Summertime is barbecue time. It's hard to have an outing without barbecue, potato salad, and coleslaw. These are some of life's great pleasures.
At some point in history, early cooks figured out that they could protect meat from insects by allowing it to 'smoke' over a low heat for long periods. It also made the meat taste incredible. Spanish explorers learned of the process from the Caribbean native people. They called it "barbacoa", and the rest is history.
"Barbacoa" became barbecue in the U.S. honestly. Early settlers had hard times, and often had to make do with cheaper, tougher cuts of meat, as well as a lot of pork, which was much cheaper and easier to raise than beef. They also could not afford to waste anything, so when meat started to 'turn', they covered it with spicy sauces to hide the 'off' taste. The combination of slow-smoked meat with spicy sauce is what we recognize today as barbecue.
There are some tips to preparing memorable barbecue:
• Never cook meat any hotter than 280°F. Any hotter will result in a burned outside, and raw inside.
• A good rule of thumb is to smoke meat 1-1/2 hours per pound, and add 45 minutes per pound for each extra chicken, or chunk of meat.
• Cook all meats to an internal temperature of 180°F.
• Don't forget the potato salad and coleslaw.
There are 4 basic kinds of barbecue sauce. The one most people are familiar with is the tomato-based, smokey sauce, usually flavored with hickory, brown sugar, honey and other delicious ingredients. It works great on beef, pork, and chicken. The next type is a mustard and vinegar sauce popular in the Carolinas. This sauce is wonderfully tangy, and is especially good on pork, and chicken because it lets the character of the meat come through. A third type is a vinegar and pepper sauce that is heavenly on pork, goat and mutton.
Whatever sauce you use, it should be applied lightly, and during the last third of the cooking process. If the sauce is applied too early, it will char, and caramelize. You want it to form a nice thin crust on the meat. Always reserve plenty of sauce to put on the meat at the table, for those who want to.
There are rules of etiquette that should be observed at all barbecues:
• Appoint one, and only one, grill-master for the entire day. Do not interfere with their grilling techniques, even if they char the meat beyond all recognition.
• Never put catsup on a hot dog unless your child absolutely refuses to eat it any other way.
• Allowable insect repellants are electric bug-zappers, and lots of citronella Tiki Torches. Citronella buckets can be used in a pinch. Sprays and evil-smelling rubs are verboten.
• Grill tools are only for grilling, not household chores. They should always be kept near the grill unless actually being cleaned.
• The dogs have all legal rights to any food that is dropped, or can be fished out of the coals. The cats are entitled to any ruined or dropped fish, or other seafood.
• There are only three acceptable answers to "How do you want your steak?" They are:
c) Still Quivering
Any other answers, such as "Just a little pink on the inside", will result in the person being banished to McDonalds.
• Never schedule a barbecue on the same day as a major sporting event. You will be sorry…..
Especially on the 4th, exercise good judgment, and have a happy and safe holiday.