The two basics of authentic barbecue are a low cooking temperature and plenty of wood smoke. You need enough heat to cook the meat (which is the difference between smoke curing and barbecuing) but you need to keep the temperature a bit above the level that meat will register inside when done. So, let's take pork for example; it needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit, so you must barbecue it at 180 degrees to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. This same principle works very well for other foods as well. Grilling is what many inexperienced, "want to be pit masters" call barbecuing. Actually, grilling in concept is the opposite of barbecuing because of heat.
Much of the time you want the highest temperature achievable in grilling, because the purpose is to sear meat on the outside to make it crispy and brown on the surface. This method is best when used with tender cuts, such as a good steak or chop, which are pretty much free of connective tissue. Usually, meat used to barbecue is really tough.
Spareribs, beef brisket, as well as other cuts require slow cooking at low temperatures to break down their stubborn tissues. This is the exact reason why they are ideal for barbecuing in the first place. When you barbecue steaks, fish, or vegetables, you do it to add smoky flavor and not because the slow cooking is needed for tenderness. The smokiness that you desire in barbecue should come from smoldering wood, not from fat or oil dripping on coals or hot metal. The use of water or other liquids is a bit controversial in barbecue circles. People in the past didn't add water to their pits in any fashion, and many experts don't like the idea today.
They say that barbecuing has to be a dry cooking process. The truth is that most methods of barbecuing have always involved the circulation of moisture laden air over food. This makes the process much wetter than cooking in a traditional oven. Water has a proper place in barbecuing, depending on how it's used and what you're cooking. Traditional barbecue meats benefit from losing moisture as they cook, shrinking their size, but many non traditional foods can benefit from increasing humidity inside the smoker. As long as you avoid cooking the food with steam instead of smoke, extra moisture can help to prevent lean meat and fish from getting too dry.
It's really a good idea to probe a little deeper into the subject of outdoor cooking,traditional barbecue. What you learn may give you the confidence you need to venture into new areas. Many outdoor cooks close and cover up their grills and smokers for the winter months. They do all their cooking inside and force themselves to forget the great taste of outdoor-cooked food for long stretches of time. Those who love to cook outdoors and enjoy eating grilled, smoked, or barbecued foods do not like to quit doing so just because it is cold outside.
Outdoor cooking is not a passion that can be turned on and off because of the weather. It is a year-round love of some of the best-tasting food there is anywhere. Fortunately, there are many ways to get around this dilemma of being left out in the cold when cooking outdoors in the winter.
Grilling is a process of cooking food quickly over an open flame. The operative word is "quickly" as this allows you to cook the food without having to spend a long time outside. With a gas grill, where you control the heat, you can cook a steak or hamburger in just a few minutes. Because of the constant high heat, you will not be forced to stay outside in the elements for long stretches of time. And if the weather is really bad, you can time your cooking and be there to flip the meat or get it off the grill. Other outdoor cooking methods work even better in the cold weather.
A smoker, by its very nature, is designed to cook food at very low temperatures for long periods of time. In any environment, once you get the fire right, you basically put the meat in the smoker and forget about it for several hours. While you are inside, the meat is slowly cooking outside just the way it is supposed to. Barbecue cooking works in a similar way, as well. It is cooked slow and over an indirect fire, although not usually as slow-cooked as in a smoker. Therefore, it pretty much cooks itself once you get the fire just right.
With barbecue, it is usually better to leave it alone. The meat will be less likely to dry out and the fire will stay at more of a constant temperature. Start getting into the mindset that cooking outside is not just a summer event. You will soon discover that the food actually benefits from being left alone, and you will be able to enjoy the great tastes of outdoor cooking all year and under just about any weather condition.
Now might be a good time to write down the main points covered above. The act of putting it down on paper will help you remember what's important about outdoor cooking,traditional barbecue.
Michael Hehn writes articles about various topics. Find out what he has to say about cooking at Cooking