Mastering Smoke and Fire – Barbecue Basics

There is no better way to celebrate the return of good weather than by having a proper barbecue. Although the messy, delicious food, slathered in rich and complex sauces and served with a healthy side of napkins, may appear to be a simple meal, the process of cooking it is deceptively complex. Those who want to bring the perfect ribs to their table will do well to study the art properly before attempting to BBQ.

Good BBQ requires plenty of preparation, starting with cleaning the grill. While you can prepare BBQ on a gas or electric grill, many prefer the flavor of charcoal, which often makes for easier smoking. Don’t bother buying meat from the supermarket cold case; instead, seek out a proper butcher and ask for advice on good cuts of meat. Some experts believe that spare ribs make the best BBQ, especially a St. Louis cut. Finally, when BBQ day arrives, remember to get everything ready ahead of time, and be sure to rest the meat until it reaches room temperature.

When barbequing, you need to cook the meat very slowly, so it is best to get started many hours before mealtime. Start the coals, ideally with a chimney starter, and prepare some water-soaked wood chips for the smoker. Hickory chunks are best, though apple and oak will also work. If you only have a simple grill, you can get by with wrapping the chips or chunks in aluminum foil poked with a few holes. While cooking, try to maintain a grill temperature around 220. It’s also important to keep the lid closed and the ribs away from direct heat. After roughly four hours, when the rib meat begins to come away from the bones but still maintains its general integrity, it’s time to lather on the BBQ sauce and bake the ribs over direct heat for a few minutes to seal in the flavor.

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