As we have talked about before, summer is king for BBQ. Something that does not get talked about enough is what is used to actually cook the BBQ and why people prefer different methods to complete the same task at hand. Is it flavor, temperature control, or just plain ease? Let’s take a look at a few of the different ways people enjoy taking part in this time-honored tradition.
Well, to begin a journey like this we need to learn a little history about the way Americans know BBQ (covered in spices, possibly saucy).
The word barbecue comes from a Caribbean tribe called the Taino: their word for meats spiced and grilled over grates is called barbacoa. The briquette was invented by a chemist named Orin Stafford, but the idea was stolen by Henry Ford, and he started a little company called Kingsford Charcoal. This combined with the invention of the modern grill by George Stephen, a welder at Weber Brother Metal Works, and we have a good ole fashioned 1950s BBQ.
There are many types of barbecue grills available today — propane, natural gas, charcoal briquettes, whole log, wood chip/pellet grills. These diverse types of grills cook completely differently in every way.
Gas or propane is the fastest and most reliable. The rest are meant to impart flavor into the meat, but also require some form of control. The whole log is the most difficult to maintain but gets intensely hot and can be made to stay that way for a very long time if maintained, while also adding a smoky flavor. But if there is bark on the log or it is wet the smoke can become bitter and harsh.
Charcoal briquettes are favored by many people because of their ease and smoky flavor. However, they can also leave a chemical flavor from added starter fluids needed to light the tar and wood dust combination.
Wood chip smokers or pellet grills are generally used for long, slow cooking at a lower temperature to impart smooth smoky flavor to tender meats. They also require an outside source of electricity or propane. I still sear steaks with my pellet grill also. All these methods can be used in different manners if you have the knowledge to use them as you want.
With all of these types of grilling options, the way the flavor is imparted is the heat source originally used to cook the meat, wood. The wood chosen for the pellets, logs or briquettes can drastically change the way the meat tastes.
Mesquite gives the meat the bold, earthy flavor that many people crave in their barbecue. But too much can be aggressive and bitter.
White oak or hickory will add a smooth soft smokiness to the meat. Then there’s pecan or apple wood. These woods have a softer sweet smoke to them. My favorite is to mix white oak and apple together. I mostly smoke pork products or chicken. If I smoke beef ribs sometimes, I want a little sharper flavor to combat the fattiness of the meat and use a hickory and mesquite blend.
No matter how you like to barbecue, the important thing is to get out and enjoy the sun and have some fun. So, be it quick and efficient with propane or an 18-hour smoked brisket, just get it done and enjoy some vittles. As always please feel free to email me with any questions about recipes or topics you are interested in! War Eagle guys!
Lee Eddins became a chef after studying at the Culinary Institute of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA. He has since worked in various restaurants in some of the country's top culinary cities including Birmingham, Atlanta, and Chicago. He also spent one year cooking abroad. He is currently working at Firefly in Panama City, FL. If you would like to reply to this article or ask for a particular topic/recipe, please feel free to email him at Eddins@auburnvillager.com.
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