Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Tuscan doing BBQ/1

Barbecue - or BBQ, or barbie, or Q, if you are into the whole brevity thing (cit.) - is probably the one cuisine which is quintessentially American. This is not to say that there are not other cuisines that are truly US born and raised (I am thinking about Southwestern, Cajun and to a certain extent even Italian-American cuisines). But the one and only cuisine that is as American as apple pie is BBQ.

What is BBQ? I had already explained it here. In a nutshell, BBQ is a a form of cooking meat with indirect heat, low and slow, i.e. at very low temperatures for a very long period of time. As such, grilling is a very different thing: when you throw a couple of burgers on a grill and cook them for 10 minutes, you are not eating BBQ.

In Europe (at least in the countries I know of/have lived in) we tend to use the terms BBQ and grilling as synonyms. Americans, especially in the South, feel very strongly about the difference between BBQ and grilling. Anything that hasn't slept in a smoker for less than 8 hours at max 140C (275F) is not BBQ. Think about how dismissive Italians or French can be about any food with an Italian/French name, which is not really Italian/French. You'll have an idea of how US Southern folks feel about BBQ.

The origins of Q are debated. One of the most accredited hypotheses is that it owes its origins to the way slaves used to cook the otherwise unpalatable cuts of meat they were left with: cooking these tough, otherwise almost inedible things, for hours - in order to destroy the connective tissues - and then smothering them with a sauce was probably a very good way to make them taste good. Others say the Q was born in the area that now belongs to Mexico, and imported up. (The origin of the actual name, barbecue, is a different thing entirely: some say it is Jamaican, some say it is Spanish).

Be as it may, I feel we can all safely agree that BBQ wasn't born in Tuscany, right? (And yet, and yet...we'll get back on this at some point).

Up until a few months ago, my attempts at Q had bean cheats: I was using a slowcooker to cook the ribs or pulled pork low and slow, and then finish them in the oven. Why? Because we were living in a building that didn't allow charcoal grills/smokers, for fire safety reasons. When we moved to our current place, one of the first investments I made was a large Weber Kettle Grill.

If you have followed me until now, you'll understand there is an issue with this: although you can hack the Weber Kettles and turn them into a smoker for real Q (through an accessory called the smokenator), I knew I'd need something else if I really wanted to be serious about Q. So I took advantage of my 40th birthday back in August to put a real smoker on my wish list.

Being the good guy that I am, and wanting to relieve my family from the stress of having to choose a present for me, I went and picked a smoker myself. Please, understand: I wasn't trying to rush people into buying me something, I was merely trying to help them make a decision.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I got myself one of these ahem, my family bought me one of these:

This is a Kamado grill (called also Kamado oven, or smoker). It is a grill, it is a smoker, it is an oven. It doesn't clean dishes, but everything else it does - or claim it does. I'll get into the details of this baby in a separate post.

Over the past couple of months I have been using this temperamental bitch (this is how I affectionally refer to it)  almost daily, with some success and some failures (the most notable of which: a pork shoulder that should have been ready in 7 hours, and ended up not being ready after 13 hours...).

I intend to chronicle my adventures in barbecuing here. So saddle up and enjoy the ride.

Some of the things I cooked on the Kamado: 

The pulled pork that never was: it was supposed to cook in 7 hours. After 13hrs it wasn't ready. Needless to say we ate something else. 

Smoked baked beans. My wife hates them. I love them. Guess who's eating beans every day?

Spare ribs, ready to fall off the bone.


g said...

Have you tried a vinegar mop sauce? It helps tenderize meat. You mix a couple cups of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of dk brown sugar and a tablespoon of each of the following -- salt, pepper, hot sauce, pepper flakes, dried thyme, and a couple bay leaves. you can add any other herbs or spices as you see fit, the sky is the limit, you are just flavoring the vinegar, so feel free to create your own. put all that in a jar and let it sit for a week. "mop" it on the flesh before cooking, you can marinate for a bit with it if you want and keep "mopping" every hour.

A Tuscan foodie in America said...

No, I haven't tried it yet. I have seen a few recipes where mopping is required, but I haven't made them yet. Will do though.


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