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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Summer Barbecue and Grilling

Good day, class! How are you? Today, we'll be discussing Barbecue and what it means around the country.

Being a Southwestern girl, barbecue(or BBQ) just means when you grill. You grill, outside, with charcoal or sometimes mesquite chips and slather that sh!t with BBQ sauce you find at the grocery store. I recall my grandfather making his own BBQ sauce using pineapple juice on several occasions, but BBQ didn't mean what I thought it meant when I moved to the midwest.

See, I had no idea that BBQ was a thing other than grilling. BBQ is something of a religion out here, and it gets moreso the further you go towards the South. There's smoking, mostly, and about a million different varieties. Dry rubs, sauces, vinegar-based things, marinades...you name it! Smoke with cherry wood, apple wood, mesquite... In Kansas City, BBQ is when you smoke the bejeezus out of it for hours and hours, until the meat is about to basically fall apart, then pull it out and smother it with sauce. It takes a long time to do, and truly is a labor of love...but let's not get into that today. I'd just like to cover some basics for the home cook.

The thing about BBQ is that it's all about the meat. Here are a few notes from my old notebooks in school!

Define collagen—connective tissue that dissolves with heat!

Define elastin—also called ‘silver skin’, this connective tissue does not dissolve!

Smoked meat from culinary school! This was Pork Butt(which
is actually the shoulder) that was smoked for 3 hours
Why is this important? Because collagen is the stuff that's in the tougher bits of meat, like the shoulder, but will dissolve when cooked low-and-slow...therefore resulting in excellent flavor and tenderness. The silver skin doesn't dissolve, however, so it must be removed if you're going to use a tougher bit of meat. You can learn to do this yourself, of course, but a quality butcher will already have taken care of it.

For low-and-slow cooking, such as smoking, you'll want to use brisket, chuck, ribs...any part of the animal that got a lot of exercise. This way, the animal tissue won't break down too much during the cooking, but also will keep its shape while the collagen dissolves. Avoid direct heat at all costs! The smoke will cook it for you, but it takes a long time...at least four hours, depending on the size of your meat. Chickens, of course, take less time than a full side of ribs, but there are a million dedicated bloggers and websites that can point you in a much better direction than I can.

Being a Southwesterner, my definition of BBQ is dad grilling on a Sunday. If your definition of BBQ is more grilling burgers and steaks on the grill in the backyard, slathering chicken legs with barbecue sauce, and grilling ribs and letting the flames lick them off...then this blog is more for you. Frankly, I don't do the smoking enough to offer any real authority on it; but I do grill quite a bit.

Grilling is actually extremely healthy, if you think about it. You're using very little fat, and getting a ton of flavor when grilling from the smoke and flame. If you make your own BBQ sauce, you'll also be cutting out a lot of unnecessary salt and sugar that you'd otherwise get from store-bought stuff. So let's get going and cook!

Texas-Style Barbeque Sauce(with a twist)

Amount(volume)                                   Measure(weight)                                   Ingredient
½ cup                                      4 ounces, 115 ml                     Rendered fat from barbequed
meat(I've used bacon fat in the past)
1/3 cup                                                1½ ounces, 43 g                      Onion, small dice
1½ cups                                   12 ounces, 352 ml                   Ketchup
½ cup                                      4 ounces, 115 ml                     Worcestershire sauce
½ cup                                      4 ounces, 115 ml                     Lemon juice
1/3 cup                                                2½ ounces, 71 g                      Brown sugar
6 tablespoons                          3 ounces, 84 ml                       Mountain Dew(trust me)
to taste                                                                                                Hot pepper/Tabasco/Chili sauce


  1. Heat the rendered fat in a small saucepot.  Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3 minutes.
  2. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice.  Lower the heat and stir in the brown sugar and water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with hot pepper sauce.
This is a base for you to work with. You can double, or triple, this recipe as needed. You can use this as a marinade, of course, but if you're going to do a marinade for meat, I suggest a dry rub. Here's my favorite, best done on a 2 lb Pork Butt(which is really the shoulder):

1½ tablespoons                       1/3 ounce, 10 g                        Black pepper, ground
1½ tablespoons                       ¾ ounce, 21 g                          Dark brown sugar, packed
1½ tablespoons                       1/3 ounce, 10 g                        Paprika
2 tablespoons                          1 ounce, 28 g                           Coarse salt
½ teaspoon                              1 g                                           Cayenne pepper

Mix all of the ingredients together with a fork, and rub all over your meat of choice. Wrap this meat tightly in plastic wrap(I mean seriously envelop it) and set it to chill in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight. This is basically dry-brining the meat, and will ultimately give you a better flavor. You can use this recipe/technique with chickens, pork loins, roast beef, etc. I've even used this on quail, with excellent results. You can, of course, add in your own spices and variations, so long as you stick with a certain sort of theme. For example, stay within a certain region; substitute the cayenne for curry powder and add powdered ginger for more of an Indian flare, or perhaps try doubling the cayenne pepper, adding about 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, and substituting the paprika for cocoa powder, then rub on a whole chicken to create a mole style dry-rub. Oh, sure, you can just use this as a seasoning, but it's much better the longer it sits.

Once your meat is ready, onto the grill(or smoker, if you like) it goes. I'm going to use the grill.

When grilling large, tough pieces of meat(such as the chuck or butt), you'll want to cook it for at least an hour in a low-and-slow method. I like to ghetto sous-vide my meat by zipping it into a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of butter(or oil, if you like) and sort of poach it in barely-simmering water for about one hour. Make sure that you get as much of the air out as possible; you can do this by submerging the bag in water with your meat in it and zipping it/sealing it at the top, ensuring no water actually gets in the bag. 

Of course, a regular sous-vide is better...but what home cook wants to buy that? To keep it from touching the bottom of the hot pan, though, make sure you scatter some chopsticks or metal skewers at the bottom of your pan. You can also use a slow-cooker on high, if you'd like to start it in the morning and come home at night to prepare it. Again, though, scatter a few chopsticks on the bottom to make sure that water gets around it evenly, and it cooks evenly.

The reason you want to do this is to break down the collagen, which sort of melts with low heat over long periods of time. You don't want the high heat of the grill to break this down, because by the time the collagen has all melted, you'll likely have something not resembling meat on your hands...also, you'll probably waste a lot of charcoal and/or wood by grilling to get rid of that stuff.

If you have a piece of meat that's unsuitable for the ghetto sous-vide(such as a rack of ribs), simply use your dry rub and cook in a low oven of 250 degrees for an hour or so, until the meat is rather soft. You can also put a pan of water in your oven, underneath the meat in your pan, to ensure the heat isn't too dry.

Grilled quail, of course, is delicious...and takes nerely
no time at all, in comparison!
Once ready, remove your meat from the bag and plop it onto a very hot grill. Get out your thermometer and grill until your internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. Remember, this is for pork or beef shoulders/flanks/briskets, etc. Slather with sauce as desired, but make sure that your sauce and rubs can coexist nicely. Don't put a mole-style rub on your grilled chicken and do a tangy vinegar-based sauce...cut down on the vinegar, opt for a foamy beer instead as your liquid, and go to down with a Southwestern-style BBQ sauce, if you even want any at all. If you're using ribs, bathe that deliciousness in sauce all the way.

If you want to do steaks slathered in BBQ sauce, just use the sauce recipe. (Although I don't think you should use any sauce on a good steak...I think you should just grill the steak with salt and pepper. Sauces are for chickens and pork ribs...not steaks) This goes with the chicken, as well, but I wouldn't do this with a whole chicken, unless it was broken down into thighs, breasts, etc., beforehand. 

Grilled pineapple also goes great with pork!

Remember that sauce recipe in the beginning  of the blog? Substitute the Mountain Dew for Pineapple juice, and serve using grilled pineapple slices. The enzymes in the pineapple also help break down tougher meats quite quickly, so please don't use it as a marinade...your meat could break down too much and get really slimy and unpleasant. You should not let this stop you, however, from grilling pineapple. Not only is it a delicious garnish for pork, but a more-than-delicious component for a dessert. Simply top a grilled slice of poundcake(storebought or homemade) with a grilled pineapple, and serve with vanilla ice cream! Grilled fruit is a wonderful summertime dessert, and very healthy, too! No fat, just flavor!

Thanks for reading, class! Now get out there and start grilling!

((Heavy breathing...))

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