Alton's latest bbq show
I cobbled together Alton Brown's claypot rig from the Q episode of a few years ago. The thing works great, the technique works great. Lota tips he shared are universal among bbq lovers and producers. But in his latest show (most recently aired, anyway) he's using a skeevy army surplus crate? No rub? No mop? Finish in the oven? Alton, my man! Have you been starring at Giada's pushup-bra faux cleavage too long? I can remotely accept his use of Fireball and indirect heat, but a, gasp, propane grill? What kind of Southern boy are you? Come up North, I'll break out the claypot, the WSM, some lagers, and mojitos, invite Nadia G over, and "Q" you back to reality!
I haven't seen it. But I am sick to death of the southern boy crap.
I would be very happy if SOMEONE did a show about *something* other than southern BBQ. I am not a big fan of it.There is so much more to BBQ, grilling, smoking, wood fire, open fire, rotisserie, etc. than just the standard southern BBQ. I am a big fan of Chinese technique, Korean, Northwestern, Australian BBQ. PLEASE................
Someone be interesting...........
I re read my post and sounded kind of rude. I didn't mean to be. It is just a cooking style close to my heart. I am actually thinking of starting a blog on it.
Anyway- Chinese sometimes use a tea, rice and sugar mixture to smoke birds and fish (instead of wood).
I am committed to BBQ and all outdoor cooking with fire and smoke:) I even built a covered and heated outdoor kitchen for myself. So, serious commitment here- I cook outside as much as I do inside.
I think traditional American regional styles of BBQ are interesting too- but there is never much focus on anything but a few regions (mostly southern) and NOTHING on other countries and their versions of good BBQ. That is a cryin' shame for those of us that love fire and smoke! Competition BBQ folks even want to co-opt the word "Barbecue" to mean their narrow definition of the process. PLEASE! I go to competition BBQ as an eater (not to compete) and I really like it -but it gets boring after you have had your 3rd or 4th round of red sauced or red rubbed ribs...there is so much more to BBQ than that.
Last night I did BBQ game hens. Brined them the night before, marinated them all day in the fridge with a miso and spice mixture. Then in the smoker with black tea, brown sugar and wild rice for about an hour. They were almost done (tiny hens) then I fired them over the open flames but good, skin got crispy and caramelized, set them aside on indirect- to finish off until the temp came up, then served them with a drizzle of sesame oil. The flavors were very complex- the skin was nutty and crisp, the meat was slightly sweet and almost floral, together they had a savory, umami, smokey flavor....and the fragrance was out of this world.
There really is a whole world of BBQ out there after brisket. Alton is a total food nerd that is totally capable to bring new stuff to his shows.
Whenever I come across the words "barbecue" and "grill" I take them with a grain of salt until I know more about the person who is using them. Or until they clarify their meaning. Alton Brown is one of the more knowledgeable guys appearing on food TV, but then he has a staff to help research things. Nevertheless, I have heard him lay down some real bloopers when it comes to food knowledge. Haven't seen the show you're talking about, so I can only talk about "barbecue" (and grilling) in general.
Overall, I TEND to think of "barbecue" as cooking meat by directly exposing it to fire, whether a wood fire or charcoal, or even lava rocks or infra red gas grills in today's world. Holding a hotdog on the end of a wire coat hanger and scorching your hand while you hold it over a campfire at the beach (Pacific Ocean) was the first active act of "barbecue" I was exposed to as a child. My kids got the same lesson in early grammar school, except theirs was over a gas fire pit next to the swimming pool in our back yard. But the principle was the same, and bandaids were at the ready.
Direct fire cooking is the oldest cooking method known to man, the origin of which is lost in the mists of time. I once had a cultural anthropology professor postulate to the class that prehistoric man [probably] "came up with the idea of cooking their food when someone stuck their finger in the carcass of an animal charred in a forest fire and stuck their finger in their mouth to ease the pain." I raised my hand and asked if he had ever tasted an animal cooked with guts, entrails, and skin intact. I think it's more likely that after dragging what was left of an on-the-spot "steak tartare" feast of dressed animal fresh off the hoof, then dragging the remaining meat back to the cave, it was exposed to fire to bring it to eating temperature, and possibly to get rid of the dead leaves and dirt stuck to it. However our far distant ancestors first figured out how to cook meat, I am grateful!
There is NO culture that I am aware of that did not/does not cook meat and other proteins over direct heat without benefit of pot, pan, or shovel. Clay pot cooking probably soon followed, and most probably preceded metal container cooking (even shovels!) in all ancient cultures. There are neolithic cultures though, such as the Aborigines of Australia, who were slam dunked from neolithic cooking methods to modern full bore cooking methods when England set up prison colonies in Australia, and packed their unwanted citizens off with pots, pans, stoves, and whatever. There was no transitional era for Aborigines, just as there has been none for many recent neolithic cultures "discovered" by us in recent decades, or indeed, centuries. Just think of the culture shock for those moving from a no-matches culture to smart phones in a matter of weeks!
When it comes to "American" barbecue (NOT my favorite type of barbecue in the whole wide world!), I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and my most favorite kind of barbecue ribs are beef. And anyone will tell you that Texas is barbecue beef country. Ha! Just try finding barbecued beef ribs in Dallas OR Fort Worth! Brisket is on every menu! Beef ribs? Once a week at one or two barbecue places, maybe one or two places in the entire metroplex that have them daily, or Tim Love will rustle up a whole bunch of 'em for you for about the price of a whole steer. (slight hyperbole.) So when I want "barbecued" beef ribs, I make them myself by BOILING the ribs in a big pot until the meat has pulled way back from the bone, then charring them on a grill or with a torch, and putting them in a roasting pan, burying them under my own made from scratch barbecue sauce and roasting them in the oven until they have browned crispy spots on top. I prefer just plain old gummy (unrinsed) boiled white rice with them. It holds lots of the sauce and sticks together so you can eat it with a fork. But purists double over in pain and disgust when I say this to a real "Texas" barbecue master. But deep in my heart, I KNOW that if he ever tasted MY barbecue ribs, he would ask for seconds. And maybe even thirds. '-)
My personal favorite in cooked by fire "barbecue" meat is the "barbecued" shish kebab (şiş=skewer, kebap=roasted meat) street food of Turkey. In the late 1950s, even though my housekeeper was a retired executive chef, every couple of weeks we would both just have to have some street kebap, and off she would go to eventually return with lamb chunks from a sheep slaughtered that very morning, threaded on a wide blade skewer to keep it turning when the spit was turned, charred over real made-from-wood charcoal, then slid off into a hot pida (Turkish pita) bread that had also been heated over the charcoal, then topped with chopped mint, paper thin slices of red onion, and slathered with cacik (similar to tzatziki), then rolled and stuffed into a lunch sack for the trip home. A few more of those tops my current bucket list!
Which brings up another CRITICAL factor when it comes to barbecuing or grilling, and that is the flavor that the fuel imparts. I cooked on a Charbroil gas barbecue for years (lava rock type) and never ever changed the lava rocks because that would lose all of the charcoal fire simulation that they could produce. It takes seasoned lava rocks to even begin to simulate charcoal. BUT... They never will completely do it. I have bought tons of U.S. charcoal (not briquettes!) trying to come close to the Turkish charcoal I so love, but as far as I can discover, there ain't none! I would love to taste the flavor of that high-end Japanese charcoal Morimoto uses when he rigs an hibachi to grill something on for Iron Chef! But I can't quite bring myself to pop thirty five bucks for a couple of pieces of charcoal! I no longer have a charcoal grill (it was stolen, which wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was that the stupid damned thief lost all of the lava rock in my back lawn dragging it across the yard to pass over the rock wall, making it necessary to rake the lawn many times to get the lava rocks out before it could be safely mown again.) I currently sous vide almost all of my meats, then finish them with a blow torch. No. It doesn't taste like charcoal. Yes. It does give a smoky flavor, and leaves the beef more tender than finishing it on a hot cast iron grill.
I have never found smoking beef with wood chips, whether in a barbecue grill using indirect heat and a tray of wet chips off to the side, or in a wok with the wood chips in foil so they don't damage the finish of my wok, or any other method of using smoke to flavor roasting, baking, or broiling flesh comes even close to actually cooking the meat (usually beef for me) over a specific kind of charcoal, whether mesquite, oak, hickory, or whatever. Does that mean smoked meats won't taste good? No! Not at all! Does that mean I personally won't still prefer what *I* call "the real thing?" I do. The red smoke ring around a perfectly smoked brisket just doesn't ring my chimes. I think the big problem with American "barbecue aficionados" is that they all stand so close to their particular tree they not only can't see the forest, they don't even realize there is a damned forest out there! And I don't know whether it is just my infamous bad luck, or if it is true for other people too, but I have totally given up on ordering baby back ribs in ANY restaurant! The menu ALWAYS talks about how moist and juicy they will be, but by the time they get to me, seven times out of ten it's just red pork jerky on a bone. No thanks!