Part III: Grilling verses barbecuing

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The wood charcoal will give the meats a smoke taste and you can enhance that by using various woods on top of the coals. Pecan wood is popular as is hickory and mesquite. Fruit woods such as cherry and apple are popular among competition teams. I prefer wild cherry, which grows in a lot of areas of Pearl River County. The trees produce those small black cherries that the birds and squirrels eat. It gives the meats a good color and smoke flavor as well as enhancing the natural flavor of the meat and not overpowering it.

It is a good idea to store your supply of wood covered or out of the elements and then soak it an hour or so before use. When using the small type of smoker I have described, the wood should be cut into pieces no longer than six inches and split so the diameter does not exceed three inches in order to prevent flames.

You want the wood to be glowing embers much like the charcoal.

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Meats that are good to smoke include beef brisket, pork shoulder, also called pork butt and pork ribs as well as chicken that has been quartered. Pork butt is actually the butt portion of the front shoulder of a hog, it is often labeled Boston Butt in the stores. Pork spare ribs are the meatiest of ribs and the least expensive. For uniform appearance and serving sizes, look for St. Louis Pork Ribs, which are cut from a rack of spare ribs. Baby Back ribs can have less meat and are more expensive.

Beef brisket is a tough piece of meat, cut from the lower chest of the cow. If it is cooked a long time at a low temperature, it becomes very tender. Some people like to inject a liquid marinade into brisket and pork butt, my choice is applying a dry rub. (Rub recipes will appear at the end of this series) A dry rub reacts with natural juices from the meat to form something called “bark” in BBQ circles. It resembles the bark on a tree and is usually dark in color. Some people will think the meat is overcooked by the appearance. However, this crust-like bark helps seal in the juices, which preserves flavor and tenderness.

Dry rubs or injected marinades should be applied twelve to twenty four hours in advance of cooking. I use two-gallon zipper bags to store the rubbed meat in the refrigerator. A pork butt or half a brisket or a rack of spare ribs cut in half will fit into a two-gallon bag. Remove as much air as possible from the bag when sealing it. An easy way to do so is to use a squeeze bulb baster by inserting the tube of the baster into a small opening of the zipper after squeezing the bulb. Then release the bulb to withdraw the air from the bag.

I like to purchase medical exam gloves at the pharmacy to wear while prepping meats to prevent cross contamination and washing my hands so often.

This is very helpful when applying dry rubs since most dry rubs contain chili powder and/or cumin.

If you have the slightest scratch on your hand, the chili powder will let you know about it. Also, handling dry rub with red ingredients can leave a stain on your hands that is difficult to remove. The exam gloves also come in handy when it is time to place the meat on the cooking surface. That eliminates the need to wash your hands before and after handling the meat.

By Jim Towler.