BBQ...There's more than one right way
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
BBQ... Ask anyone who considers themselves proficient around a pit and they'll tell you the "right way" The truth of the matter is there is no one "right way" Never forget, all that's really important is whether or not, YOU, and the people you're feeding enjoy what you've put on the plate. Now, when you get to competitions that changes a bit but for now, you do you!
When you're getting ready to BBQ, and let me start of by saying, I'm talking about smoking, not grilling. Gas grills have their place, but let's be honest, you probably don't need help grilling a hot dog. There are complexities in BBQ that if not understood can make the hours of smokey work you've put in all for not. One of the biggest complexities is understanding when a piece of meat is finished and perfect. The variable that comes into play is how hot you were cooking it to begin with! It all starts....like all things, at the beginning.
The most important thing to do when preparing for a cook and I still do it to this day is formulate a plan. Work backwards from the time you want to eat and go from there. For example, I want to have a rack of ribs for dinner, how would timeline look? Well, get a piece paper and write it out, this is also handy for notes, what may have gone wrong in the cook and a place for you to share your thoughts on how it turned out. I still go back to my notes today, I've cooked countless briskets and have countless notes, some say in bold letters on top "DON'T EVER DO AGAIN!"
They're an invaluable record of your process and if you don't go back and tweak a few things you'll never get any better. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Couldn't be more true in cooking! So... going back, the timeline, we want ribs and we want to eat at 6pm, my notes would look like this:
5:15pm Check texture, if ok, Glaze
12:00 put on ribs, smoke for 4 hours
11:00am Fire up the pit at 250 degrees then prep ribs
Now, there's quite a bit more that goes into making the perfect rack of ribs, but for now you have your timeline. I know it takes about 7 hours, from start to finish to make a rack of ribs. That's MY WAY, not necessarily the "right way" I adopted this method based on a variety of different factors. What pit am I using? What I like my ribs to taste like. For example, because of life and how busy it can get, I use a pellet cooker (gasp)
Now I own every kind of pit you can imagine, to be honest, my favorite right now is the Louisiana Grills Kamado, it's a big ceramic egg. However, after a long day sometimes you just want the food and not the process, so I'll fire up the Traeger and away we go! Because a pellet cooker won't produce as much smoke as an egg or a traditional offset style pit, in order to get the color you want and the smoke flavor you want, you have to keep the meat in the Traeger a little longer. I'll put my ribs in for 4 hours, spritzing with an apple cider vinegar/coke mixture every 30 minutes or so. Then, I'll wrap them until they're almost done, then glaze them.... but I digress
Getting back to "the right way" While I'm perfectly comfortable and willing to cook a little lower and a little slower than some, there are those who consider this a HUGE waste of time!
There are some in the BBQ community who prefer a "hot and fast" method, instead of low and slow. There have been many arguments about this method. Some say that with bigger cuts of meat like a brisket, you need the extra time to really break down the collagens and it won't be tender unless cooked low and slow. It's a valid argument until you realize that the most accomplished competitive brisket cook is Myron Mixon and he cooks his briskets over 300 deg. If a man makes over a million dollars in BBQ competitions he might know what he's doing, so why do so many prefer "low and slow"?
It's about timing! Strip BBQ down to it's bare essentials and what's really important?
You can do things to modify, you can inject, you can try different kinds of wood and different methods but it all really comes down to those three things, If it doesn't taste good, no one will eat it. If you can't eat because it's tough as a rubber ball, same thing. If it looks like something the cat found under the house, well... you get the picture.
So, timing and temperature? Hot and fast vs low and slow, what do I do? Think of cooking and temperature like a speeding train. It's big, heavy, and takes quite a while for it to stop if it's really moving. If I'm cooking hot and fast and my target temp for a brisket is about 200-205 degrees. I can't pull the meat off the pit when it hits 200 degrees can I? It'll continue to cook as the meat sits there to rest (which is also very important) If a speeding train needs to stop, it starts hitting the brakes and slowing down miles ahead. When it approaches it's final destination it's approaching at a crawl. You can't just slam on the brakes when you get there, no matter what, it'll continue to roll passed it's target. That's why most prefer low and slow, it's less of a guessing game, or to be more accurate, they've got less experience cooking hot and fast and don't know the formula.
It really does come down to math and experience. Sounds like an old school story problem. "If you're cooking a brisket at 300 degrees, how long do you need to cook it to reach a final temp of 205 and when do you pull it off the pit" After enough experience you find that it's around the 185-190 deg mark but even then, it's not all about being a slave to temp and time. There's a feel you need to achieve and that only comes with trial and error.
Using the same train analogy, if I'm in a train and only going 20 miles per hour it's not going to take that long to stop it is it? I can hit the brakes and we won't roll passed our target. So by cooking low and slow, you can pull the meat off near it's target temp, test the feel of it and if it a looks good you can go ahead and pull it off without the fear that it's going to continue to cook while it's sitting on your counter!
To bring things to a close, thank you for reading this! I'll be putting up posts as often as I can to help you elevate your BBQ game! Learn how to become a backyard BBQ enthusiast to a master! I can't wait to help, and keep on smokin!! #BBQ #BBQlife #LouisianaGrills #BBQBlog #Blog