It’s hard to beat an old fashioned Memorial Day barbecue, especially if the barbecue in question is made by pros whose passion for cooking is readily apparent when asked to discuss the ins and outs of cooking good barbecue.
Ask Richard Garza, who oversees Yaga’s Children’s Fund Wild Game Cook-Off, and he’ll tell you he believes the success of the barbecue based fundraiser ties directly into the wave of barbecue cook-off popularity.
“We’ve kind of grown together,” he said. “The success of our event is provided by the teams that compete each year. This year was our biggest year to date. We had over 80 entries for the competition.”
Barbecuing has become a defining tradition in U.S. communities in which people can attend outdoor events with family and friends.
It is tempting to just go out and start trying every recipe that comes into sight, but some helpful tips and tricks to the art of barbecue go a long way.
How can an amateur get a Memorial Day feast equal to that of a pro?
That question has a number of answers entirely dependent on which barbecue buff you ask.
“Always keep it simple,” said Robert Garza of the Pig Out Cookers team “Most people over salt or season the meat, but the right amount can accentuate the flavor.”
John Flowers, advertising director for The Daily News and avid barbecue enthusiast, said the secret to getting chicken just right is to brine it. Properly brining a chicken involves soaking the chicken for several hours in a mixture of a cup of sea salt, a cup of brown sugar and lemon and lime to punch up the flavor and give it more zip.
Bring it to 225 degrees, with the end goal of getting the internal chicken temperature to 165-170 degrees. The reason brining chicken is so popular with barbecue smokers is that it allows the chicken to preserve the moisture, keeping it from drying out under the heat and making the chicken tender and juicy.
Another key to good barbecued chicken is temperature management. Eyeballing it simply won’t cut it. To get the most out of your Memorial Day chicken, invest in a temperature probe as another way to keep the meat from drying out.
That is a key difference between a good chicken and a delicious chicken. Between properly managing the temperature and brining the chicken, you will be well on your way to a tender meal. This Memorial Day, put in the extra time and attention, and you’ll be rewarded with flavor.
Jimmy Bacon, whose competitive team Bums of Bacon took first place for chicken and brisket at this year’s Wild Game Cook-Off, said that when it comes to the rub, mustard is a really good binder.
“Spicy or regular French’s mustard will work,” he said. “And once you bring it out of the brine and start on the rub, you can add paprika to the rub for seasoning and liberally apply McCormick’s sweet and smoky.
“Liberal application is fine as most of it will drip down to the bottom of the base.”
If chicken isn’t to your fancy, the classic American barbecue meat, ribs, might be right up your alley. For ribs, aim for three hours on the smoker.
“I use margarine and a sprinkling of brown sugar to give it a rich texture and maybe add Tabasco sauce for flavor,” Flowers said.
“When barbecuing ribs, place the meat side of the rib face down on the foil and use the squeezable bottle of margarine, to better control the flow. Margarine doesn’t melt under high temperatures like butter does, making it ideal for our purposes.”
Bacon suggests that a spray butter also works. “But we use thin, sliced squares of real butter, placing it both in the chicken under the skin, and at the base of the chicken while it cooks.”
Flowers also advocated for what seem like an odd addition to bestow more mouth-watering flavor.
“You always want to keep a spray bottle of apple juice around,” Flowers said.
“Spray the meat as needed. The reason for this is the acidic nature of the juice keeps the ribs moist and prevents burns to the meat while also giving an added layer of sugar coating that tinges the meat with a sweet flavor.
“It’s really good for grilling too, as it can keep the fire in check.”
Likewise on the brisket front, Bacon said.
“Any cooker with a smoke box is ideal, and any store-bought rub will do,” he said. “Get a mixing bowl and throw in some red pepper flakes, a bit of garlic powder, onion powder, with a little more black pepper.”
Novice cooks should also plan their barbecue carefully, so that your cooking sessions go smoothly.
“Buy yourself a good pair of barbecue gloves,” Flowers opines.
“Don’t be afraid to try new cooking methods. www.amazingribs.com is a great resource for barbecue tricks as well.”
Barbecue aficionados are eager to share their knowledge of the grill and smoker, and be it grilled steak for a football game, ribs at a Memorial Day party, or an equally delicious slab of brisket, get outside, fire up your equipment, and give these tips a try this Memorial Day.