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By Michael Shriver

The best barbecue

Barbecuing, the oldest cooking method in the world, is rich with international style and regional traditions. In third-world countries where there is no electricity, there is great barbecue. Imagine: no electricity, but everything you eat is barbecued? Interesting thought…

In the United States of America, barbecue is the main course before the apple pie. No matter what state you are in, the tradition of slow cooking with a low fire is a tasty way to bring a lot of people together. Barbecue is the name of the event we celebrate in our backyards, weather permitting.

Let’s be clear what are talking about. Barbecue is a loose term sometimes applied to all outdoor cooking, including burgers and dogs thrown on the grill. That is called “grilling.”

Grilling is different from barbecue in a few specific ways. It takes place directly over a gas or charcoal flame, with the food cooked at high heat for several minutes on each side. Grilling is done directly over high heat, in minutes. Steaks, seafood, burgers and dogs come out great when cooked quickly over fire.

New Orleans is of the ruling class for this method, with many things blackened and all things spicy.

Barbecue is about cooking very, very slowly over a low heat from smoldering charcoal or wood; around 225 degrees Fahrenheit is the standard. That means about 10 hours for ribs, 16 hours or more for a pork shoulder. Good barbecue is an all-day, or several-day thing. It is done slowly with indirect heat, for hours.

Regionally, the best barbecue comes in different styles and flavors. Most well known are North Carolina’s pulled pork with a vinegar or mustard sauce; Memphis pork ribs in a dry rub or Kansas City’s famous sauces; in Texas, it’s beef brisket barbecued to a smoky tenderness, dry rub optional. When visiting these regions, the locals will tell you where to find the good stuff. Towns that are famous for barbecue love to talk about it!

Keep in mind, these famed regional presentations represent generations of technique and methodology, craft and science, masterful applications of salt, sugar, spice and smoke. But cooking “the best” barbecue from your back yard is easier than you might imagine.

Here are a few things to consider:

High on the list of what’s important, what kind of barbecue cooker do you have? Remember, this is barbecue, not grilling.

There are different styles of barbecue cookers, and most of them will work just fine. Gas is acceptable, with a smoker box; charcoal is better; wood is best for flavor. The ones that look like barrels work great if you are slow burning coals or maybe a piece of hickory. If you are using gas, and optional if you are using charcoal, you will want a smoker box, which a little box you fill with wood chips to get the smokiness.

A few important tips

Use tongs or gloves to turn meat. No forks.

Preheat the barbecue to the right temperature-around 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be patient. It takes time to get it right. Stop peeking at it every 10 minutes-you are letting the heat and smoke out. Leave it alone except when you need to turn or mop.

Use good recipes and good ingredients.


Here are easy recipes for one sauce and two rubs that will elevate your barbecue game.

Carolina vinegar sauce

If you have only ever had tomato-based sauce before, put this on your pork shoulder to see it in a new light.

1 cup cider vinegar

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh, coarse-ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne

Mix it in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. The combination of salt, sugar and vinegar is pure alchemy on tender, slow-cooked pork. Store the rest in in the refrigerator; it lasts nearly forever.

Texas brisket rub

Apply a good coating of this to your brisket with a gentle massage, then wrap it in plastic overnight.

1 tbsp. coarse salt

1 tbsp. chili powder

2 teaspoons turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon fresh, coarse-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

Memphis rib rub

¼ cup paprika

1 tbsp. turbinado sugar

1 tbsp. white sugar

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon fresh, coarse-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Combine everything in a container with a lid, then shake to mix it. Rub it into the meat, wrap it, refrigerate it overnight.

For more information, the experts are easily accessible via bookstores and the internet. With the right equipment and a little knowledge, the best barbecue will come from your back yard.

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