It is summer time and that means barbecue! For those of us cooking year round, it means more barbecue! That’s why we’ve rounded up the best practice tips from the people in the know around Memphis, celebrities in the ‘Q world.
Keep in mind that this is not “grilling”. That process is generally high direct heat applied to the meat you want to cook. Don’t misunderstand, there is always room on the table for an excellent grilled steak! However, in the nomenclature of Barbecue, we are talking about low slow and smoky for the cooking process.
Jimmy Storvall, worked his way up the ladder and is now recognized as a premier pitmaster, currently residing at Corky’s Barbecue. Melissa Cookston of Memphis Barbecue Co., not only one of the youngest to win, also one of the only women to win a barbecue championship, which she has done seven times over. Ernie Mellor of Hog Wild – Real Memphis Barbecue, also a competitive barbecue winner he gave back when serving as president of the Memphis Restaurant Association.
Jimmy Storval on Great BBQ
Right out of the gate, this pro says get the best meat you can find. Being on friendly terms with your local butcher will pay dividends in making you look good at your summer gatherings. It is much easier to get good results starting with good products.
Which takes us to his next piece of advice, have good equipment. Your basics are a good grill brush, thermometer, and tongs or spatula. Seems obvious, but some folks miss out or don’t think it through. After all, every piece of food is going to sit on your racks, so cleaning them well is only going to help get a more wholesome product. Without a thermometer you don’t really know what’s happening inside that pork shoulder or brisket. Protect yourself from burns, keep those short tongs in the kitchen, you want a long reach when dealing with open flame and heat.
“You have to go low and slow”. In other words, do not rush it. Yes, trying to get your big cuts of meat to 203 degrees takes a long time when you are cooking at 225…that’s kind of the point. It takes time to break down the fibers in the meat, to let the smoke permeate and to thoroughly melt the flavors from your rub.
Lastly, remember that even a great barbecue sauce is supposed to play second fiddle to the flavor of the meat. Memphis is known for dry rubbed ribs and pork shoulder. The sauce is a condiment to be served with meal. Yes it will enhance the flavor of your food, but if you mix it with the pulled pork for example, you risk losing all the great flavors you spent hours developing.
Melissa Cookston of Memphis Barbecue Co. on upping your ‘Q game
One thing that carries through form both her competition barbecue to her multiple restaurants (averaging 8000 pounds of barbecue per week!) is the charcoal she uses. Kingsford. The even burning, low ash producing, great flavor inducing charcoal that is available virtually everywhere. That consistency, though, is what makes it work for her.
The wood you choose is the next major area. Pecan is her choice for commercial use because it offers good flavor that people in general respond to well. Her personal preference are charry, and more often apple. That’s hard to argue with as the fruit woods always make for great flavor, especially when coking pork. She will occasionally augment with hickory, with beef for example, that will tolerate the extra pungent flavor profile.
When the time comes, her advice is to plan well. Make all your choices in advance; what kind of coal, what kind of wood, what kinds of seasonings, etc. This will lead to less hiccups along the way. Use smaller flame, targeting about 250 degrees is good for home barbecuing. Lastly, avoid rubs that are overly salty. Memphis barbecue is about the mélange of flavors layered on top of the slightly sweet salty base.
Ernie Mellor of Hog Wild – Real Memphis Barbecue, how to do it right
Often credited with being the first to serve barbecue pork nachos, we are already fans of Ernie. The star of the nachos is of course pulled pork, one of the icons of Memphis barbecue, and one which Ernie has very specific ideas on how to get the best outcome.
First off, use the butt. This is the portion of pork shoulder that comes from the upper section as the hog stands. The size is right for home cooking, averaging 5-7 pounds, and he says always go bone in. The bone helps transfer heat to the interior of the meat. He likes an internal temperature of 180 degrees held for at least an hour.
His preparation includes either a wet brine marinated overnight, or an injection of a hog wash, setting overnight in the fridge if possible. Then you dry that off, apply a generous layer of your favorite rub and let that sit as long as possible before you take it to the heat.
Our favorite tip is when you have the meat shredded. Doing the shred will incorporate exterior chunks with the interior, but may not disperse the flavor of a great rub throughout. So he advises to add a light sprinkle of you rub to the meat after pulling. Then, as if it were a salad, toss the two together and serve. That lets the rub flavors ‘explode’ with the meat.