The Way to Cook: How to BBQ
It’s getting along near that time – weather warming up; days are longer; lakes, rivers, beaches (and heated swimming pools!!!) are becoming more and more inviting! Hoorah!!! It’s almost bar-be-que season!
Now ladies, please don’t you get flustered; don’t you get insulted! But, pretty much, unless you are the Grill Queen in your house – this one time – this post is really meant for the fellas who always stick their chest out after cooking on the grill! Will you be sweet enough to print this and pass it along to them for me please?!!!!! But again, if it is YOU who master the grill at your house, then by all means, this blog post is for you!!!
Come Memorial Day; come Fourth of July; come Labor Day; come Football Tailgating Season – every guy thinks he’s a Grill Master; King of the Pit; the Don of the BBQ grill! It’s the time to brag and show off your outdoor cooking skills.
Now, we’re not talking about grilled salmon and other fancy grilled fish; stuffed jalapeno peppers; filet mignon; lamb chops and all the fare of culinary decadence that say we have arrived!!! No, no – I’m talking about good ol’ down-home true southern bar-be-queuing – and it is not an ostentatious event! Rather the opposite, it’s a social gathering in a most fundamental sense where the most polished of social graces are rather relaxed!!! So, these are the preliminary steps to get ready to bar-be-que:
1. Pull out your folding lawn chairs and put ‘em under a shade tree
2. Bring out your 50-gallon cooler with a couple dozen cans of beer sitting in some half-way melted crushed ice
3. Have your grill fired up burning the splint wood, shredded newspaper, and a couple split logs of wood, (I use pecan wood and peach wood), so that the coals are ready
4. Get your food-quality plastic spray bottle and fill it half with water, and half with apple juice infused with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves (i.e., don’t frown, work with me here boys, you gonna love the results)
5. Get your second food-quality plastic spray bottle and fill it with JUST WATER
6. Dependent upon the size of your grill, you will need one or two disposable aluminum rectangular pans (they will be filled with water and spices later. The spices you use will be two tablespoons of your dry rub!)
7. Now, sit yourself down and let’s chat about some ribs, chicken, and steaks! Burgers and franks are the preliminary appetizer meats–no need for discussion here!
Of course, I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a courageous and complimentary assumption that all of us sitting under this here tree have seen many a hot grills and cooked many a slabs of ribs! So, I will further assume that a couple days ago you took the time to trim ya’ ribs (but, don’t take off the silver on the bottom side it holds in the juices and flavor of the bone–[the diner takes that off when served]; and don’t take off that glorious fat)! By trimming, I mean using your filet knife and barely remove any hanging pieces of fat and/or tendon. If you don’t see any, all the better – “ . . . you don’t have no trimming to do”!!!
Okay boys, (and girls who are Grill Queens), let’s make sure we understand each other! I’m a sho-nuff born and bred South Carolina boy who will not, under any circumstances, hack up a beautiful slab of ribs trying to make them even and fancy and picture-book pretty, givin’ ’em the fancy name of a patron saint, all the while shorting my guests of some of the rib meat! No, no – not at my house! When I tell you to come on over for some ribs, you gonna get the whole SPARE rib! Ain’t gonna be no cutting off at the joint and calling those rib ends! I just ain’t gonna do ya’ like that! You gonna sit yourself down, and allow that bottom piece of your rib to spare you the time from putting lotion on your face in the morning—that fat in that piece of the spare rib is gonna moisturize your skin something wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Standing out here on this limb again – don’t y’all let me fall!!! I am also making the assumption that the slabs of spare ribs, and your split chickens were seasoned with your dry rub yesterday; your steaks were trimmed, put in zipper plastic bags (excess air squished out please) with your marinade, and all are getting happy in your refrigerator anticipating their warm sauna treatment on your grill of the next day to come! (Note: I have the perfect recipe for a dry rub for your grillin’. See it in volume one of the series: “Ham Bones: Memoirs of a Southern Cook”)
Next step – pop open your second beer and let’s continue to talk. ( I’m having a Bourbon on the rocks with a twist of lemon if you don’t mind!) We need to chat about that almighty grill fire you seeing flaming up over there. Let it burn, burn, burn ‘til it can’t burn no more! Now, you’ve got a wonderful bed of coals waiting for that meat! Okay y’all, show time!
1. Lift your grill plates and sit your pan of seasoned water directly on the coals; this will be the source for your internal steam.
2. Put your meat on the grill, give it all an initial spray of your seasoned water and CLOSE the LID of your grill. Open your air vent only enough to release the smoke slowly, but NOT enough to fan your coals into a flame!
3. After 30 minutes, open the lid and make sure there is no flame. If so, spray a little of the plain water directly onto the flame—but, do NOT extinguish the coals. Flip your meat over, do a second seasoned spray and close the lid again.
4. After 30 minutes, open the lid and make sure there is no flame. Okay, close the lid back down!
Final step before presentation and eating – saucing! (Not every grill master sauces! Years ago my cousin Kenny mentioned to me that he serves dry ribs because his spicing is so good and his ribs are so moist! He’s my cousin and I love ‘im, but that’s a carry over from his Tennessee days during his career. I gotta remind him he’s back home in Carolina—WE SAUCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Oh, how this is a conversation that’s always a debate! Well grill masters and grill queens, we will have NO debate! To sauce in the bar-be-que process is to glaze the meat – period, end of conversation! Sauce is NOT meant to cook nor help cook the meat. The sauce is already cooked! This is one of those major steps that separate the grill master and grill queen from the backyard cooker about to mess up some good meat! (How many times have you been invited over for bar-be-que only to see meat that is jet black charred from sugar in the sauce being burned during the cooking process? That’s because the cooker didn’t know that sauce is for glazing!!!!!)
So, now that the meat is done and the coals are just about completely burned out, the “oven” of the grill is still nice and warm – but, NOT cooking-temperature hot—you will now glaze your meat gently, but sufficiently. Put the meat back on the grill, close down the lid and allow the glaze/sauce to adhere to the meat. This should take about 10 – 15 minutes. Now, remove the meat to your cutting board and allow the meat to rest so that you don’t lose your juices. Resting should be sufficient after about fifteen (15) minutes. It is now time to cut your ribs, cut your chicken, and put it on your meat trays for your guests to admire and praise you for your grilling skills!
As my Daddy use to tell me ever since he started teaching me to bar-be-que when I was fourteen years old: “Son, not everybody who brag can really be called a grillmaster; but now, YOU CAN!!!”
And, now — to all you grill masters and grill queens —
All best wishes for good eating; enjoy!