Submitted by Mephysteaux
Hello Goons. Today I'd like to talk to you about American Barbecue. I'd like to preface this by saying that I think American cuisine is really underrated, even by Americans, and is often viewed as being low-brow, pedestrian food, and Barbecue is really no exception. But one of the things that makes Barbecue great in my opinion is that you can be infinitely creative with it, and make food that is exceptional, while still being good, hearty comfort food that almost anyone can enjoy.
Barbecue is a type of cuisine that's popular in the American South, notably in Eastern states like North Carolina and Tennessee, and in Texas (Not to say that these are the only good places that notable food). Barbecue is not unheard of in other countries, and they have their own ways of doing it. Depending on where you go, you'll find different preferences for meat and different ways of preparing it. That said, with respect to those choices, I'm going to speak on a fairly broad, general spectrum, speaking from my own experience, since different regional variations certainly have their merits. By no means am I an expert in this field, but I'd like this to serve as an intro to anyone interested. But first, two quick notes:
Grilling is not barbecuing! Don't get me wrong, I love my propane grill, but grilling and barbecuing are completely different things. And no, it doesn't matter if you add Kraft Bar-B-Q sauce, it still doesn't count. I've had people argue with me that they aren't, but quite frankly, those people are wrong.
Barbecue requires patience and planning. Just got home from work at 6PM and want to make some pulled pork for dinner? Sorry, not going to happen. From start to finish, the process of properly barbecuing a piece of meat, from my experience, takes between 1 and 3 days. Not just the cooking, but the preparation involved.
Meat The primary ingredient. You can probably barbecue pretty much any kind of meat, but beef and pork are the most popular, and chicken is pretty common too. The most famous cut of beef to barbecue is brisket, which comes from the cow's lower chest. One of the reasons this cut of meat is often barbecued is that it contains a lot of connective tissue, meaning that if it's cooked quickly, it will be incredibly tough, to the point where it's basically inedible. Slow cooking breaks down these fibers and turns them into tender meat. In pork, you have two cuts that are popular. First is the ribs, it's pretty obvious where those come from. Second is the butt, also called the Boston butt, or, more anatomically accurately, the shoulder. This is used to make pulled pork. Keep in mind, different cuts of meat have different properties and flavors, so recipes, times and temperatures that work well on one may not be so great for another.
Rub In lieu of a marinade, many barbecuists opt to use a dry rub, which is a blend of spices rubbed on the entire piece of meat. The contents of this rub vary greatly from place to place in flavor and complexity. Some can easily surpass a dozen ingredients, while others opt for a salt and pepper blend. After the rub is applied to the meat, it is left on the meat at least overnight, but sometimes for as long as a day or two. You can invent your own rub, or find a premixed one in a lot of grocery stores. Marinades are not totally unheard of, but they don't seem to have the same clout as the classic rub.
Mop Some cooks use what they call a mop, which is sort of like a baste applied periodically throughout the cooking process. As legend has it, the person who popularized it used an actual floor mop to apply it since he was cooking so much meat. The mop's main purposes are to keep the meat moist in the dry heat, and to impart extra flavor on the meat. When making a mop, be sure that it has a relatively low sugar content, as sugar burns easily and tastes unpleasant when it does.