What IS Barbeque?

At times, I think we should have a separate category for barbeque.  It’s just such a wonderful food.  Sadly, the word has been so widely used and abused that it really isn’t terribly descriptive.

To me, barbeque is not a social event, it is not cooking food by exposing it to high and direct heat.  One is a party, the other is grilling.  I like both.  Really.

To me barbeque is to meat cooked slowly in the presence of wood smoke.  The time to grill meat is usually measured in minutes.  The time to barbeque, hours.  The temperatures to grill meat are usually measured in high hundreds of degrees.  Barbeque, usually around 225.

There are different styles of barbeque all around the world.  I won’t get into which is best.  Life is too short for that sort of nonsense.  I love Chicago style barbeque, Kansas City Barbeque, Memphis barbeque, St. Louis barbeque, Texas barbeque, and more. While I like Asian barbeque, most Asian barbeque is (according to my definition) grilled.

I usually talk about Texas barbeque because that’s where I live and have lived most of my life.  However, while I like a good brisket, I also really appreciate lamb, pork, goat, poultry and fish.

What goes on when you barbeque meat?  During the first few hours, the meat warms up and picks up smoke flavor.  The smoke flavor permeates the meat.  As meat with collagen in it heats up to around 165F, the collagen begins to break down.  This tenderizes the meat and moistens it.  One of the classic uses for barbequing is to make tough cuts of meat palatable.  Once the collagen breaks down, the temperature again begins to rise.  Cooking times of 16 to 24 hours are not at all uncommon for beef brisket, pulled pork typically takes 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

Cuts, and kinds, of meats without collagen can be barbequed at the same temperatures they are usually cooked at and will come out just fine.  We barbeque turkeys and chicken at around 375F for the same length of time as we would normally bake them.  It is worth mentioning some barbeque lovers feel that no true barbeque lover would ever ask for barbequed chicken or turkey.  Yawn….. life is too short for that nonsense.

What am I looking for when I taste barbeque?  If you refer back to this page in the future, you may see the answers change as I encounter more barbeque and my tastes evolve.

With all barbeque, I want a rich, but not overpowering or bitter, smoke taste.

The meat should be tender.

Barbequed beef brisket should have a dark border, called a smoke ring.  This ring is normally not present when the beef is smoked in an electric smoker.

The meat should still be moist.  Dry barbeque is no fun.  In Texas it is widely felt that a good barbeque does not need a sauce.

The meat should have a crisp crust, at least when it is freshly cooked.  When meat is held wrapped in foil or butcher paper, the trapped moisture will soften the crust.

And that’s a start to understanding barbeque.  You can look around for more information on line.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.