The Bastardization of BBQ

It’s almost officially summer so it’s about time we address BBQ and Grilling. As Anthony Bourdain recently commented on a recent episode of No Reservations, talking about BBQ increases ratings exponentially. Just ask the Food Network. BBQ is actually one of the reasons Bourdain left Food Network and who can blame him. The channel has totally fucked out BBQ. The competitions, the wacky pit masters, the secret rubs, the regional debates. Complete culinary fluff. Early in the 2000’s the Network ditched fine dining for dumbed-down backyard cooking.

Now, there’s nothing in the world like great BBQ. A bright pink smoke ring on a pork rib is a beautiful sight. I dig it all–pulled pork, beef ribs, smoked chicken, sausage. It’s safe to say anything rubbed with spices and cooked low and slow will end up tasting good. I’ll tell you straight up that I like my pulled pork with a sweet sauce, my ribs dry (if cooked correctly) and could do with out the mustard-based Carolina style.

The primal urge to cook meat over an open fire is innate for humans. America did not invent BBQ, but we may have perfected it. Thousands of people have perfected the craft over many decades. The fact is though that BBQ is now big business. But it’s still just BBQ. Dudes cooking. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the intense attachment or fierce loyalty that some people have to their towards their BBQ. Maybe it’s a Southern thang. Just because Food Network (and now other networks) have done everything in their power to bastardize BBQ, doesn’t mean we need to turn our back on it. Instead of all the arguing and debating and secret spice rubs, everyone should just get over themselves and enjoy the food.

BBQ vs. Grilling
First let’s make one thing clear. 99% of America grills. They go out to their patio, light the grill, cook their chicken or burgers or whatever and then eat. To barbecue is a more ritualistic act. You prepare your meats. You use a smoker and/or a charcoal grill. You cook for hours. BBQ as a noun describes a specific cuisine, but BBQ as a verb is an all-day event. You have a party, friends come over, you drink, you laugh and then some hours later you feast. To grill is to cook. To BBQ is to live.

Gas vs. Charcoal
One of the most idiotic questions associated with barbecue and grilling is whether to go the gas route or the charcoal route. I prefer gas. It’s predictable, fast, convenient and gives me more cooking space. I also own a smaller charcoal grill. I rarely use it for all of the opposite reasons I just listed. The one positive of a charcoal grill though, is the flavor. The smokiness really adds a different level of dieselness to whatever your cooking.

So, I recommend having both, but when it’s time to cook, ask yourself, ‘How much time do I want to spend at the grill?’ and if I have the time, ‘Will my food’s taste be enhanced by smoke?’ There’s no need to fight about it. Both grills have their place.

(If you’re serious, own a smoker too. It’s an all day affair, but completely worth the effort.)

Do It Diesel
Now it’s time for three diesel tips/recommendations/rules for BBQ and grilling.

  1. Marinate and Brine: Seriously, just take the time and plan ahead. No matter what you’re cooking, brining or marinating always enhances the flavor and will keep everything moist. Still stupid? Use olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika and Lawry’s. Rub it on and let sit for at least thirty minutes. Go longer if possible.
  2. Use Heat Zones: No matter if you’re using gas or charcoal, use different temperatures when cooking. You can’t blast something on high heat for fifteen minutes. The crust with be burnt and inside will be raw. Start blazing hot to sear, then mover to a lower temp and close the lid to cook through. Once you have some nice color and/or grill marks, use the grill like an oven.
  3. Only Flip Your Fucking Steak Once and Rest Your Meat: Number one mistake all novice grillers make: flipping and flopping their steaks all around. Put your steak on the grill. Then don’t touch it. Resist temptation. Let the grill do it’s job. Seriously. Put the fucking tongs down. Walk away. When ready, you’re allowed to flip the steak once. When that steak is cooked to your liking (DON’T DARE CUT INTO IT TO TELL), take it off the grill and set it on a plate or a cutting board. Then don’t touch it. Resist temptation. Put the fucking knife down. All meat should rest for at least five minutes after coming off the grill. It won’t get cold. It will only get better. The juices will pull back into the meat. If you don’t wait long enough you’ll know from all the liquid sopping on your plate.

The key to keeping it Diesel is to do you. Don’t worry how Bobby Flay does it or whether your neighbor has the best Weber on the block. Have fun, enjoy your company, savor your food and celebrate summer.

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