May is National BBQ Month, and the month when many east coasters break out their grills. The warmer weather also means that folks begin taking culinary trips, like long weekends to nearby cities or shore towns. But with the kids still in school and work ramping up for a busy quarter, a jaunt to a city famous for its BBQ may not be in the cards. Why not try a few classic BBQ styles at home this weekend?
The history of barbecued meats is long and varied. Suffice to say, the basic grilled-over-a-fire meat dish has been influenced by various cultures since the beginning of time. A true BBQ connoisseur can match the differences in meats, tastes, and cooking methods to specific regions in the US. Tennessee is known for its dry rubs on smoked pork or smoking the pork in its wet, tomato-based sauces. The Carolinas have a tradition of mixing up all the meats and skin of the pig in one big pit to allow all the different flavors to blend together. Kentucky BBQ, made mostly with pork shoulder, may be served with more savory toppings like Worcestershire sauce.
Pork or chicken are the traditional meats for BBQ. Smoking pork ribs is an art that has been raised to ultra-competitive levels, but blue-ribbon cooking isn’t necessary for a delicious backyard BBQ. Look up ideas and directions on how to smoke ribs, taking some cues from the top contest winners. Let the ribs marinate overnight with the dry rub slathered on them. A vinegar-based glaze mixed with the same dry rub is dabbed on the ribs while cooking to keep the ribs moist. Smoking takes hours, sometimes up to five or six, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to slow cook this sure-to-be-legendary meal
Competitive teams will order specific wood to burn in the smoker. Order some from the region you are emulating if you are entering a competition. Otherwise, shop locally for wood that’s been dried well and will infuse a good smoky taste to the meat. Maple, Oak, or Hickory woods should be widely available at the stores that cater to local BBQ enthusiasts. Carry out your regional theme to the drinks and side dishes. Some grocery stores and deli shops may have pre-made coleslaw or potato salad made in the same tradition as your BBQ recipe. A few quick internet searches and asking a few questions at the deli counter will get you all the information you need to bring a little bit of far-flung flare into your next BBQ adventure.