You're going to make mistakes in barbecue cooking, especially in the beginning. If you aren't making mistakes then you're not trying new things and experimenting. Experimenting is a big part of the barbeque adventure and making mistakes is that they can lead to some wonderful discoveries.
The way I see it though in order to be able to enjoy your mistakes and experimentation you need to be confident enough in some of your skills so that you will feel free to experiment. So I want to go over ten mistakes that lots of folks do when barbeque cooking, especially when they first start out.
Some of this information are things from my own experiences, a lot of it is things I've learned from smarter chefs than myself, but getting all that knowledge in one place can be difficult. So I hope this helps you out.
1. You Can't Put A Microwave in a Smoke House.
If you want fast food, go order take out. Great barbeque takes time, love and patience. Slow is the key. Cooking at low temperatures for a long amount of time is what makes meat just fall off the bone.
The prep work you do before you even take the meat to the heat, makes it less likely that you will be distracted when the meat needs your attention. This in turn allows you to focus on keeping the meat tender and give it your unique touch of flavor. Use your prep time to help you deliver a superior product.
So figure out how much time you need before you even think of cooking. What seasoning or sauce will you be using. Which sides do you plan on serving? Think ahead and get everything you need ready before you start cooking.
2. Overcoming the Learning Curve
There's lots of variables and nuances that come with barbecue. Eventually much of what you will be doing will become second nature to you. But in the beginning you will need to keep track of what you are doing and keep practicing again and again in order to get good. So its better to take your time slowly making small changes in your recipes and processes. Remember you can fake something when you go fast, but the end results will suffer.
3. Using Wood Before Its Time
Cooking over wood, gives your meats some of the flavors and subtle notes that you enjoy. As the smoke rises from the wood chips or chunks of hickory, oak etc. permeating its way into the meat. Thats one of the reasons why you want to cook low and slow giving the smoke the time to get into every bite of goodness. In order to get the best possible smoke into your meat, you need to use wood that has been aged properly, other wise you will get bad tasting flavors and textures.
Freshly cut wood (green) can blacken meat, because there is lots of moisture inside freshly cut wood. Moisture in wood creates a lot of smoke and leads to oversmoking which overpowers the meats natural flavor, making it taste bitter. Remember that smoking wood chips or chunks provide flavor not heat so you don’t want to burn them. Let your wood chips/chunks soak in cool water for an hour or so, this keeps them moist enough to slowly release smoke.
4. Out of the Fridge and Into the Fire.
You need to control the temperature levels of your meat and your smoker. Temperature can be a benefit or a hinderance. For example, if you put meat onto the grate straight out of the refrigerator adds lots of cold air into your smoker, which leads to creosote in the charcoal condensing and floating up with the smoke into your meat. This will add flavor and texture that you
don't want to eat.
To combat this, let your meat come to room temperature for about an hour, before you start cooking. But don't let the meat get too warn because then it becomes a feeding ground for bacteria.
5. Come on Baby Light my Lighter Fluid?
Using lighter fluid will add an terribly acidic flavor to your food. If you’d prefer tasting the sweet apple wood flavor of the wood mixed with the peppery bite of your rub, then forget about using lighter fluid. Besides starting a fire the way I'm about to show you will save you money and make your food taste better.
Go to the hardware store and buy your self a chimney starter. Then get some charcoal (without lighter fluid), some paper, a spray can of canola or olive oil, and a match. Spay the paper with the oil and then stuff the paper under the chimney starter. The oil will cause a wick effect, allowing the paper to burn longer. Put the charcoal into the top of the chimney and light the oil soaked paper. Wait till the coals start to show white ash before you move them into your smoker. Refill the chimney and light a second batch of
charcoal so that you can increase the heat of your smoker when the temperature drops. It's better to put in hot coals into a fire so that heat isn't used up trying to start the coals.
6. Slow and steady Wins the Race
A steady temperature will be best for your cut of meat, and bring the most flavor. When temperatures fluctuate the meat will cook unevenly and maybe even dry out your meat. So control is everything. Its much easier to add heat than to reduce it. So start off with less charcoal and slowly add more charcoal as you need it.
Use a good thermometer that you can read from outside the smoker because you need to keep the smoker lid or door closed as much as possible. Keep your eye on the temperature with a good thermometer, and keep the lid on your smoker as much as possible. Once you have hit your ideal temperature according to the recipe, make sure you keep the temperate at that level, more heat is just going to dry out your product and may even burn it.
7. Getting Too Saucy Too Soon
Most sauces that you use when cooking barbecue will have sugar and tomatoes both have low heat tolerance and a good a mount of sugar. These two main ingredients of barbecue sauces are what create that delicious black cracking coating. You need to wait until the meat is almost finished cooking and then apply your sauces on each side. Let the sauce cook for just a minute or two
on each side.
8. Believing your Eyes Instead of Your numbers
Barbecue and smoked meats cook differently than other meats, as an example pork and poultry will pink as they cook. You don't get the white color telling you the meat is done. So you need to determine the meats internal temperature to know that it is done cooking.
9. Punching Holes into the Meat
You've worked a lot to get your meat to this point. Unfortunately so many novices will end up ruining it all because they stab the meat with pokers to move them out of the smokers. This causes all the delicious and precious juices inside the meat to leak out, which can dry out the meat. Anytime you need to move the meat make sure you use tongs or some other way that doesn't
pierce the meat.
10. Not Letting the Meat Enough Rest Time
Ok we are almost there you can almost taste the barbecue, you are about ready to start pulling at it now. But hold on, if you cut into the meat now you will leak out those juices you've been trying to keep in. The meat’s juices move to the areas with least heat. So if you cut the meat they will run out of the meat as quickly as possible. Instead, let the meat rest after you take it off the heat, give the juices a chance reabsorb into the proteins. Cut into the meat after it is well-rested and you'll find some of the most tender
juiciest meats you've ever enjoyed.
I hope following these simple tips and techniques will give you the confidence to experiment and try different things to bring your barbecue to the next level.