Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Fine Art of BBQ: A Weekend In Memphis

I always believed that nobody could BBQ better than my brother Terry so I never took the time to learn.

Enter Lee Ann Whippen, The Queen of Q and Winner of Food Network’s Bobby Flay Throwdown” for best BBQ. I was first introduced to Lee Ann at Chicago Q – one of my favorite brunch spots in Chicago. I was so impressed that a woman could have a BBQ resume and Pitmaster title like she did I was suddenly on a mission.
I bought a smoker and although I did not like the fact that I had to constantly feed it with charcoal and water all day, the results were amazing.

I went to Memphis to learn more about BBQ. Weeks before I had met a Championship team from Ubon’s at the Chicago Restaurant show who inspired me even more.

I talked to a lot of the teams and met a judge who gave me the inside scoop on the politics of a major cookoff and, interestingly enough, also predicted the winner of this year’s cookoff: Yazoo's Delta Q…another woman who has obviously mastered the art of the Q and never looked back.

So what did I learn?

Filipinos cook it faster…

Why can they do a whole pig in 5 hours (over an open pit that’s why) and the rest of the world puts it on about 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon and takes it off about 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning? What happened to that low and slow wins every time?

I tasted it and have only one thing to say: Filipinos really know how to do the Q.

It’s Expensive…

Invest $25,000+ in equipment and $15,000+ just to be there and win bragging rights.

Is this big, fun loving family passionate or just plain crazy?

Timing is everything…

One Pitmaster told me that they hit all the marks and their timing was absolutely spot on. They didn’t make the finals.

So what is the recipe to a perfect Q?

Experience v High Tech…

You can buy the equipment that uses a microprocessor chip to calculate and control the pit temperature so that the selected meat temperature is never exceeded but no matter what you use, nothing can take the place of experience.

Like anything else, practice makes perfect. Know what looks, feels and tastes textbook.

What do the Judges know?

After awhile you learn that the judging process is so irregular it’s best not to devote too much emotion in the scores.

So I didn’t when both my favorite teams did not place.

What Are The Basics?

Sea salt, black pepper, red pepper, apple cider vinegar and dark brown sugar were the ingredients mentioned the most.

Where Do Pitmaster’s Go To Brush Up On Their Skills?

Many of them swore that going to Texas reminded them how little they really knew about smoking.

Central Texas will defiantely be on my next Q101.

What is The Best Cut of Ribs?
A loin back rib is KING. The loin back is from the backside which has less fat and much more meat.

Memphis Style?
Chefs rub the meat with spices and let them marinate overnight. It’s a dry cooking process as opposed to a wet one. If sauce is served, it is on the side.

The Secret to Cooking Ribs?

Dry rub then five hours on the smoker at about 225—250 degrees.

So what did I think when I tried it this weekend?

Although the meat was literally falling off the bone, I like Ribs better on the grill. Maybe because I grew up eating them that way.

Conclusion: Pork Shoulder for the smoker and ribs for the grill.

Bon Appetit!