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Washington Post – Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

We don’t usually agree with much that is written in the Washington Post, but really enjoyed the article this week by Andreas Viestad, author of “Where Flavor Was Born” and co-host of the new public television series “Perfect Day.” You can read the article at the Washington Post’s website here, or take a read below – if they keep writing great stuff about BBQ, we might just have to subscribe!


Where There’s Smoke, There’s Flavor

Why We Crave It, and How to Do It With Or Without a Grill

By Andreas Viestad
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Smoking isn’t even half as bad as it has been made out to be. The 19th-century satirist and Know-Nothing Party activist George D. Prentice put it succulently: “Much smoking kills live men and cures dead swine.”

Although smoking cigarettes has nearly become anathema in modern society, smoking foods is more in vogue than ever. Smoke, it seems, is like a fifth flavor (or sixth, if you allow for umami), with the ability to transform, contrast with and accentuate the food that has been exposed to it, whether that is salmon, pork, fruit, chili peppers or tea. In gastronomy, smoke is the door to another room, a lively, hazy space that is at once promising and almost limitless, yet also dark and dangerous.

Today smoking is done mainly for flavor, or rather for the distinctive aroma compounds it imparts. That has not always been the case. Smoking has been a part of our cooking for as long as we know. With an abundance of game and fish at certain times of the year and an acute, often life-threatening scarcity at others, our ancestors used smoke as a way to preserve food. By hanging meat or fish over an open fire, one would speed the drying process and keep flies away. After prolonged smoking, the meat would be not only dry but also coated in tarry substances with the dual ability to kill bacteria and form an impervious layer that sealed out air and hence protected against oxidation.

The flavor was only a pleasant side effect in a world where enjoyment always came second to survival. In my native Norway, where the smoking of foods seems to have been the rule and not the exception, it was not until the 18th and 19th centuries, when British and German “salmon lords” started visiting the country to fish its rich waters, that the ubiquitous smoked salmon was upgraded to delicacy status.

Exactly what makes smoked foods so appetizing to us is still a scientific unknown. Like smoking cigarettes, it just doesn’t make sense: Why would we deliberately expose ourselves — and with such great pleasure — to the impurities left on our food by fire? Perhaps it is genetically implanted in us from a time when all cooked food was slightly smoked and all uncooked food was unsafe.

Smoked food does allow for more and different flavors. Few savory dishes do not benefit from the addition of a little bacon. But the smoking process itself seems inaccessible and mysterious to many home cooks.

I discovered the joy of smoking (food) by chance about 10 years ago, on a visit to the basement of the apartment block where I was living. There, in searching for the water main, I found a dark room, one of those places that give you the shivers but also a vague, exciting feeling that a treasure might be nearby.

And so it was. After I flicked the light switch, the room remained nearly as dark as before: The walls were completely covered in tar. I had come across the smoking room of a long-abandoned butchery. The smokers there still seemed to work, so I bought some wood shavings, returned and started a fire. On my trial run, I set off the fire alarm at 11 p.m., resulting in a rear court full of sleepy and worried neighbors.

But after I started closing the door more efficiently, I quickly progressed. With professional-grade equipment, smoking was not difficult, and in the following months I exposed everything but my neighbors to my new hobby: curing my own bacon and smoked salmon and also lamb shanks, cheese and even an ice cream base, in a strange and not altogether unsuccessful attempt at smoked vanilla ice cream. (It was just as good when I simply cured the vanilla bean.)

The most surprising result was a green apple that managed to remain as fresh as ever, its characteristic cool, crisp acidity combined with deep, rich smokiness reminiscent of an Islay malt whiskey.

Smoking without special equipment can be more of a challenge. But it is far from impossible. The most important thing is to know your limitations. Broadly speaking, there are two main techniques. One is cold smoking, in which the food is smoked at temperatures under 100 degrees Farenheit (37 Celsius), often at specific, even lower temperatures. That is how most smoked salmon is produced and how the flesh manages to keep that silky, uncooked texture.

According to my experiments and all the experts and books I have consulted, cold smoking is very difficult without the right equipment, such as an abandoned smoking room in the basement. You can build your own smoker from cheap or free parts, such as an old metal pipe and a refrigerator. But it will take hours of construction and calibration for it to work properly and for you to be able to control the temperature.

Hot smoking, on the other hand, can be the simplest thing in the world, a re-creation of any Stone Age meal. An open fire will do. If you have a grill, you can throw a handful of sawdust or wood chips on the burning coals and cover it with a lid to concentrate the smoke. (In a gas grill, you need to place the sawdust on a metal tray directly over the burners.)

A couple of years ago, we were filming a segment on smoking for an episode of my television series “New Scandinavian Cooking.” The location was a remote, road-less farm, and there was no room for the smoker in our helicopter; all we had was a camping stove, a pot and some wood shavings. By throwing those shavings into the bottom of the pot and hanging small river trout from the top, we managed to achieve the same perfectly cooked and smoked fish that our smoker would have produced. But I am afraid the pot will never be the same again.

The idea of smoking food indoors is intriguing but impractical; there is almost no way to flavor your food without also seasoning your home. Before you try, you might want to ask yourself how much you really hate being outdoors and whether you would allow a dozen people to smoke a pack of cigarettes in your kitchen if they promised to stand near the kitchen fan or window.

I have tested several indoor contraptions, and even though I quit smoking cigarettes 15 years ago, you would never guess it if you visited me the weeks after these experiments. Enough smoke managed to seep into my kitchen to give it a real pre-smoking-ban-dive-bar character. (For gadget enthusiasts, there is a small, hand-held smoker called the Smoking Gun, available from PolyScience for $80. The amount of smoke is so limited and controlled that it is easy to contain; on the other hand, there is not enough for the food to be properly smoked, just lightly seasoned.)

But you can always cheat. If you do not want to smoke but want more or different flavor from what can be achieved by adding smoked salmon, bacon or smoked salt to a dish, liquid smoke is an alternative. I had always felt that the bottles of often-overpowering condensed smoke were the result of some sinister process, like the manufacture of artificial vanilla (a byproduct of cellulose production). But Kent Kirshenbaum, an associate professor in chemistry at New York University, tells me liquid smoke is completely natural, insofar as putting smoke into a bottle can be natural.

Kirshenbaum says he initially was repulsed by the product. But after researching it for a recent Experimental Cuisine Collective workshop in New York, he found it to be little more than carefully controlled smoking of water (a few brands also add molasses, sugar and vinegar; that is stated on the label). The problem of liquid smoke is mostly one of scale; it is very easy to use too much, rendering food almost inedible.

And whereas all smoke, as we know, contains carcinogens, the controlled smoking plus an ensuing filtering process has removed if not all, then most of these compounds. So, at least from a health perspective, the best approach might be to pretend that you are smoking rather than to actually light up.

Andreas Viestad, author of “Where Flavor Was Born” and co-host of the new public television series “Perfect Day,” can be reached at http://www.andreasviestad.com or food@washpost.com. His Gastronomer column appears monthly.

 

Grant Random TV at the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival

Check out the latest video from our buddies Ben and Grant – we even make a cameo appearance in this one. The video is of the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival that Pork Barrel BBQ participated in last week.

All we can say about this video is that Grant is hilarious and as always Ben has put together a professional quality video.

Check it out now!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rti5mfwqVLk

 

Pork Barrel BBQ on WFNR 1500

Heath got up early this morning to be on WFNR 1500 to talk about Pork Barrel BBQ and the 17th Annual Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle that we will compete in over the weekend.

If you are looking for something to do this weekend come on down to Pennsylvania Ave., NW between 9th and 14th Street and check us out in our first competition. The Battle runs from 11:00 to 9:00 on Saturday and 11:00 to 7:00 on Sunday.
We hope to see you there!!!!
 

Thanks to All Who Visited Pork Barrel BBQ at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival!

Thanks so much to all our family and friends who came to visit us at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival! We had a great time, and gave out over 1,500 samples of pulled pork with Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub. The best compliment of the day came from a BBQ’er of over 40 years, who said he has never purchased a BBQ dry rub (always made his own), but liked ours so much he had to buy a tin! It’s moments like that that keep us going – thanks so much! If you want to taste what he is talking about – please be sure to buy a tin of our All American Spice Rub by visiting this link.

Of course, the REAL question is what does a BBQ company do after a long day at a Beer and Bourbon festival? Go for a well deserved drink and some more BBQ of course! Here’s Pork Barrel BBQ’s President Heath Hall:
 

Heath’s Secret Brisket Recipe (How to Smoke a Brisket)

We have a lot of folks ask us via email, twitter, or at food shows how to smoke a brisket. Heath, with his Kansas City roots, is excellent at making brisket – here’s his secret smoked brisket recipe:

Heath’s Secret Brisket Recipe

1 – 5-7 lb brisket

 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

4-6 tablespoons Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub 

6 cans of beer 

1 aluminum drip pan 

5 chunks of hickory wood 

3 chunks of oak wood 

1 Bag of Lump Hardwood Charcoal

Get your smoker’s temperature up to 225-250 degrees. When lighting your charcoal, be sure to use lump hardwood charcoal and always start with a charcoal chimney starter. If you are using a BBQ grill, you can still smoke your brisket! Just place the charcoal in a pile on one side of the grill, and place the brisket on the opposite side.

While your smoker gets up to temperature, rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the first side of your brisket and then rub 2-3 tablespoons of Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub into the meat. Repeat on opposite side. Allow meat to rest with rub on it for at least 30 minutes (this can be done ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours).



Place your drip pan into the smoker directly under where the brisket will sit and pour the beer into it. If using a bbq grill, simply put your beer into a disposable aluminum pan and place it under where your brisket will sit. Since we are both from Missouri, we like to grill with Bud Light (sometimes we use PBR)!


Here you can see our perfect beer foam – ready to make some great smoked brisket!

 

 

Place the wood chunks onto the hot coals in your smoker and then place the grill grate in the smoker. Place your meat directly above the drip pan and close your smoker. If cooking in a smoker, I place the wood onto the charcoal, but if I’m cooking on a BBQ grill, I soak the wood for 30 minutes to allow it to have a longer smoke (you can’t go wrong either way!).



Make sure the temperature remains in the 225-250 degree range throughout the smoking process. Every couple of hours make sure you have enough fuel on your fire to maintain the desired smoker temperature. A brisket should remain in the smoker for 6-12 hours depending on its size.


And here’s what it looks like when its done! The internal temperature (always use a meat thermometer) should reach 175 degrees F. Be sure to wrap it in foil immediately after cooking and let it rest for at least 15 minutes (its temperature will rise to 185 degrees F) – this is one of the keys to juicy brisket!


Once its had a chance to rest, slice the brisket with a good knife – BE SURE to cut against the grain!


We serve ours on a couple slices of white bread with some Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce – enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

Place the wood chunks onto the hot coals in your smoker and then place the grill grate in the smoker. Place your meat directly above the drip pan and close your smoker. If cooking in a smoker, I place the wood onto the charcoal, but if I’m cooking on a BBQ grill, I soak the wood for 30 minutes to allow it to have a longer smoke (you can’t go wrong either way!).



Make sure the temperature remains in the 225-250 degree range throughout the smoking process. Every couple of hours make sure you have enough fuel on your fire to maintain the desired smoker temperature. A brisket should remain in the smoker for 6-12 hours depending on its size.


And here’s what it looks like when its done! The internal temperature (always use a meat thermometer) should reach 175 degrees F. Be sure to wrap it in foil immediately after cooking and let it rest for at least 15 minutes (its temperature will rise to 185 degrees F) – this is one of the keys to juicy brisket!


Once its had a chance to rest, slice the brisket with a good knife – BE SURE to cut against the grain!


We serve ours on a couple slices of white bread with some Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce – enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Cook Pulled Pork (aka Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt) – Easy Pulled Pork Recipe

We have a lot of folks ask us via email, twitter, or at food shows how to smoke a pork shoulder for pulled pork.  We almost always use the following recipe – its simple, and results in perfect pulled pork BBQ every time! We are big fans of  Kansas City BBQ, but this recipe should make folks from all BBQ regions happy!


Easy Smoked Pork Shoulder / Pulled Pork Recipe

 

1 – 7 pound pork shoulder (also known as a Boston Butt – bone in or boneless work great)

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4-6 tablespoons Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub

6 cans of beer

1 aluminum drip pan

5 chunks of hickory wood

3 chunks of oak wood

1 Bag of Lump Hardwood Charcoal


When lighting your charcoal, be sure to use hardwood lump charcoal and always light it with a charcoal chimney. If you are using a BBQ grill instead of a smoker, you can still smoke your pork shoulder! Just place the charcoal in a pile on one side of the grill, and place the meat on the other side.

 

Get your BBQ smoker’s temperature up to 225-250 degrees.


While your smoker is getting up to temperature, rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the first side of your pork shoulder and then rub 2-3 tablespoons of Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub into the meat. Repeat on opposite side. Allow meat to rest with rub on it for at least 30 minutes (this can be done ahead of time and placed in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours).



Place your drip pan into the smoker directly under where the pork shoulder will be sitting and pour the beer into it. If using a grill (like a Weber), place the drip pan under the side of the grill opposite the charcoal where your pork shoulder will sit. Since we are both from Missouri, we like to grill with Bud Light (sometimes we use PBR)!!


Here you can see our perfect beer foam – the smoker is ready to make some great BBQ pulled pork!

Place the wood chunks onto the hot coals in your smoker and then place the grill grate into the smoker. Place your pork shoulder directly above the drip pan and close your smoker. If using a smoker, I simply place the wood onto the coals, but if I’m cooking on a BBQ grill, I soak the wood for 30 minutes to allow them to have a longer smoke (you can’t go wrong either way!).

Make sure the temperature of your smoker or grill remains in the 225-250 degree range throughout the smoking process. Every couple of hours make sure you have enough fuel on your fire to maintain the desired smoker temperature. Depending on the size of your pork shoulder it will take 8-14 hours of smoking time to properly smoke. Here’s what it looks like when you put it on the grill:



And here’s what it looks like when its done! The internal temperature (always use a meat thermometer) should reach 195-205 degrees F. Be sure to wrap it in foil immediately after cooking and let it rest for at least 30 minutes – this is one of the keys to juicy pulled pork!


Once your pork shoulder has had a chance to rest, it should pull very easily – I just use some forks and pull away! Don’t throw away the brown exterior shell – its the best part – known as the “bark” and it tastes like candy!


We serve our pulled pork on a kaiser or potato roll with Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce and a side of slaw – enjoy!!
 

Pork Barrel BBQ to Participate in Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival at the National Harbor

Pork Barrel BBQ will be participating in Beer, Bourbon & BBQ next Saturday, June 20, at the National Harbor just outside of Washington, DC from Noon to 6:00p.m.  The event promises 60 beers, 40 bourbons & lots of BBQ so we can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t head down and enjoy the day with us.
The website for the event says:

“Join us at the festival for a great day of beer sippin’, bourbon tastin’, music listenin’, cigar smokin’, and barbeque eatin’. Your admission buys you a sampling glass so you can enjoy an ALL-YOU-CARE-TO-TASTE sampling of beer and bourbon. Some of the best barbeque vendors are on-site (that would be us) if you get hungry all while enjoying seminars in the tasting theater and LIVE music all day.”

In addition to beer, bourbon, BBQ and live music there will be a mechanical bull at the show, a demonstration stage, the Ms. Bar-B-Q-Babe Contest and the World BBQ Bean Eating Championship – who wouldn’t want to see that?

Admission is $50 for VIP Tasting Glasses valid from Noon to 6:00pm; $30 for Regular Tasting Glasses valid from 2:00pm to 6:00pm; Designated Driver Tickets are $20 and kids 12 and under are FREE.

Come on down and see Pork Barrel BBQ at this years Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival at National Harbor!!

 

Know Your Pork – Heritage Breeds of Pigs

We’re pretty crazy about Pork at Pork Barrel BBQ and we thought it might be interesting to give you a quick run down on some of the breeds of heritage pork that is available today.

Berkshire – The most popular breed of heritage pork is the Berkshire from England. The Berkshire is known for its sweet and well marbled flesh.

Duroc – A local favorite in the eastern United States, the Duroc provides juicy and full flavored meat.

Ossabaw – The Ossabaw is a feral bread of hog that comes from Ossabaw Island, Georgia. The bonus with this hog, whose meat is a bit gamy in flavor, is that it is packed with monounsaturated fat.

Red Wattle – The Red Wattle is a rare pig that comes from the South Pacific island of New Caledonia. This hog has a good meat to fat ratio that makes it great for curred meats and salumi (and who doesn’t like good salumi?).

Tamworth – The Tamworth, another heritage breed from England, is also great for curred meats and sausages. Maybe most importantly, this breed is said to make the best bacon of any hog variety.

You probably won’t find these variates in your local grocery store or butcher shops, but thanks to the Internet you can order them online.  In Washington, DC be sure to visit our friends at Wagshals – they sale Ibirico Pork  (the only place in the United States to do so).

Check out the following websites for more information and to order these and other heritage breeds of pork.
Flying Pigs Farm – www.flyingpigsfarm.com
Heritage Foods USA – www.heritagefoodsusa.com
Heritage Pork – www.heritagepork.com
Preferred Meats – www.preferredmeats.com
 

Pork Barrel BBQ Launch Party – Video

On Sunday, May 31, more than 100 Pork Barrel BBQ fans and supporters showed up at Fort Ward Park in Alexandria, Virginia to celebrate the official launch of Pork Barrel BBQ. Over 150 pounds of pork shoulder, beef brisket and vegetables were smoked and grilled with Pork Barrel BBQ’s All American Spice Rub. A big Pork Barrel BBQ thank you to everyone who came to show their support – we couldn’t be doing what we are doing without your support and advice.
At the end of the picnic we were able to donate several trays of pork shoulder, pickles, potato chips and several watermelons to the Carpenters Shelter in Alexandria, Virginia.
 

Pork Barrel BBQ Crosses 10,000 Followers on Twitter

Twitter

Thanks to all our friends and supporters who have followed us on Twitter– we appreciate the chance to update you on all that is going on in the world of Pork Barrel BBQ!

We hope your having as much fun following us on Twitter as we are following you.  We think it is pretty cool that under the “Food” listing on Wefollow – http://wefollow.com/tag/food – that we have just passed Tyler Florence and are on the heels of the LA Times as one of the most followed food sites on Twitter.