The Key to Preparing the Best Barbecue

While important factors in preparing barbeque are balance, the right sauce recipe and the best meat choice, the real key to preparing the best barbecue is patience: Slow cooking is vital so that the meat has time to pick up maximum flavor.


The sauce flavors should not be too spicy, too hot or too sweet. The many variations of barbecue sauce might be based on mustard, vinegar or tomato sauce (light or heavy). A vinegar sauce might be balanced with a touch of sugar and perhaps some chili. However, some recipes use no sauce in cooking and instead coat the meat with a dry rub of spices. Any barbecue can be served with additional sauce on the side. Whichever sauce you choose, make sure it has a mixture of flavors. If you use a ketchup base for sweetness, then add undertones of spice with Worcestershire sauce and chili. If you prefer a dry rub, mix chili, garlic, onion, brown sugar and just a hint of cayenne. If you use a family recipe, be sure to update it to make it your own.

The meat

The meat must be a flavorful cut, possibly with plenty of bones. Veteran barbecue cooks never use the tender cuts, because long cooking tenderizes barbecue.Pork was the original barbecue meat, created when the early settlers' pigs were cooked with seasonings and methods that American Indians had long prized. Modern barbecue cooks still favor pork, as well as beef brisket, chicken, any kind of ribs and even mutton. Already-tender cuts are suitable for grilling with barbecue sauce. True barbecue uses more flavorful cuts like tri-tip or brisket, cooked and flavored until they melt in the mouth.

Slow cooking

Cooks prepare barbecue by slow-cooking over indirect heat or in hot smoke. Grilled meat is cooked quickly using high heat and is not true barbecue. People might eat grilled meat at a delightful outdoor gathering called a barbecue, but they are not really eating barbecue.

If you use coals, consider scattering presoaked chips of hickory, oak or mesquite on top. They intensify the smoky flavor. A few twigs of juniper, thyme or rosemary also add flavor, but take time to soak them first so that they don't flare. Separating the coals lowers the heat, while raking them together raises it.

You can produce good barbecue in almost any cooker as long as it cooks slowly. Adding air through vents or by opening the top makes the fire hotter. Shutting out most of the air makes cooking slow and smoky. Time is what tenderizes barbecued meat.


Patience is the real key to preparing the best barbecue. You should prepare the sauce in advance and cook it down to intensify its flavor. You can also marinate the meat and leave it to soak up extra flavor overnight. The coals or the cooker should be started early enough and kept low enough that the barbecue does not dry out in searing heat. You should cook the meat slowly, making sure it's never disturbed by a flame.

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