ABCs of DIY BBQ

The one on the right had some dry rub, hence the blackened look

The one on the right had some dry rub, hence the blackened look (honest).

There’s a mystique around barbecue that it’s a skilled craft best to leave to the pros, it requires all day, you need a pit or a pig cooker to make it right, and so on.  Though these ideas have some truth to them, they shouldn’t dissuade you from cooking your own ‘cue once in awhile.  In fact, you really should cook your own ‘cue.  As they say, give a man directions to a BBQ joint and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to barbecue and he’ll eat for a lifetime (or at least until he burns his house down).

Cooking passable barbecue is really not that difficult.  Just block off five hours or so, grab a beer, call up a friend, gather at least one bag of charcoal (not instant light) plus a charcoal grill, round up a meat thermometer and ideally an oven thermometer to leave in the grill, and make sure you have some hickory chips on hand.  Now all you need is a Boston Butt or two and some salt.  If you’re making your own sauce/dip, you’ll also need some cider vinegar and pepper flakes, if you are an Eastern-style minimalist and a little ketchup if you are into the Lexington lifestyle.  Or you can just buy some Scott’s or other NC barbecue sauce at your local grocery store.  Here’s how my buddy and I prepared ‘cue a few weeks ago:

  • Start with a 4 to 5 lb Boston Butt (which is the top piece of a pork shoulder and is commonly available at grocery stores, at least in this part of the world) or a larger one if you have extra time and are patient while it cooks.  Get two if you have the room on the grill–no point spending 4+ hours cooking a half-empty grill. 
  • The night before cooking be sure to rub salt onto the pork.  As the authors of Holy Smoke write, “if you’re the type who turned in extended bibliographies with your middle-school papers, you might want to ‘brine’ the cut by soaking it in salt water overnight.”  They recommend a tablespoon of table salt in a pint of water for each butt.  Either way, on the day of your barbecuing, bring the butt to room temperature for half an hour before cooking and rub a little more salt on the meat.  Throw some hickory chips in water to let them soak while you prepare the grill.
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