Low & Slow
If you're into Barbeque -- the REAL thing, not what most of us do each weekend on the Webber (that's grilling - completely different beast) -- today in Seattle you were in heaven. The Pacific Northwest Barbeque Association's "Low & Slow 'Light' Barbeque Cookoff" is taking place, even as I write this up in The University District. Aside from the usual competition in all the meat categories: Beef (tri-tip), Chicken (thighs), Pork (baby ribs,) and sausage, there were demonstrations, cookbooks to buy, and of course lots and lots of free samples. What makes this more than just your average barbeque fest, however, was the presence of some of the acknowledged giants of the field. Steve "Barbeque U" Raichlen, Rick Browne, host of the PBS series "Barbeque America", and Bruce Aidells, of Aidells Sausages. These are people who know their way around a smoker, and it was great to watch them in action.
Bruce Aidells Talks With A Fan
Steve Raichlen (on R) Preps Before His Cooking Demo
The title above says it all: the secret to great barbeque is all in the low temp, slow cooking methodology, as opposed to the typical backyard "grilling", which is generally a high-heat, quick cooking method. Aside from those two basic cardinal rules, the permutations are virtually endless. Some people use a water cooking method, which helps to retain moisture, others prefer a more smokey process using hardwoods such as hickory, apple or cherry woods. Some go strictly with the hardwoods, while others use the standard store-bought charcoal briquettes. The cookers can range from something as simple as a mini-Webber (for tender cuts of meat like the tri-tip, which doesn't require a lengthy cooking time) all the way up to contraptions looking like something that would have pulled freight cars back in the 1800's and that are capable of slow cooking the equivalent of an entire cow's worth of meat. But, that's one of the other great things about barbeque, anyone can learn the technique, and you don't need a lot of fancy equipment to become good at it. And of course, EVERYONE has their own secret sauce (either a "mop" that is brushed on during cooking, or else a dry "rub" or a marinade, both of which are applied pre-cooking) that can be either tomato, mustard, fruit or even pepper based. Notably, most of the entrants here didn't go for a high degree of chili "heat", preferring a milder, and generally sweeter flavoring, although one contestant I spoke with admitted that, "I miss the endorphins from the chilis. They make me very happy when I eat them!" But, when you're putting your Q up against some of the Northwest's best, AND you're being judged by some of the greatest BBQ grillers in the country, you gotta do what the judges like, and today it was mild.
A Typical "Mop" Style Sauce -- With Real Mop!
And you know what? It STILL tasted great!
(PS All these photos were taken with my Zire 71 PDA -- Gawd, I LOVE that little gadget!)
on 2:32 PM