|All About Barbecue|
|The History of Barbecue|
|The Difference Between Barbecuing and Grilling|
|Mops, Sops and Bastes|
|When is it Cooked ?|
|Using a Grill to Barbecue / Smoke Food|
The History of Barbecue
The history of barbecue itself, aside from its murky etymological origins, is more clear. For several reasons, the pig became an omnipresent food staple in the South. Pigs were a low-maintenance and convenient food source for Southerners. In the pre-Civil War period, Southerners ate, on average, five pounds of pork for every one pound of beef (Gray 27). Pigs could be put out to root in the forest and caught when food supply became low. These semi-wild pigs were tougher and stringier than modern hogs, but were a convenient and popular food source. Every part of the pig was utilized-- the meat was either eaten immediately or cured for later consumption, and the ears, organs and other parts were transformed into edible delicacies. Pig slaughtering became a time for celebration, and the neighborhood would be invited to share in the largesse. The traditional Southern barbecue grew out of these gatherings.
William Byrd, in his eighteenth century book writings The Secret History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina has some pretty snippy things to say about some Southerners' predilection for pork. He writes that hog meat was:
the staple commodity of North Carolina . . . and with pitch and tar makes up the whole of their traffic . . . these people live so much upon swine's flesh that it don't only incline them to the yaws, and consequently to the . . . [loss] of their noses, but makes them likewise extremely hoggish in their temper, and many of them seem to grunt rather than speak in their ordinary conversation (Taylor 21-2)
"Yaws," of course, is an infectious tropical disease closely related to syphilis. Perhaps because of natives like Byrd, Virginia is frequently considered beyond the parameters of the "barbecue belt."
At the end of the colonial period, the practice of holding neighborhood barbecues was well-established, but it was in the fifty years before the Civil War that the traditions associated with large barbecues became entrenched. Plantation owners regularly held large and festive barbecues, including "pig pickin's" for slaves (Hilliard 59). In this pre-Civil War period, a groundswell of regional patriotism made pork production more and more important. Relatively little of the pork produced was exported out of the South, and hog production became a way for Southerners to create a self-sufficient food supply-- Southern pork for Southern patriots (Hilliard 99). Hogs became fatter and better cared-for, and farmers began to feed them corn to plump them up before slaughter. The stringy and tough wild pigs of the colonial period became well-fed hogs. Barbecue was still only one facet of pork production, but more hogs meant more barbecues.
In the nineteenth century, barbecue was a feature at church picnics and political rallies as well as at private parties (Egerton 150). A barbecue was a popular and relatively inexpensive way to lobby for votes, and the organizers of political rallies would provide barbecue, lemonade, and usually a bit of whiskey (Bass 307). These gatherings were also an easy way for different classes to mix. Barbecue was not a class- specific food, and large groups of people from every stratum could mix to eat, drink and listen to stump speeches. Journalist Jonathan Daniel's, writing in the mid-twentieth century, maintained that "Barbecue is the dish which binds together the taste of both the people of the big house and the poorest occupants of the back end of the broken-down barn" (Bass 314). Political and church barbecues were among the first examples of this phenomenon. Church barbecues, where roasted pig supplemented the covered dishes prepared by the ladies of the congregation, were a manifestation of the traditional church picnic in many Southern communities. Church and political barbecues are still a vital tradition in many parts of the South (Gray 133-4).
At the beginning of the twentieth century, barbecue appeared in a new venue, that of the barbecue restaurant. After the South went from a rural-agricultural region to a more urban and industrial area, grocery stores provided hog meat (is it any wonder that the nation's first supermarket chain was christened Piggly Wiggly ?), agricultural fairs replaced festive hog killings, and the barbecue restaurant took over the time-consuming task of slow-cooking pork (Bass 301). Usually, these restaurants grew out of a simple barbecue pit where the owner sold barbecue to take away. Many of the pit men only opened on weekends, working (usually on a farm) during the week and tending the pit on weekends. The typical barbecue shack consisted of a bare concrete floor surrounded by a corrugated tin roof and walls (Johnson 9). Soon, stools and tables were added, and the ubiquitous pig adorned the outside of the building. Few pit men owned more than one restaurant-- the preparation of the pig required almost constant attention, and few expert pit men were willing to share the secret of their sauce preparations. The advent of the automobile gave the barbecue shack a ready-made clientele-- travelers would stop at the roadside stands for a cheap and filling meal (Johnson 6). As the twentieth century progressed, barbecue pits grew and prospered, evolving into three distinct types. According to barbecue scholar Jonathan Bass, the three kinds of barbecue restaurants are black-owned, upscale urban white, and white "joints" (more akin to honky-tonk bars). These racial denotations, however, do not mean that barbecue restaurants catered to a specific racial clientele. Good barbecue drew (and draws) barbecue fans of every color and class.
Perhaps because much of its trade consisted of take-out orders, the barbecue restaurant was an interracial meeting place long before the forced integration of the 1950's and 1960's (Egerton 152). When these restaurants first appeared, many were owned by black Southerners, and "whites, in a strange reversal of Jim Crow traditions, made stealthy excursions for take-out orders" (Wilson 676). In the 1950's and 1960's, much of this comity was lost. Many barbecue joints became segregated by race. Barbecue has even made it into the annals of legal history, with the desegregation battles at Ollie's Barbecue in Alabama and Maurice's Piggy Park in Columbia providing often-cited case law as well as a stain on the fascinating history of barbecue. In the case Newman v. Piggy Park Enterprises, the court ruled that Maurice Bessinger's chain of five barbecue restaurants unlawfully discriminated against African-American patrons.
The varied history of barbecue reflects the varied history of the South. Sometimes shameful, but usually interesting, the history of barbecue can be seen an emblem of Southern history. For the past seventy-five years, the barbecue joint has flourished. Although local specialties and the time-intensive nature of barbecue preparation have insured that real barbecue (as opposed to defrosted and microwaved meat) will never be a staple at chain restaurants, barbecue has endured. Aside from its succulent taste, delicious sauces and the inimitable, smoky atmosphere of an authentic barbecue joint, barbecue has become a Southern icon, a symbol that is cherished by Southerners. Without the racist subtext of the Stars and Bars, the anachronistic sexism of the Southern belle, or the bland ennui of a plate of grits, barbecue has become a cultural icon for Southerners, of every race, class and sex.
This established, our attention turns to the differences between the many types of pork barbecue. These are many and hotly contested. Differences can be gauged by comparing cooking styles, serving methods, side dishes preferred by each camp, and (most contentious of all) sauces.
Barbecue in the South
Much of the variation in barbecue methodology and saucing in Southern barbecue can be explained by its geographical migrations. After originally appearing on the East Coast, barbecue began travelling West, picking up permutations along the way. Spanish colonists spread the cooking technology (Johnson 6), but the agriculture of each region added its own twist. The simple vinegar sauces of the East Coast were supplanted by the sweet tomato sauce of Memphis and the fiery red Texas swab. In western Kentucky, mutton was substituted for pork, and the cattle ranchers of Texas used barbecue techniques for slow-cooking beef (with these innovations, southwestern Texans and western Kentuckians put themselves irrevocably outside the "barbecue belt").
There are several main regions of barbecue saucery in the South. Each region has its own secret sauces, with much intra-regional variation. This "barbecue belt" shares the same tradition of slow-cooking the meat, but diverges widely in sauces and side dishes.
Further south, in South Carolina and Georgia, the pig is still chopped or sliced, but it is doused in a yellow mustard-based sauce. In much of South Carolina, barbecue is served alongside light bread, coleslaw, and "hash" with rice. Hash is made of stewed organ meats. In this region, the skin of the pig is often removed and fried separately. (This delicacy should not be confused with the pre-packaged pork rinds popularized by George Bush). In Georgia, Brunswick stew often appears.
As the barbecue aficionado travels further west, pork remains the meat of choice, but it is served "pulled" rather than chopped. Pulled pork is slow-cooked, shredded by hand into succulent threads of meat, then doused with sauce. The pulled pig region, centered around Memphis, Tennessee, usually serves a sweet tomato sauce flavored with pepper and molasses. Because Memphis is a port city, the creators of barbecue sauces in this area had a larger repertoire of ingredients from which to choose. Molasses was shipped up-river, and became a popular seasoning. The popularity of the "pulled" serving method has resulted in the appearance of "pulled chicken" on several chain barbecue restaurant menus. Pulled chicken is reminiscent of the Northern concept of barbecue as backyard activity, and the purist should avoid it. Barbecue joints serving Memphis style barbecue usually serve it alongside coleslaw, cornbread, and sometimes French fries. Memphis barbecue is a term that encompasses both pulled pork and slow- cooked pork ribs. This ribs are either basted with sauce or rubbed with a mixture of tangy spices before pit cooking.
In Alabama, most sauces are also red, but a bit spicier than those served in Tennessee. Pulled and chopped pork is offered, as well as slabs of ribs. In Arkansas, the sauces vary. Because the state borders Tennessee, Texas, and several other states, one can find a wide variety of barbecue styles and sauces in Arkansas. Side dishes can include baked beans, coleslaw, and potato chips. On the western side, Arkansas borders Texas, and beef barbecue is more prevalent.
After examining the many types of barbecue, it is easy to wonder, "why on earth is slow-cooked pig a Southern icon ?" Although it is different all over the South, and though it is a homely and unassuming pork product, barbecue has assumed heroic proportions in the cultural iconography of the South. One reason for this is the regional foodways endemic to the Southern United States. The pig has always been a crucial facet of the Southern diet, and a study of Southern foodways helps to explicate the importance of barbecue.
Craig Claiborne. Southern Cooking. New York: Times Books, 1987.
Mary Douglas, ed. Food in the Social Order. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1984.
John Egerton. Southern Food: At Home, On the Road, In History. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1987.
Sam Bowers Hilliard. Hog Meat and Hoecake: Food Supply in the Old South. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1972.
Jeremy MacClancy. Consuming Culture: Why You Eat What You Eat. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992.
James Donald Mackenzie. Colorful Heritage: An Informal History of Barbecue Presbyterian Church and Bluff Presbyterian Church. Olivia, NC: Rev. James Mackenzie, 1969.
Ernest Matthew Mickler. White Trash Cooking. Berkeley: 10 Speed Press, 1986.
Charles L. Perdue, Jr., ed. Pigsfoot Jelly and Persimmon Beer. Santa Fe: Ancient City Press, 1992.
Joe Gray Taylor. Eating, Drinking and Visiting in the Old South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982.
Mary Anne Schofield, ed. Cooking by the Book: Food in Literature and Culture. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989.
Jane and Michael Stern. Good Food. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.
Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris, eds. Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1989.
The Difference Between Grilling and Barbecue
This is a question that is asked by many, but not widely known or understood. A lot of the confusion lies in the fact that people often use the same piece of equipment for grilling as they do for barbecue. The two are however antithetical to one another.
Grilling is a high heat cooking method. Food is cooked directly over the coals and is normally ready in a matter of minutes. Grilling temperatures are usually in excess of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and food is cooked close to the heat source. The high heat chars the surface of the food, seals in the juices and creates a smoky caramelized crust.
Grilling is the oldest, most widespread and most forgiving method of cooking. Rich and poor alike practice it on six continents in restaurants, street stalls, and backyards.
Barbecuing by contrast lies at the opposite end of the spectrum from grilling. It is a long, slow, indirect, low-heat method that uses smoldering logs or charcoal and wood chunks to smoke-cook the food. Barbecue temperatures are usually between 200 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This low heat generates smoke, and this smoke gives barbecue its characteristic flavor. The heat source is often separate from the cooking chamber, which contains the actual food.
This method of cooking is ideally suited to large pieces of meat such as whole pigs. It is also perfect for cuts with lots of tough connective tissue, like brisket and spareribs. In fact barbecue was traditionally associated with the poorer echelons of society, who were unable to afford the more expensive cuts of meat.
More recently a hybrid method of cooking, Indirect Grilling, has become very popular. This method bridges the gap between barbecue and grilling. As with barbecuing the food is not cooked directly over coals. But the actual cooking takes place in the same chamber as the heat source, and temperatures usually range between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood chips or chunks are often placed on the heat source to generate smoke for flavor. Indirect grilling effectively transforms your barbecue grill into and outdoor oven, which is perfect for cooking larger cuts of meat such as prime rib and turkey.
We actually use all three of the above cooking methods. Each has its own merits. Indirect grilling gives you the best of both grilling and barbecuing. The charcoal flavor from grilling and the tenderness and smoky flavor from barbecue. Whereas the flavor of true barbecue is hard to beat, the trade-off is that it takes a lot longer than grilling or indirect grilling.
Rubs are for the most part, dry ingredients (herbs, spices and seasonings) that are rubbed or sprinkled on meat before cooking to enhance the flavor when cooked. A dry rub is a form of marinade, however a rub has an advantage over a marinade, in that it forms a tasty crust on food when it is cooked. Rubs are used to provide a higher degree of concentrated flavor to larger cuts of meat like beef brisket and pork shoulder. These cuts of meat will taste very bland without a good sprinkle of rub. Rubs are sometimes used as the basis for a table or finishing sauce for your cooked food, but most often a rubs magic is done before the cooking process is over.
Ingredients in dry rubs vary, depending on the kind of food you are using, but some items are more common than others. Salt and sugar seem to appear more often than anything else, and surprisingly are also the most controversial. Some cooks say that salt draws the moisture out of meat, and everyone agrees that sugar burns on the surface of food. If making your own rubs keep these two ingredients in check. Use them in moderation in a way that supports the rub rather than overpowers it. Garlic powder, onion powder, chili and lemon pepper seasonings are also very popular. Secondary seasonings such as dry mustard, cumin, sage, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger are used to round a rub off nicely.
If you are making your own rubs, use finer ground spices for rubs on thinner cuts of meat, as these break down and flavor the food faster. Use coarser ground spices for larger, thicker cuts of meat, as these will not break down as fast and will give you more flavor when cooking over a longer period of time.
When applying a rub to meat we do not actually rub the spices into the meat, as the name would suggest. We believe that rubbing causes the pores of the meat to clog up. In addition if you have ever rubbed a rub into a cut of meat, where does most of the rub end up? On your hands!
When applying a rub, add it thoroughly and evenly. Generally you dont need to skimp on the amount, though some dishes benefit from a light touch. Allow the flavors of the rub to penetrate the food by covering it and leaving it in the refrigerator for a while. Fish fillets and shrimp usually need to sit for 30 to 45 minutes, big cuts of meat can be left overnight, and other kinds of food are somewhere in between.
The word "marinade" is derived from the Latin or Italian "marinara", meaning of the sea. Much like seawater, the original marinades of many centuries ago were briny solutions meant to preserve, tenderize, and flavor goods.
Many think that marinades tenderize meat, but that is not quite accurate. Actually the liquid softens tissue, a subtle but important distinctions. Some marinades tame an undesirable taste, as a buttermilk soak does for wild game, but most often they are intended to complement and enrich the foods natural flavor.
There are three basic components of a marinade: acid, oil and seasonings. The acid breaks down the surface tissue of the food, and the seasonings add flavor. Acids can be added in various forms such as vinegar, citrus juice, tomatoes and wine. The acid in a marinade can often be used as a flavoring agent. The spices are usually very strong, or assertive since they grow weaker the longer they are involved with the marinating process. Because the use of salty seasonings can draw moisture out of the food during the marinating process, oil is usually part of the marinade. The oil commonly used is vegetable oil, but other oils can be used. Avoid using bacon drippings and butter in marinades that are to be used in the refrigerator, they will coagulate and be of little use. In general, the leaner the food, the more likely will be the need for oil in the marinade. Much like the acids, the oil in a marinade can often be used as a flavoring agent.
Because marinades contain acid you must use nonreactive containers to marinade in. Reactive materials such as aluminum may be discolored and impart an unpleasant flavor into the food that is being marinated. Use glass, ceramic dishes, or plastic bags. We like to use plastic bags like the ones sold by Zip-Loc as they are flexible and easy to find a place for in the refrigerator, are easy to turn over when you need to, and clean up is a breeze.
If you plan to use your marinade either as a table sauce or as a baste while actually cooking the food, it must be boiled for at least 5 minutes. This will destroy any harmful bacteria that may have been placed into the marinade by the raw food.
Marinating times will vary depending on the food. Three things that you must remember are:
Approximate Marinating Times
|Food||Time (hrs)||Food||Time (hrs)|
|Beef Steaks||4 6||Chicken Breasts||2 4|
|Beef Kabobs||4 6||Chicken Pieces||3 4|
|Beef Roast||5 7||Chicken Wings||6 8|
|Beef Brisket||5 7||Whole Chicken (split)||4|
|Beef Short Ribs||6 - 8||Turkey||4 overnight|
|Pork Tenderloins||3 4||Turkey Quarters||4 8|
|Pork Chops||3 4||Duck||6 8|
|Spare Ribs||6 8||Game Birds||4 6|
|Lamb Kabobs||4 6||Fish||1 2|
|Venison||6 8||Shell Fish||½ - 1|
Mops, Sops and Bastes
The words mop, sop, and baste are all interchangeable, and mean the same thing (We use the term "Mop" for the purpose of this discussion). They are thin liquids that usually contain acid, spices and sometimes oil. They are applied to food while it is cooking to help it retain moisture and to add another layer of flavor.
A mop can be something as simple as beer, fruit juice or meat stock, or can be very complex. In some cases if you have used a marinade, that becomes the mop after you have boiled it well. Acids such as lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar are common. Butter or oil are usually present when you are cooking food that tends to dry out quickly. Seasonings are often the same as you have used in your rub or marinade.
Most mops are cooked first to blend their flavors. They should be kept warm if you plan to use them right away, or reheated if they have been refrigerated. Mops are applied warm, and should be kept warm in between mopping. In fact we prefer to keep a mop simmering on the side throughout the cooking process, for three reasons: Firstly, you are not applying a cold liquid to your food. Secondly, through mopping your food in the early stages of cooking you can contaminate the mop with bacteria from the food. The simmering process will kill these bacteria. Thirdly, the simmering process reduces the mop and concentrates the flavor.
If you have used a rub on your food, and we recommend that you do, you should only start applying the mop after the food has cooked for half of the projected cooking time. This will allow the rub to form a crust on the meat before you apply the mop. Your mop is likely to take on a different flavor each time you mop, as the mop applicator itself is coming into contact with the flavors of the food and any rub or seasonings that have been applied. Mop small items every 30 minutes, and big items every 45 minutes.
Sauces are a subject of contention. Some say that sauces define the nature of barbecue, and that if you dont serve a barbecue sauce on your food it is not real barbecue. Others contend that if your food needs a sauce, it doesnt deserve to be called barbecue. One thing for sure is that all the people who agree that sauce is good, have not been able to agree whose sauce is best. Which is why there are so many different types of barbecue sauce out there.
The earliest recorded recipe for barbecue sauce comes from the late 1700's around revolutionary war times. It was a simple sauce - vinegar. Actually, it is not so much a sauce but rather a "dip" in which roasted pork was dipped. Later, the sauce developed by adding water, a pinch of sugar, and red peppers to the basic core ingredient of vinegar. This is a "tidewater" barbecue sauce and still can be found along the eastern Carolina shores. As you move inland tomatoes and other spices were added to the vinegar sauce. As barbecue sauce moved west, it changed. Crossing the Great Smoky Mountains into Tennessee and Kentucky the sauce became sweeter, and with less vinegar. As the journey west continued, tomatoes, whether as whole, sauce, or ketchup, became the main ingredient, replacing vinegar. When BBQ sauce came to Texas, tomatoes were still the primary ingredient, but now hot peppers - habaneros, jalapenos, chili powder, etc. became an important ingredient. Barbecue also changed from being only pork, to beef as well, and sauce became an integral component of barbecue. Finally, as BBQ sauce kept on it's journey west, new ingredients were added, including pureed mangoes, apple sauce, soy sauce, and exotic spices.
As barbecue continues in popularity across the United States and the world, BBQ sauce is becoming an important component of barbecue. In almost every barbecue competition you can find a category for barbecue sauce.
Barbecue sauce can be used as a condiment, a dipping sauce, and a glaze, or all of the above. It should be used to complement, but not overpower the flavor of your barbecue. In some cases, it is used to give overcooked and dried-out barbecue some moisture.
Primary bases used for American barbecue sauces are tomatoes, mustard, and vinegar.
When you are ready to create your own sauce, look for a balance of sweet, sour and spicy flavors, in that order.
Sauces by Region
|Kansas City||Thick Tomato based, sweet, and spicy with some heat|
|Texas||Thin - Tomato based, molasses and Worcestershire sauce|
|Central S. Carolina||Thin - Mustard and vinegar|
|Western N. Carolina||Thin - Tomato based, ketchup, vinegar and sugar (sweet and sour)|
|Eastern N. Carolina||Thin - Vinegar based, sugar, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper|
|South S. Carolina / Georgia||Thin - Mustard based, tomato and vinegar|
|Kentucky||Black sauce made from Worcestershire sauce and vinegar|
|Florida||Tomato based, lemon, lime, vinegar and butter|
|Hawaiian||Sweet and sour, with fruits and fruit juices|
|Oriental||Soy sauce, peanuts with some heat|
Barbecue Sauce Tips
When Is It Cooked?
One of the toughest things in barbecue is trying to determine if your food is cooked.
This generally comes with practice, and adhering to the following:
The following table provides you with some general guidelines for determining whether or not your food is cooked.
|Food||Doneness||Internal Temp. (Fahrenheit)|
(Shoulders, Picnics, Boston Butts)
Sliceable and Pullable
|BBQ Beef Brisket||Done||210|
|Chicken - Whole or
(Beef, Pork, Lamb)
|Ham - Fully Cooked
Not Fully Cooked
|Lamb - Chops and Rack||Rare
|Turkey - Whole
|Done (check thigh)
Using a Grill to Barbecue / Smoke Food
You can use your barbecue grill to slow cook, barbecue, or smoke your favorite foods. All too often barbecue grills are only used for grilling food. This requires that you use the "indirect heat/smoke method" in your barbecue grill. The indirect method requires that you keep the heat and smoke source, i.e. charcoal and wood chips, off to the sides of the barbecue grill so the heat does not directly cook your food. Instead you use low heat to slowly cook your food.
|To start, mound the charcoal off to one side, and place
a pan of water on the opposite side. Light the charcoal and let it burn until the outside
of the charcoal turns white. Add your desired woodchunks that have been soaked in warm
water for at least 30 minutes. With the lid on, the heat and smoke will rise up one side
of your barbecue, cool slightly, and come down the other side where your food is - a
simple sort of convection oven.
It is important that you put a pan of water in the bottom of your barbecue grill and put the coals and wood chips off to one side, or around the water pan. A water pan will help keep the temperature constant and keep your foods from completely drying out. The water pan does not need to be big or deep, a foil pie pan that holds an inch or so of water will do just fine. Position the food over the water pan, not the charcoal. During the cooking process you may need to add water to your pan, so check it when you check your food.
Keep the barbecue grill temperature down between 125F and 220F, otherwise you'll cook your food, rather than smoke, or slow cook it. Keep the bottom vents about 1/2 open and the top 1/4 open. Monitor your temperature constantly and if you start to run out of heat, add more charcoal which you have already preburned outside of the grill. i.e. Don't put new charcoal directly on the fire you are cooking with, as your food will take on that nasty charcoal smoke flavor. As the walls of these grills are thin and the internal cooking space is small, every time you open the lid you lose your temperature very rapidly - so try to resist lifting the lid to just look.
Brining or salting is a way of increasing the moisture holding capacity of meat resulting in a moister product when it is cooked. Through water retention, brining allows a longer time for collagen to be broken down without drying the meat out. This water retention also lubricates the individual fibers of the meat.
A brine is basically a salt solution into which you place your desired meat. When brining meat, there is a greater concentration of salt and sugar outside of your meat (in the brine) than there is inside the meat (the cells that make up the flesh). The law of diffusion states that the salt and sugar wiill naturally flow from te area of greater concentration (the brine) to lesser concentration (the cells). There is also a greater concentration of water, outside of the meat than inside. Here, too, the water will naturally flow from the area of greater concentration to lesser concentration. This process is called Osmosis. Once inside the cells, the salt, and to a lesser extent, the sugar will cause the cell proteins to unravel, or denature. As the individual proteins unravel, they become more likely to interact with one another. This interaction results in the formation of a sticky matrix that captures and holds moisture. It is this matrix, that when exposed to heat, will gel together (coagulate) and capture and hold the moisture from leaking out as the meat cooks.
When cooking meat to a temperature of below 120 F, the protein bundles within the meat, will shrink in size and moisture loss will be minimal. Once you go above this temperature the moisture loss will start to increase significantly. This first 'sweat' is from the water stored between the individual cells being released. Once you go above a temperature of 140 F there will be a second 'sweat' and further loss of moisture as a result of the individual cells actually breaking down.
As a result of the brining process the raw meat will typically gain about 20% in weight, as a result of the water, salt (sodium) and sugar which have entered the cells. The increased concentration of sodium in the cells actually increases the ability of the proteins to stay bonded together during the cooking process. This effectively means that the normal temperature at which meat cells break down (140 F), resulting in moisture loss, is increased, and the brine constitutes the first moisture loss, not the actual juices of the meat.
Brining is regarded by many BBQ'ers as mandatory for all forms of poultry. It is also widely used when smoking various forms of meat and seafood such as smoked salmon, pork chops, ham, bacon, corned beef and pastrami. It is not recommended for use with traditional barbecue cuts such as brisket, ribs and pork shoulders, as it will make them all taste like ham !
Recipe for a BasicBBQ Brine
Make 1 quart of brine per pound of food, but do
not exceed 2 gallons of brine.
Brine food for 1 hour per pound, but not less than 30 minutes or more than 8 hours.
Recipe for a Basic Hi-Heat Grilling Brine
Make 1 quart of brine per pound of food, but do
not exceed 2 gallons of brine.
Brine food for 1 hour per pound, but not less than 30 minutes or more than 8 hours.
Recipe for a Basic Poultry Brine with Added Seasoning
Through the process of brining one is able to produce cooked meat which is not only more moist, but also more flavorful. If you add seasonings to your brine, they too will pass into the cells of the meat as part of the brining process.
Mix the ingredients above together making sure that all the
salt is well dissolved into the water.
Cover your poultry completely with brine and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove from brine and rinse with fresh water inside and out. Smoke at 275 F to an internal temp of 170 basting with butter every few hours to give you the golden brown skin.
Brining Times for Different Foods
Here are some basic brining times you can plan on for different foods, but remember that this can change depending on the strength or weakness of the brine. You will have to experiment a little to find out what works best with your particular brine.
|Whole Chicken (4 pounds)||8 to 12 hours|
|Chicken Parts||1 1/2 hours|
|Chicken Breasts||1 hour|
|Cornish Game Hens||2 hours|
|Whole Turkey||24 hours|
|Pork Chops||12 to 24 hours|
|Whole Pork Loins||2 to 4 days|