The Smoke

Ok, so it’s time to explain the ‘Smoke’ part of the title of this blog – Smoke and Ice… One of my favorite hobbies over the last year or so has been to cook up some fine Southern Barbecue – well, Southernish, I suppose, since I live in New York… I’ll tell you what, you can’t beat the smell of a nice pork butt on the grill, smoking all day long with a nice, spicy rub on it during a summer’s day (or winter… whatever)… from time to time, I’ll be throwing some recipe’s that I use up here, since it’s always best to share barbecue with 30 or 40 of your best friends (and a lot of the time, you’ll still end up with leftovers!)

So let’s start with the basics – I use my standard 22 1/2” Weber Grill… at around $80, you can’t beat it when compared to the many smokers you can get for several hundred, or thousand dollars… Sure, I could cook more with a proper smoker, and I’ll bet it could be done a little better too, since the food isn’t as close to the heat source, but hell, I’m on a budget here… With the Weber grill, I can also fire up the coals to a raging 500-600 degrees, and grill a proper steak as well, so it’s versatile…Oh yeah, and the fuel is charcoal… no gas here – gas grills tend to run too hot, and I just have the feeling that I’d be emptying propane tanks every time I light them up…

As you can probably tell, when I talk about barbecuing, I am not talking about anything to do with ground beef, or fancy cuts of meat… While I love a good burger as much as the next guy, grilling a few burgers does not make a barbecue… instead, barbecuing is the process of cooking over low heat – usually around 225-250 degrees – for extended periods of time, usually throwing some wood right on the coals to produce a fragrant smoke that works it’s way into the meat… additionally, the meat involved is usually tough, with a lot of connective tissue – these meats would be barely edible when cooked on a hot grill, but when allowed to cook slowly, the fat and connective tissue dissolve to make the most tender, lip smacking meal you’ve ever tasted!

My personal favorite right now is South Carolina-style pulled pork, which starts with a 12-15 lb pork shoulder (which, oddly enough, comes from end of a pig opposite the shoulder), takes about 16-18 hours to properly cook, and shreds after cooking like it was butter… I usually buy these suckers two at a time at a wholesale club for about $25, so it ends up being around a dollar/pound, and will literally feed me for a month! (I made up a pair of these this spring for a party with about 30 people, and we not only fed everyone, but had enough for a week and a half of leftovers for myself )… I’m going to fire one of these babies up early next month – I’ll put up a bit of commentary on it when the time comes…

I also do a lot of baby-back ribs and beer-can chicken as well, mainly because they don’t take quite as long, so they don’t take as much care and prep-work (the chicken comes in at about an hour and a half, so it’s something I can start up at 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon)… I’ve tried my hand at brisket once, and while it was a bit tough, the flavor was out of this world, so I will be doing one of those again at some point – I stopped at a barbecue joint the other day and ordered sliced brisket (you know, for research), and surprisingly, it was not at flavorful as mine, and it was nearly as tough… disappointing, but just more motivation to cook it myself

Last but not least – there’s a lot of ‘passive’ time involved in barbecue, and as far as I can tell, there’s only one worthwhile way to pass that time – drink a few beers, listen to some blues and spend time with your family and friends while you’re soaking in that incredible barbecue smell… sound like the perfect way to spend a weekend? Well then get cookin’!

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