As you will probably agree, to do a good job at work you need to have the right concepts and skills. Barbecuing is very similar to work in that aspect, you must have the perfect groundwork to make the perfect barbecue. This “groundwork” consists of tools, methods, foundation, finish work, paint, and landscaping. You might be thinking “Whoah, I just want to barbecue a nice dinner for my guests, not build a house!”. Well, to prepare quality barbecue you must understand the concepts as they will help your meal impress your family and friends.
The first concept is the tools. The most basic of tools for a grillmaster when barbecuing is a grill, and possibly a smoker (or a smoker attachment for your grill). The grill is the easel that the artist known as their grillmaster creates their artwork. There are various types of grills out there, but the biggest choice you must make is charcoal or gas. Many purists, myself included, feel that it’s not truly barbecuing unless you use charcoal. It is my opinion that a gas grill is just a stove/oven you have outside the house. Most larger grills can handle the chore of smoking without an additional smoker attachment, but if you wish to purchase one it is likely your grill will have a smoker attachment you can purchase.
The next key is your cooking methods. You will need to decide if you will use direct heat which is usually used for grilling or indirect heat which is usually used for barbecuing. You will also need to analyze what you are cooking and decide if you will want to use smoker chips, if so these need to be soaked in water for at least one hour before using them so plan ahead. Another concept is flame control. Generally with barbecuing this is not a big issue because the lid will be closed and help suprress flare ups. With grilling though the lid is usually open and there are several ways to control your flame and heat. For a large area of even heat spread the charcoals out evenly below the cooking area. The closer together the coals are the warmer that region of the cooking area will be. If you wish to create an area of your grill to sear the meat, make a small pile of coals below that cooking surface. If while cooking you need to control flare ups you can use a metal skewer to move your charcoal briquettes further apart, or if that does not work a squirt bottle may be used. Closing the lid will also suppress flare ups, but one of the previous methods should work and allow you to monitor your meat on the cooking surface.
The next item you need to consider when barbecuing is the foundations. The foundation is how you prepare your meat before you put it on the cooking surface. This can include items such as marinades and rubs. If you are using a marinade you should soak your meat in it at least a few hours prior to cooking, and preferably overnight. For a rub, I suggest applying it an hour or two ahead of time and putting the meat in the refrigerator to allow the rub to season the meat. Some may confuse marinades with the next two items which are finish work and paint. Finish work and paint are actually very similar to each other but different than marinade. After you have removed the meat from the marinade, discard the remaining marinade immediately. You do not want to use this because it has been in contact with the raw meat and could include foodborne illnesses. Instead finish work uses bastes and glazes and paint uses barbecue sauce. Both finishes and paint are applied while the food is cooking. Generally finishes will have a lower sugar level meaning they will be less likely to burn as the meat cookes, this allows you to apply them at regular intervals throughout the cooking process. Paint usally has a high sugar content, and sugar will burn when over the open flame of a grill. Because of this fact, paint is usually applied at the very end of cooking the meat and monitoring it closely so it does not burn creating the “black crust” which can ruin a well barbecued meat.
The final component every good grillmaster must be familiar with is the landscaping. This is what you lay out on your dining area and is commonly known as “condiments”. Some items that are familiar to most people in this category are salsa, relish, ketchup, mustard, mayonaise, etc. These are the items that as the grillmaster you don’t put on the meat for your guests. As they prepare their plates, they can use any of these landscaping items to finish off the masterpiece you have created. Now that you know all the components to creating the perfect barbecue, I encourage you to invite your friends over for a meal you will dazzle them with. The choices of foundations, finish, pain, and landscaping are yours to make. I would strongly recommend choosing those that compliment the type of meat you intend to serve.