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Feb 24, 2012 09:30 PM

Is it smoked or barbecue meat ?

I had lunch with a friend in Castroville,CA at the Central Texan.Don Elkins has been serving up his barbecue for many years. He uses oak wood in his cooking. The meat's are cooked in a brick oven about four feet wide by fourteen feet long. With a large steel lid covering the oven held by a counter balance to help lift the lid. On one end of the oven is his fire pit with the smoke woking it's magic over the meat and exiting out to a flue on the other end. I reall like this place. My freind says to me, "it's not Barbecue it's Smoked Meat." What's the difference ?

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  1. Smoked meat is a regional term for slow, low temp, BBQ.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JMF

      By low temp. I don't mean cold smoked, I mean at around 190-200 degrees.

      1. re: JMF

        Yes that is the key. Even low and slow Q is not quite as low and slow as cold smoking :)

        I get out the smoker to do my Q, just not as much as I used to. The cleanup is a PITA lol

    2. Didn't you ask your friend to explain himself. Maybe your friend is using Santa Maria style as reference for BBQ, which is tri-tip grilled over oak.

      1. The difference between barbecue and smoked meat is people seem to live to argue over what "real" barbecue might be, even though there are different definitions stemming from different cultures going back long before they figured out the "real" definition.

        You should ask your friend what he or she meant. I'm actually mildly curious.

        7 Replies
        1. re: tommy

          It was his first time there. He has had other barbecue from some places that were cooked in a closed system. For air pollution control. Maybe he thought the meat was more rustic using the pit that the Central Texan has.Being in California the building code would never allow this now. He cooks his brisket more than a day .Thats my best guess

          1. re: emglow101

            Not sure what a closed system is in this case. Combustion cannot occur without oxygen. the smoke and byproducts of combustion have to go somewhere. Still wondering what he meant though. Maybe you could shoot him an email and let us know.

            The pit you describe is very much like many pits in hill country.

            1. re: tommy

              It's a oven that has all the ducting and filter system for the smoke. His is just a pit with a open chimney flue. Don does some great barbecue. He says it has to do with the pit building up the creosote.He burns oak wood. Logs that slowly burn .So it's probably the oak he tastes.

              1. re: emglow101

                Cool. Sounds like he answered your question. But I can't say I agree.

                1. re: tommy

                  I have a question. If you take a salmon or other fish, cold smoke it over wood. Even put it it one of them smokey Joes. It's smoked fish. cook meat over wood and it would be barbecue or would it be called smoked.

                  1. re: emglow101

                    BBQ in the US isn't generally cold smoked. It's also not generally fish. Or vegetables. Or salt. In the context of US BBQ, I would say salt and vegetables and fish cooked with indirect heat with smoke are generally referred to as "smoked" rather than "barbecued." At least in my part of the world. Perhaps there are places in the US that would refe to those items as BBQ'd; it's as much a cultural issue as it is linguistic.

                    Either way, I don't agree with your friend's apparent assessment of the place you describe.

            2. re: emglow101

              I would almost think it should be the other way around. To my mind (and practice) barbecue is rustic, outdoors, beer in hand, more art than science. Smoking, on the other hand, is controlled, precise, not subject to the whims of climate, more science than art. Nevertheless, barbecue is a cooking process that involves smoking meat.

              Being that I've crossed to the downhill side of forty, life has given me the opportunity to learn a few truths. First, the necktie was a ludicrous invention serving no purpose. Second, unless they give it to you for free, never were a shirt advertising for someone else. Third, and most important, if there's no wood smoke, it's not barbecue.

          2. In my limited perspective, one can cook meat on a barbecue grill without smoking it. The addition of wood (chips) to the process would qualify as "smoked meat" ....

            6 Replies
            1. re: hawkeyeui93


              I believe that cooking meat on a 'bbq' grill OVER fire, is considered grilling. Indirect heat, at a lower temp. where most of cooking is done by the smoke, is BBQ. Some would call this smoking, but I think technically, that is actually an even lower temp. process, and mainly the term is used for fish.

              The term BBQ is mostly used for ribs, brisket, pulled pork; often with a rub, with a mop or not, with sauce at the end or on the side. This food is smoked, yes, but reffered to as barbecue.

              1. re: gingershelley

                Ginger is absolutely correct, BBQ is low and slow, Grilling is hot and fast on what many including me incorrectly call a BBQ it is actually a Grill.

                1. re: malibumike

                  I couldn't disagree more since I watched someone "smoke" a packer brisket at 450 degrees ...

                  1. re: hawkeyeui93

                    Anybody can do anything, cut a slice of brisket put it in a hot frying pan and within a minute it will be "done" I guaranteen Itll be tough, if you want to learn about true barbeque go to forums.

                    1. re: malibumike

                      Mike: Thanks for the advice. Had I not lived in Texas for over a decade and further having smoked/cooked over 100 "edible" packer briskets, I may take you up on your advice "to learn about true barbeque." If you would like a counter to your belief that you cannot make an excellent brisket using a higher temps over less time, I suggest a review of the following ..

                2. re: gingershelley

                  One can certainly cook meat on a gas grill and not "grill" it over a direct flame. It's an indirect heat technique that can be done at a pretty low temperature and is basically roasting. That being said, however, it is not barbecuing.

              2. Traditionally, bbq is something cooked by indirect heat & smoke generated by coals of wood..
                That definition has expanded in different parts of the country, and gas or electricity are also used
                with pellets. Oak is used because it burns long and slow but fruitwood, hickory, or mesquite, in Texas, are (hopefully) added for flavor along with bbq spices-red pepper, garlic, cumin, etc.. I find oak by itself to not be .the highest form of the art,
                but you gotta run with the one that brung ya. Smoking is a more general term that doesn't have to include what might traditionally be called Q, especially the spice part.

                4 Replies
                1. re: bbqboy

                  Can you provide a reference for the traditional definition in your first sentence?

                  I'm pretty sure Salt Lick cooks over direct heat. They are making BBQ.

                  1. re: tommy

                    I think that definition is pretty "traditional." Salt Lick appears to be the "exception that proves the rule." That being said, even they use indirect heat after searing. See, e.g., ("searing it and then slow cooking") or

                    I'm curious though, having never been there to taste it, what's it like texturally compared to other offerings?

                    1. re: MGZ

                      Exceptions don't prove rules in the way you're suggesting. An example of an exception proving a rule is when you see a sign that says "no turn on red." While you may have no knowledge of local laws, the existence of that sign suggests that there is a rule that you can otherwise make a turn on red.

                      "exception that proves the rule" has a specific meaing when used correctly. Unlike "BBQ", which is a regional term, describing an array of cooking techniques, all of which produce tasty food.

                      Ed Mitchell cooks ribs with high heat. Not an exception that proves any rule, but an example proving the rule doesn't really existing to begin with. This one being the "low heat" rule.

                      1. re: tommy

                        I understand your point concerning the idiom. Nevertheless, the colloquial, descriptivist application just seemed so appropriate to the instant thread. Too subtle?

                        Regardless, I've eaten at The Pit and used high heat barbecue approaches at home. It's still an indirect heat application and, to me, the meat benefited more from resting "sauced" in foil than when I try to keep the temperature lower for the cook. One can produce fine tasting barbecued meats at a range of temperatures, but I don't think that changes the fact that the most common, "traditional" definition falls back upon the phrase "low and slow."

                        More importantly (to me at least), is the barbecue at Salt Lick. Unless one counts campfire cooking of cornish hens, I've never tried a completely "open" grill for an entire cook. Regrettably, my trips to Texas were professional in nature and didn't permit time to detour from Houston or Dallas. Thus, I can't help but wonder what the flavor and texture of the meats are compared to those prepared with more commonly employed (if you will) techniques.