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Jan 10, 2010 03:31 PM

Florida-Style BBQ?

Does anyone know of a unique Florida-style BBQ? I've found a few places like Boomers in Ft Pierce that uses citrus woods for smoking, orangey BBQ sauces and local juice marinades? I'm looking for more unique regional Florida BBQ methods that aren't being done in more well known BBQ areas like Kansas, Texas and the Carolinas. Anyone heard of anything?

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  1. smoked mullet is Florida's traditional smoked dish. Florida BBQ is otherwise a melting pot of styles imported from the american south and the caribbean. citrus sauces and such are more modern contrivances, unless you count Cuban mojo with its sour orange.

    This topic comes up every so often. see the link.

    11 Replies
    1. re: andy huse

      Cuban barbeque is some of the world's finest, but it's little known outside of South Florida. It usually consists of a whole pig dressed and split up the middle, soaked in mojo criollo for two days. Then they put it in a large flattish sheetmetal box about 10-12 inches deep they call a Chinese oven and heap live coals on top for about 12 hours. It comes out crispy golden, succulent and tender with a lovely garlic citrusy flavor. Slices of papaya in the marinade make the meat super tender.

      1. re: flavrmeistr

        Funny, I came into this thread to mention the whole pig in the caja china as well.

        1. re: flavrmeistr

          well, keep in mnind that the Cubans have been making their Cuban pork longer than the La Caja China has existed to my knowledge. I would welcome other comments if there are any. Most of the Cuban families I know use a pit made from cinder blacks, expanded steel grills, sheet metal and rebar. This method is more along the line of what BBQ is. The La Caja China is not truly BBQ in my mind as there is smoke used in the process. It is just a constructed box of plywood and metal with a top tray full of lit charcoal or wood cinders providing the heat. That just does not fit the definitions of BBQ that I have always been aware of.

          With that being said, I don't know of any true florida-style bbq. I guess mullet comes closer than most anything. I've never researched it but would think that possibly there was some barbecuing going on with the indians in Florida since it was one of the more predominant methods to preserve meat. Even with smoked mullet, the smoking process would not preserve it as long as say salting the fish.

          BBQ to me just means the process of cooking the less desirable cuts of meat with wood smoke in order to gain the breakdown of the meat fibers. Which, when you come to think of it, is really what pretty much all regional bbq types do. But they just change what cut they use, what rub or spices, what sauce they use to make it. But it is pretty much all low and slow type cooking, direct or indirect. More true to form bbq cookers cook it with nothing but wood logs. Beyond that is gas, charcoal, electric.

          But I digress. Sorry for running on at the mouth. My suggestion is to just embrace all bbq and determine which ones you like most!

          1. re: RibDog

            I prefer the stack of orange oak/cinderblock/old bed frame and diamond mesh pit method myself, but that China oven leche asado is slap-your-mama Food of the Gods. The real secret is the mojo/papaya soak. You can still use rub or whatever you want, but the soak, man, THE SOAK is what elevates it above the usual peckerwood smokemeat. I put a few other things in it, but it is a state secret and if anyone were to find out, I would have to kill them.

            1. re: flavrmeistr

              hey man ...where are you from.. I can almost make out your accent...haha.PR?

              1. re: PsychoSarge

                Tough question. Northern Virginia and South Florida with stints in Austin, the Caribbean and Baltimore. I don't know what to claim anymore.

            2. re: RibDog

              RibDog, I was born and raised in Fla. And this is for you. You would bark and howl just to get one of these bones. Can ya smell it? We or at least I ,definitely know BBQ.

              1. re: PsychoSarge

                Those do look very nice. What are those, picnics? BTW, to Scubadoo97, that is not bark on the outside. It is skin. Maybe I am wrong but I don't consider the skin as bark. Bark is more the crispy portion on the meat itself. Just a clarification.

                1. re: RibDog

                  I stand corrected. I was searching for for a word to describe that beautiful mahogany skin and bark came to mind. I know they are different

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    No problem, just wanted to correct that for other readers also. It is nice looking though.

          2. re: andy huse

            I would count cuban mojo,,and jerk sauce as well. Most of the good bbq I have had here was infuenced by carribean spices like garlic,black pepper ,lemon juice and olive oil. Some of the best bbq chicken I have had here in florida was actually jerk chicken prepared in a smoker at a jamacain joint in lauderdale.
            One of the things i loved about Puerto Rico was the roadside grilled chicken stands where the used the mojo instead of bbq sauce. (think pollo tropical on crack).

          3. Interesting thread.....I live in Ft. Pierce....but haven't been to Boomers as of yet......will have to try.....But as for unique BBQ style.......I'm from Homestead and we've been smoking with avocado and citrus hardwoods for years.....and combination there of.....with solid results....The Caja China is unique...but it's more of a steaming process than anything else....but good......For South Floridians....BBQ has always been about pork and chicken.....only recently beef......As for sauces.....guava paste (you can buy in publix) adds a fruity taste to most any sweet BBQ sauce........


            5 Replies
            1. re: LargeLife

              Great thread for informational purposes. Well let me throw this out there. Does anyone know where a good purveyor of fruit wood chunks might be in southeast Florida? I am looking for cherry and apple without paying big shipping charges from across half of the USA. What citrus woods have you used and might be readily available here?

              1. re: freakerdude

                Any citrus wood is good. With the latest freeze, it will probably be abundant. Also, Australian pine, which is actually not a pine but a species of oak. It burns very hot and clean. We used to use mangrove, which was great for smoking fish and turkey, but it's illegal to cut nowadays.

              2. re: LargeLife

                I've used guava paste and bottled papaya juice concentrate, which adds a nice note to the mojo and also tenderizes the meat. Dunking the meat in the soak periodically during cooking will allow the meat to suck in those wonderful flavors. I do this with ribs, whole pork loins and half chickens.

                1. re: flavrmeistr

                  wow..good idea...while its expaning/ oyu make it contract when you dip it in colder liquid. gonna try it..

              3. Hey Adam, I know what you mean. Its hard to find a place that is successful and still does the BBQ the old school way. Mainly, because its a numbers game. Long cook times mean higher payroll. So most restaurants put ole faithful out back and move into a commercial unit to keep up with a successful and busy BBQ joint. Not only that ,but training is a constant problem. To have an indepth recipe that is to difficult to repeat by the unskilled labor, isnt cost effective. So your stuck with what you know. There is a place in Clermont on Hwy50 that still has there old pits still smokin. Busy does'nt mean good either.But "old school way " only means the most popular way that anyone can do it in there own yard in my opinion.I'm 45 and have been in the BBQ business one way or the other my entire life. But I've never claimed that I have the best BBQ. But people say I was taught very well,by a pro, by a real "Ole Schooler'" . Your right though about citrus wood.Its great to use as well as any fruit bearing tree. I dont use marinades much ,I prefer a good tangy dry rub.

                10 Replies
                1. re: PsychoSarge

                  so true sarge,,I see sonny's packed and wonder what those people are thinking! Speaking of regions,, I love the bbq in st.louis and kc and its very simple,, soak the ribs in beer over night then use hickory wood with a light dry rub,,mmm!! kind of a bolder flavor without the sweetness. They use a sweet molasses sauce. KC bbq is also cooked with hickory only they don't soak in beer or use a sweet sauce. The kc method is to use a dry rub and baste the ribs in a hot, vinegar mustard tomato sauce mixture while cooking.

                  1. re: mountdorahound

                    Well, sorry, but Sonny's isn't bad IMO and uhh, it started in Florida - over 40 years ago. So, perhaps it IS Florida style BBQ?

                    1. re: Little T.

                      Oh, I hope not. Not to knock Sonny's, but I can make better BBQ on my smoker at home. By no means am I an expert on smoking bbq, but I am capable of making much better ribs than that. I'm still searching for a good BBQ in the Pinellas County area. I haven't tried Eli's in Dunedin (only open Fridays and Saturdays), but I'm told they're very good. I've been disappointed with the few others I've tried around here.

                      1. re: kempshark

                        If you are looking for good ribs, try Poppa's Que on 49th St. N. at 122nd Ave. N.

                        1. re: kempshark

                          Jimbo's near Kennedy and Lois. Decent ribs and pork.

                          1. re: kempshark

                            You can make BBQ better at home than most restaurants including Eli's. Not knocking any of them as they are all fine styles of Q. The ability of making great Q is not limited to restaurants or BBQ champions. A home smoker can do a fine job of producing great Q.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Check it out....If your BBQ doesn't look at least this good then something is wrong.

                              1. re: PsychoSarge

                                Really nice looking mahogany bark. I'd say you are doing it right!

                            2. re: kempshark

                              Go north to Land O' Lakes, and hit Hungry Harry's Famous BBQ, on US 41.

                              Their ribs, brisket, and the chopped pork are all pretty good.

                              1. re: kempshark

                                Eli's is great, I have been going there for years. The Bar-B-Q Queen in Clearwater is even better. Both have a similar style of barbecue. I went to Sonny's... once.

                                Bar-B-Q Queen
                                1621 Gulf to Bay Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33756