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It’s time to barbecue!

May is National Barbecue Month

May 3, 2013
By MIKE HUGHES - Times Leader News Editor , Times Leader

Carnivores rejoice ... National Barbecue Month has finally arrived.

Nothing signals the start of warmer weather better than stepping out your back door one evening, taking a long whiff and your nose being bombarded by the savory scents of smoked or charred animal flesh permeating an early-evening breeze.

For purists, barbecue is a completely different cooking technique than grilling and associating grilling with the art of barbecue can be downright offensive.

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Memphis is the “Pork Barbecue Capital of the World” and is noted for its many famous barbecue restaurants and Memphis in May International Barbecue Cooking Contest.

However, the premise behind National Barbecue Month plays off this incorrect association. It's aim is to celebrate all things involved in the cooking of meat outdoors, from traditional barbecue to the backyard hobbyist with his $30 pop-up grill, charcoal and a set of tongs.

From the elaborate to the rudimentary, anyone can join in the fun of culinary magic that is barbecue.

Barbecuing and Grilling: Not the same thing

For the majority of Americans, the term barbecue incorrectly includes the cooking method of chucking a slab of piece of meet down on a grill and cooking with direct heat, utilizing charcoal, propane-fueled flames or even a natural fire made by burning wood.

But for those who truly understand the difference, this method of cooking is called grilling. It's not barbecuing. To call it so is an insult to those on the barbecue circuit.

The main difference between the two, aside from cooking apparatus used, boils down to two aspects: cooking temperature and cooking time.

Traditional barbecue involves cooking the meat, either in pieces or whole as the case with a pig roast, is done over a longer period of time in a low-temperature environment.

This is done by smoking the meat, which provides that distinctive, smoky test to barbecued meat.

Barbecue sauce, while nearly always a main ingredient in barbecue, is not a necessity.

Grilling, on the other hand, is performed at a much higher temperature as the flames provide a direct heat source. It also takes a considerably shorter amount of time to cook the meat.

Barbecue Styles

The Big Four

The ways and recipes to cook and serve up barbecue are as numerous as the men and women who partake in barbecuing.

From secret family recipes to tried and true techniques, barbecuers hone their craft to find that perfect mixture of time, temperature and seasoning to create their culinary perfection.

But in general, there are four distinct regions, or styles, of barbecue: Memphis-style, Carolina barbecue, Kansas City barbecue and also Texas-style barbecue.

The thick, tomato and molasses-based sauce is the calling card of proper K.C. barbecue.

East Texas barbecue is slow-cooked to the point where the meet is falling off the bone. It's cooked over hickory wood and uses a sweet, tomato-based sauce.

Central Texas uses rubbed spices while the meet is cooked over indirect heat. West Texas, or "Cowboy Style" uses a more direct heat source. In South Texas, a molasses-based sauce helps keep the meet incredibly moist.


Dry rub vs. Wet Rub

A dry rub is a mixture of herbs and spices that is applied to the meet prior to cooking. It gives the flavor of meet a solid kick without adding moisture to the meet.

Chili powder, garlic powder and cayenne are few of the common spices included in a quality dry rub.

Preparation involves rubbing the seasoning into the meet. Dry rubs work best under higher cooking temperatures, allowing the flavor to be seared into the meat.

Take a dry rub and add moisture and you have a wet rub.

But it's not quite that simple.

A wet rub needs to be used when the cook is utilizing lower cooking temperatures.

Ever been to a barbecue contest or a fair and seen the cook slopping on buckets of barbecue sauce with a mop-like apparatus continually? That's a wet rub. It's applied before, during and after the cooking phase.

The more sugar content in your wet rub the lower cooking temperature and time you should use. That's because you want to caramelize the sugar into the meat, not burn it.

Yes, spring is here. Summer is soon to follow. So what are you waiting for? Grab your tongues, grab that charcoal and let's get cooking.

Hughes may be reached online at



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