Barbecuing: Slow cooking process

Barbecuing refers to a slow cooking process using indirect, low-heat generated by smoldering logs or wood chips that in turn “smoke-cook” the food. Because foods tenderize when cooked slowly over low temperatures, (particularly when basted), some of the meats best suited for barbecuing are in fact the less expensive, less tender meats like ribs and briskets.

Barbecue is not the same as grilling, even if grilling foods with a barbecue sauce. Barbecuing requires smoke to properly flavor and color the food. Barbecued foods are cooked at low temperatures for long periods in order to develop the best flavor and an extremely tender texture, often referred to as slow-and-low cooking.

The barbecue pit may be constructed of a number of different readily available materials. Blocks, bricks or sheet metal may be used. A portable pit is often the most desirable because of its versatility. Pits constructed from small- or medium-sized metal drums are well suited for a small barbecue.

The charcoal should be piled in a row down the middle of the pit. Charcoal lighter fuel can be used to start the fire. When flames have disappeared and the briquettes are burning evenly, a garden rake can be used to evenly distribute the briquettes over the bottom of the pit.

The fuel and heat source are usually separated from the cooking chamber, but the cooking chamber maintains enough heat to properly cook the foods slowly, over a long period of time. The cooking chamber fills with smoke, giving the food its characteristic smoked flavor, which varies depending on the type of wood that is used for the fuel.

The final barbecued products are tender, soft, and generally lack a crisp charred crust. The best temperatures for barbecuing are between 200°F and 300°F. If the temperature rises above 300°F, it is then considered grilling.

In addition to being a style of cooking, barbecue is also widely understood to be a social gathering, especially in the open air at which barbecued foods are eaten. Throughout the country, barbecues are the foundation of church suppers, political fund-raisers, and community of neighborhood gatherings. These gatherings have given rise to the repertoire of side dishes served along with the meat, including such classics as cole slaw, corn bread, boiled potatoes, and beans.

Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters. To prevent foodborne illness, don’t use the same platter and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry. Harmful bacteria present in raw meat and poultry and their juices can contaminate safely cooked food.
Barbecuing: Slow cooking process

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