BBQ for Fun

What you cook is not as important as how you cook it.  Trick is slow steady heat. Most prefer pork ribs but in the Texas territory it is beef ribs that are king.  There is also the brisket and pork shoulder.  Where ever you come from  and whatever the type of BBQ you enjoy...these tips will  help make you a better BBQ cook.  Add a good rub or sauce with the delicacy of the heat and you have a meal that is pure fact in letters, George Washington wrote  that he attended a barbecue that lasted for 3 days. Sounds fun.

GoTo:     Intro    Sauces     Rubs     Veggie Recipes

Brisket..the cowboy BBQ
Brisket is by nature, one tough piece of meat. What makes it tough is the connective tissue, or collagen. The collagen must be broken down to a gelatin type nature and this can only be done by slow cooking at low temperatures for an extended period of time. We're talking an environment of 225 degrees F for approximately 1 hour per pound of meat.
Preparing the brisket - Buy the brisket according to the info above. If there is a fat cap greater than 1/4 inch, trim down to 1/4 inch. At the nose end (thick end) there will be a layer of fat on the side that needs to be cut out. Cut this out wedge shaped. There will be a somewhat smaller amount of fat on the other side of the brisket and this should also be cut out in the same manner. Once the trimming is done, season liberally with your favorite BBQ rub, wrap in plastic wrap, and let set in refrigerator overnight.

Smoking the brisket - Start the fire and set the brisket out. When the smoker is at 200 to 225 degrees F, put the brisket in the smoker, fat side up! If this brisket is 10 lbs, it will need approximately 10 - 12 hours cooking time. DO NOT open the smoker for at least 4 - 5 hours. You will loose heat by checking it too much. Also, don't mop until 4 - 5 hours. The salt/sugar in your rub will start osmosis (pulling moisture from within the meat) at the time it's put on the meat. This moisture mixes with the rub and forms a paste. This paste is what becomes the crust on the outside of the brisket. Mopping or spraying down the brisket before 4 or 5 hours will wash off the paste. Be patient and allow the paste to form! Feel free to mop at every "half-time" until you reach your anticipated finish time. NOTE: If your temp is a little higher, the brisket may get done quicker, but beware of drying it out. Just remember, when it comes to BBQ, there's no replacement for "Low and Slow".
BarbequE Tips, Recipes for sauces and rubs
THE HEAT...Coals...low and slow
You can use hardwood, charcoal briquettes, or lump charcoal. All three burn down to hot coals, which cooks the meat. The advantage of using wood over briquettes or lump charcoal is the flavor imparted by the smoke. Briquettes and lump charcoal are processed products and, although they do smoke while burning, have lost virtually all of the means to produce the flavorizing effect of burning wood. If using briquettes or lump charcoal, wood chips or chunks are required to produce the smoke that flavors the meat.

If you burn wood in a fireplace you know the more dense the wood is, the longer the wood burns.  Most any wood will work for a fireplace. Not so with your smoker. Hardwoods, either from a nut or fruit tree are most commonly used due to the flavor imparted by the wood. All hardwoods are dense, just some more dense than others. Although a few pitmasters (you can count them on one hand) will use green wood, it is best to use wood that has aged or cured out. Most wood is best used in the range of 6 months to 1 year. If you have wood that has been around a while and is looking old and getting light in weight, it can be used as fire-starter wood. Use it to start your fire. Use good, heavy, dense pieces of wood for getting your primary bed of hot coals.

The BBQ SHACK typically smokes with oak, cherry, apple, hickory, pecan. Various herbs or onions thrown on the fire can also impart a pleasant flavor to meat.  If you have a question if a certain type of wood is good to burn for BBQ, light a piece on fire and smell the smoke. If it smells good, it will probably taste good as well. Beware of hickory, mesquite, and pecan. These woods, used for an extended period of time, can and will be over-bearing. Use them sparingly!
Many smaller smokers cannot function reliably on an all-wood fire. A couple examples would be the Brinkmann and  Weber Smoky Mtn. These require a briquette or lump base (usually briquette) supplemented with chips or chunks for smoke. Other larger smokers as the BYC (back yard cooker by Klose) or trailer models with larger fireboxes can operate on all-wood fires.

For those using charcoal, you will find briquettes have a longer burning time and burn cooler than lump charcoal does. Briquettes are uniform in size and you will tend to get less temperature spikes with briquettes once your target temperature is attained. Many people believe the fillers which are included in briquettes impart undesirable flavors to the meat. These fillers may include powdered charcoal, anthracite coal, clay, limestone, starch, sawdust, and sodium nitrate. Lump charcoal is basically pure carbonized wood made from wood scraps in an environment depleted of oxygen. If you take a chunk of wood, wrap it in foil, and put it in a fire, the result will be that of lump charcoal. Lump charcoal burns faster and hotter than briquettes. You will have to experiment with your own smoker to decide which form of charcoal (or wood) is right for you.

Once you get the fire going, shoot for the "right fire". Make sure to cook with a small fire which is getting plenty of oxygen. A small fire is easier to maintain and will enable you to keep your draft intake vent almost wide open. Keep the exhaust smoke stack full open. Too large a fire burns too hot and requires you to shut down the intake vent next to nothing, which will cause the fire to create resins and creosote. Resins and creosote are present in a "dark" fire. The "right fire" will actually give off very little smoke. If it is smoking, make sure it is white or blueish-white smoke and not dark.
You can also use a gas is true!  Keep the flame low and if you have two sets of burners, use only one.  You can add well soaked wood chips to the burners as you cook and make sure you keep the ribs off to the side or on the side with the burner that is off...INDIRECT LOW HEAT is key with gas grills. Keep the cover on while slow cooking.  You can always finish off your ribs over medium flame while basting with sauce until you get a nice carmalized coating.

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Pork Ribs...the heart of BBQ
Spare ribs or babyback ribs? That's what most people ask themselves when choosing between pork ribs. Both are good ribs. It's just matter of opinion which one's better. Babyback ribs come from the rib area closest to the loin. They are by nature, more tender than spares and they are more expensive! They also take less time to cook than spares. Back ribs range from 1 1/4 - 2 1/4 pounds per slab whereas spare ribs range from 2-4 pounds per slab depending on the trim. Back ribs tend to be smaller , leaner and less meaty than spare ribs.

Prep the ribs the night before you are going to cook them. The key to great ribs, bb's or spares, is to remove the membrane on the back of the slab. You can use a screwdriver to get underneath the membrane, but many times you can get a hold of it with your fingers. Use a paper towel to grab hold of it and rip it down the length of the slab. This will enable seasoning and smoke to penetrate the meat. Apply the BBQ rub liberally over the entire slab, wrap with plastic wrap, and let sit in refrigerator overnight. It will take approximately 4 - 4.5 hours for spare ribs to cook and 3 - 3.5 hours for babybacks. Cook them at 225 degrees F. Be sure to let the rub form a crust before basting them. Otherwise, you will wash the rub right off. When the ribs are done, the meat should be pulled up on the ends of the bones about 1/4 to 1/2 inch. Remember, if you like your ribs sauced, don't sauce them before taking them off the smoker unless you plan on keeping a very close eye on them. The sugars in the sauce will burn before you know it!
Many people hear the terms St. Louis style ribs and KC style ribs. Both are trimmed versions of spare ribs. The ribs are trimmed evenly down the brisket bone side through the cartilage. Additionally, on the underside of the slab is a flap of meat. St. Louis style ribs are void this flap of meat while on Kansas City style ribs, the flap is left on the slab.  Buy pre-cut St. Louis style ribs. They will cook up in 3.5 hours at 235ยบ F.