BBQ: The fine art of cooking with fire


BBQ began when a human ancestor called Homo erectus began cooking meat with fire about 1.8 million years ago. The word “barbecue” comes from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is barbacoa. The word first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer's account of the West Indies in 1526. Today there are many styles of BBQ identified throughout the world. Whether it be buried underground, in a smoker, on a grill, or otherwise, BBQ is the act of cooking meat with fire and using the fire and/or the smoke of the fire to impart flavor.

Given the varieties of BBQ styles, there are equally as many methods to prepare BBQ. The basic principle is to season the meat well with the seasoning of your choice and manage the fire or heat source to do the rest. This is a slower cooking method that sometimes requires much more attention than other cooking methods because the temperature needs to be managed to stay consistent throughout the cooking process. BBQ usually utilizes cuts of meat that benefit from a lower cooking temperature and longer cooking time. Depending on the cut of meat being cooked, cooking times can range from 6 hours to 24 hours or more!

The choice of fuel for your fire is just as important as the choice of meat and seasoning, as different fuel types impart different flavors and intensity of heat.

Basic rules to good BBQ:
Start a fire, build a good bed of hot coals, season a quality piece of meat, place meat into cooking equipment, let it bathe in the low and slow heat and smoke of the fire for as long as it takes. Maintain your fire to produce an even cooking temperature of 200 – 275 degrees. Most thicker cuts of meat will cook evenly and internal temperatures will rise until they hit “the temperature stall”. The stall is caused by the evaporation of liquid on the meat's surface. This evaporative cooling works just like when you sweat while working hard. The stall can get frustrating because it lasts for hours. It is because the heating rate of the meat and the temperature of the smoker matches that of the rate of evaporative cooling.

Does that mean that your meat will lose all of its moisture and turn into a dry hunk of yuck? No. First of all, the meat won't remain in the stall forever. There is a finite amount of excess moisture available to be consumed when meat is in this state. The rest of the moisture in the meat is tied up in the collagen, fat, and protein, where it will remain to create that succulent meat jello that we love. Once that excess moisture is used up, your meat should start raising in temperature once more. Thicker cuts of meat, such as brisket, shoulder butts and ribs need to reach a minimum temperature of 175 degrees F to break down the collagen and connective tissues.

BBQ is a game of patience and trust in knowing that you just can’t rush good BBQ.

So, enjoy the process, give yourself plenty of time, the rewards are worth the wait!