulder will work too) in appropriate size container and pour brine over the meat. Refrigerate 6-30 hours, the more the better.

Rub it: Remove your meat from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub meat with 1 Tablespoon per pound Prepared Yellow Mustard, then apply your dry rub liberally (see recipe below). Cover with cling film and allow to rest at room temperature while you prepare the smoker.

Smoke it: I use an inexpensive gas smoker (around $55.00), but a Webber kettle style grill, or a gas grill will work as long as you can cook with indirect heat. Indirect heat works best when you set your coals off to one side and place the meat over the “cold” side of the grill. Control your heat using the air adjustments on the top and bottom of your grill. If using gas, you’ll need to turn off one or more of the burners and adjust the heat with the remaining burners. If your gas grill only has one burner, I haven’t found a good alternative.

The goal is 250-275 F at the meat level of the grate. If you are using charcoal you’ll need to add more coals during the long cook, and I highly suggest a charcoal chimney for this. To create the imperative smoke, I use a combination of wood chunks and wood chips soaked in water (or beer) for at least 30 minutes. I use a combination of Applewood and Hickory or Hickory and Mesquite, depending on my mood. Toss a couple of handfuls of wood on the fire the first three times you lift the lid. Keep the lid down as much as possible, control your urge to fiddle with it. Get your temp within zone and leave it alone. To check the temperature, you’ll need a good thermometer for the air temperature and one to check the meat. My smoker came with a cheesy thermometer that I replaced with a decent one by drilling a hole in the lid.

Rest it: You want the meat falling off the bone or coming apart very easily. Look for an internal temperature of 200F. A bone in Boston Pork Butt will take 10-12 hours but is well worth the wait. If you want to cheat, smoke it for 4 hours and finish in a crock pot on low for another 6-8 hours, but don’t tell anyone I said it was OK. I’ll get thrown out of the ABC (Amateur BBQ Club), if you do.

Now, let your meat rest for 20 minutes before you start pulling.

Pull it: Start by removing the bones, and begin pulling the pork along the grain into about 1-2 inch threads of meat. If it isn’t coming apart really easily, you didn’t cook it long enough so make a note of it for next time. I keep a bowl of ice water next to my cutting board to dip my hands in when they get hot. I discard all of the fat and bones but never the “crust”. This is known in BBQ circles as “Mr. Brown” and the best part. In my photo, it may look burned but it isn’t at all over done. That almost black is a dark caramelized meat mixed with smoke and what elevates a simple pork roast to the heights of real Barbecue.

Sauce it: I serve a variety of sauces with my Cue, but if the meat is right it really doesn’t need any. Check www.parttimechef for sauce recipes. Another tip is to serve your sauce warm. If nothing else, let the sauce come to room temperature over several hours instead of ice cold right out of the fridge. Warming the sauce really enhances the flavor.

If BBQ to your neighbors means burgers and dogs just shy of black with an overpowering flavor of lighter fluid, then give this a try and invite them over. You just might be signing autographs.

Part Time Pork Rub

4 TBL Paprika

1 TBL Kosher or Flake Salt (you may sub “Lawry’s” salt also)

2 TEA Black Pepper

½ TEA Cayenne Pepper

1 TBL Dried Thyme

4 TBL Dark Brown Sugar

2 TEA Dry Mustard

2 TEA Ground Coriander Seed

1 TBL Onion Powder

1 TBL Garlic Powder (not Garlic Salt)

Mix together thoroughly and store in a tightly lidded container. Use liberally on pork, beef, chicken, or pork (yes I know I said pork twice, I like pork)