Expert Barbecue Guide for 2021

Jun 12, 2021 | Personal Insurance

There are states across North America that claim to be the leading state when it comes to barbecue. From Kansas City, North Carolina, Missouri, Texas and even Lexington claims the title of barbecue capital of the world. Meanwhile Memphis stakes a claim being the “pork barbecue capital.

According to Wikipedia, “Barbecue or barbeque (informally BBQ in the UK and US and braai in South Africa) is a term used with significant regional and national variations to describe various cooking methods which use live fire and smoke to cook the food. The term is also generally applied to the devices associated with those methods, the broader cuisines that these methods produce, and the meals or gatherings at which this style of food is cooked and served. The cooking methods associated with barbecuing vary significantly but most involve outdoor cooking.”

Not Just another Griller

Other than baseball, barbecue is known to be one of the popular American past time. For years, we have seen in one too many television shows about the culture of BBQ across North America. But, it is widely known that when springtime comes, North Americans prepare their grills and rev up to buy their meat in bulks in preparation for family gatherings and major cookouts. There has been a lot of chefs and cooks that will tell you that their rub marinates are the best and they are the experts when it comes to barbecues, but the question remains, how much barbecue and barbecuing do we really know? 

After reading this, you will be more comfortable in your barbecue and grilling styles that will make you and your family cookouts the talk of the neighborhood. Here are a few tricks that you can use before you light up your backyard grill.

But first… a little history lesson.

The History of Barbecue

According to Wikipedia, “In the United States, barbecue refers to a technique of cooking meat outdoors over a fire; often this is called pit barbecue, and the facility for cooking it is the barbecue pit. This form of cooking adds a distinctive smoky taste to the meat; barbecue sauce, while a common accompaniment, is not required for many styles.

Often the proprietors of Southern-style barbecue establishments in other areas originate from the South. In the South, barbecue is more than just a style of cooking, but a subculture with wide variation between regions, and fierce rivalry for titles at barbecue competitions.”

According to Live Science, a science website, it all began when a human ancestor called Homo erectus began cooking meat with fire about 1.8 million years ago. However, barbecues the way that Americans know them now is meat cooked over a grill or pit, mixed with spices, and covered in basting sauce originated in the Caribbean.

The word “barbecue” comes from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is “barbacoa”. This first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer’s account of the West Indies in 1526, according to Planet Barbecue.

Since then, the popularity of barbecues has spread like wildfire. The history of barbecuing in America dates to colonial times, and it has been a part of American culture ever since. In fact, one of the first laws enacted in the colony of Virginia during the 1650s forbade the discharge of guns at a barbecue. 

Did you know?

Somewhere in Australia, barbecue is more commonly called a “barbie” and it has been used in one of their tourism programs called “Shrimp on the Barbie”. This is an Australian TV show by Paul Hogan.

The more you know about it, the intriguing it can get.

Tricks for your Next Backyard Barbecue

Barbecuing has been used for more than a thousand years ago for meat storage and to make sure that the meat is safe to eat. Exposing the meat to low heat and smoking the meat will kill any living bacteria and prevent it from growing back again. The drying action of the smoke to preserve the meat though many chemicals present in wood smoke are natural preservatives as well. Smoking meat has been one of the oldest methods of preserving meat, right after cooking with fire was discovered.

Here are the best woods to use in smoking or barbequing and what kind of meat would it complement.

  • Oak – Lamb, beef, brisket, and sausages
  • Hickory – Larger cuts of ribs and pork shoulders, as well as almost all red meat and poultry
  • Maple – Poultry, pork, game foul
  • Mesquite – Red Meat and for adding additional flavor when grilling.
  • Pecan – Briskets, roasts, and ribs
  • Apple – Chicken, wild foul, pork
  • Alder – Fish, like salmon and other Pacific Northwestern types.
  • Cherry – Chicken, turkey, ham

The Heat is On

A lot of the barbecues across North America use a temperature of 475° – 700° F, this called broiling and it takes a shorter period of time. In fact, the more accurate temperature for barbecue is only around the boiling of water, which is 180° – 220° F, because of this the meat cooks longer. This way the meat gets more tender and the natural juice is more preserved.

Steak DonenessRemove from Grill at this TemperatureFinal Cooked Temperature
Rare130 to 135°F130 to 140°F
Medium Rare140°F145°F
Medium155°F160°F
Well Done165°F170°F

Smoking

Smoking requires a lot of patience and a lot of high-quality meat, meaning this is not a practice for everyone. Putting on some moist wooden chips overheated coals and smoking outside for your meat (usual brisket) does not make or even resemble smoked meat. The culinary geniuses know how to identify the flavors of the true smoked meat. That scent must be infused entirely on the meat. For you to achieve this feat, meat should be smoked for hours and sometimes, even days.

There are two ways to smoke meat. The first method is called “Cold Smoking”. This process works best with food like chicken breast, beef, pork chops, salmon, scallops, steak, cheese, and sausages. Temperature is placed in between 400°F to 550°F. This is used for flavor and done with meat that has been cured or has already been previously cooked.

Hot smoking is done when you want to fully cook the food you are smoking as well as impart that incredible smoky flavor onto it. This is also done at a temperature range of 126°F to 176°F. Hot smoking at temperatures of over 185°F can cause shrinkage and buckling of the meat. This is great for large cuts of meat like ham, ham hocks, ribs, pulled pork, and brisket. Typically, hot smoked meats are reheated or cooked further later, but they are safe to eat right away if they have been fully cooked through. Hot smoking will give the meat more moisture and helps lock in the natural flavors of the meat.

Whichever type of smoking you do, you will want to be sure you have a good quality smoker and quality wood chips, pieces, or chunks.

Did you know?

One of the most non-meat barbequed items is the soft and fluffy marshmallow. Set up a grill for indirect cooking over medium. Place 8 graham-cracker halves on the cooler side of the grill. Top 4 halves with chocolate and 4 with marshmallows. Cover grill and cook until chocolate melts and marshmallows soften for 3 to 5 minutes. Sandwich and serve immediately. This is a wise recipe from Martha Stewart.

Gas For Grilling

For the household that cannot create a fire pit or large smoking grill powered by humongous wood. There is a more compact and easier way for your grilling experience. Gas grills are available in different shapes and sizes. Here are the pros of using a gas grill.

Cooks All Year Round

Propane can burn efficiently all year round, so that means if you simply cannot wait until summer to fire up your BBQ, propane gas may be your best bet.

Ease of Use

Propane is plug-and-play when it comes to starting up a BBQ, simply connect your BBQ to the propane gas canister and you will have your food cooking immediately.

Taste

There are some people who argue that butane-powered BBQs do not taste anywhere near as nice as propane-powered ones. There can be a slight taste of the gas in your food if too much gas was used when you cooked with butane. We will let you decide which is better though!

Instant and Efficient Burn

Waiting for a coal fire to light and heat up can be a nightmare, especially when you have a hungry family keen to eat some delicious BBQ food. Propane gas can immediately burn at almost full heat so it’s a great choice for people who do not want to use coal.

Easy to Clean

Thanks to a naturally cleaner burn than most BBQ heating alternatives, propane-powered BBQs are significantly easier to clean. Simply wipe down the grill and you are ready to use your BBQ again.

Smoked – Barbecue – Grilling: What are the differences?

Do not get confused, there is a difference between smoking, barbecuing, and grilling. Here are a few differences, so you can decide which one you will be doing if your family from out of town decided to visit you.

Grilling

This method creates a charred surface that locks in the natural juices of your chosen meat. Grilling is popularly done across the world following the same principle of hot to cook it. Meat should be placed over high and direct heat over 200°c to 260°c or 400°F to 550°F for a short period of time. Across the United States, grilling is usually done over charcoal or gas grills, with the new modernized infrared grills making their grilling debut.

This grilling method is perfect to use on tender meats, like ribs, chops, strip steak, burgers, chicken, and even hot dogs and sausages. This is as well commonly used for your vegetables.

Cajun Grilled Potatoes, Mexican pizza, Grilled onion, and Mexican shrimps are the favorite recipes for grilling.

Barbecuing

The backstory of this very popular form of cooking has one of the best and most interesting histories and is popular across the world. Barbecue was used to cook meats with tough tissue, like the cows that had been walked across the country by cowboys, or whole pigs. These meats do not do well in high heat, quick-cook times, but instead turn out best over an extended period, cooked over low heat. Barbecuing takes place over the fire with a temperature range of about 190 to 300°F. A good barbecue makes the meat so tender and delicious it will almost fall right off the bone. So remember the next time you will be doing your barbecue, always remember two words. Slow and Low.

In the United States, the south has been the undisputed barbecue capital of America for a very long time. Each state or region has its specific way of how they do its barbecue. But if you’ll dissect it, you’ll probably notice that it all revolves around pork and mostly consumed by a large family or even friends reunion. In the northern part of the United States, however, you will hear barbecue used as a term to inaccurately describe anything cooked on the grill, from hot dogs to burgers.

So, with all this information about what each cooking style is, the question still stands. What are the differences between smoking, barbecuing, and grilling? The main differences between the three methods of cooking the same piece of meat all come down to cooking temperature and time.

Smoking can happen at two different temperature ranges. Over a low heat around very low 68°F to 176°F for an hour to a maximum of 2 weeks depending on the temperature and what each meat requires to get that perfect flavor. As mentioned above, cold smoking is a method that you can use. But to get that amazing “smoked” flavor, you can heat up to 126°F to 176°F for those large chunks of meat.

Barbecuing is done over low heat (190°F to 300°F) for a few hours. “Low and slow” is the phrase to remember here.

Grilling is done over high heat (400°F to 550°F) for just a few minutes.

If you keep this in mind.

Cheap Tricks for that Smokey Goodness

While the authentic smokey flavor that you get from the pit and charcoal is unbeatable, you can totally increase the texture by adding wood to your fire. The first thing you need to identify is what kind of meat will you be cooking as this shall decide what kind of wood you should be using.

For hamburgers that usually can be smoked for 10-15 minutes, small wood chips can seal the deal. While for meat that takes longer to cook like pork loins; make sure to use chunky wood instead to get that smoke going for hours. There are wood chips available soaked in alcohol for that additional whisky/rum note.

But what if I am using a gas grill? No need to fret. You can use both wood chips and wood chunks with whatever gas grill model you are using. 

Using wood chunks is the easiest way, just simply arrange the hardwood all around the perimeter of the gas grill’s cooking surface. Close the lid to lock the heat. Prepare all the meat you need as fast as you can, cause once the smoke starts you are good to go. There are even small containers available for you to use if you want to use wood chips.

Just a Friendly Reminder: Safety First!

When dealing with open fire and gas you need to make sure that there are no fire hazards near the pit or grill. In case of fire, please see the articles available on the site. It always pays to be alert on this kind of occasion and cookouts. 

But here are a few things that you need to take note of when it comes to your safety when barbecuing. 

  1. The further the better. Make sure that your grill is at least 10 feet away from your house. This includes your garage or any additional house fixtures that can catch fire like wooden doors.
  2. Keep it clean. Clear out your grill from grease and fat that builds up when you use it. Grease is a common cause of flare-ups.
  3. Check for leaks. Make a solution of soap and water and rub it across the hose. Turn on the gas and check if there is any part of the hose that bubbles. If there is any, do not attempt to use the hose and start any fire. 
  4. Don’t Make it pretty. At any given chance, do not attach any decoration to your grill. This can easily catch fire. There are a few articles on the site about safety on gas grills.
  5. Keep a fire extinguisher near your grill. To know more about this, please use this article for reference on what to use and how to use fire extinguishers.

Please read through House Fire Prevention on our site for more safety tips.

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