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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 02-22-2006, 10:16 PM   #1
BrooklynQ
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Default The secret to good barbecue is in the rub

As posted in the Galveston County Daily News....


The secret to good barbecue is in the rub
By Linda Fradkin
Correspondent
Published February 22, 2006
When it comes to barbecue, the secret is not in the sauce, but in the dry powder rub, the smoker, the wood and, of course, the technique.

That’s the flame-cooking philosophy promoted by League City’s Robert Ruiz.

Ruiz should know. After all, his Valero Gasoline Alley Cookers have been participating in barbecue cook-offs for more than 20 years.

This week, Ruiz and his friends are headed for one of the prime cook-offs of the year: the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The event takes place Thursday through Saturday at Reliant Center.

“Some people stick to the same recipe — or at least a similar recipe — year after year,” Ruiz said. “As a matter of fact, the only major change I’ve noticed in recent years are the formulations for the ribs. It seems to me the entries are much sweeter than before.”

Otherwise, as far as the longtime contestant is concerned, most of the teams taking part in the brisket contest seem to adhere to recipes extremely similar to the ones they’ve created in past years. That means covering the meat with dry ingredients like pepper, paprika, minced garlic, chili powder and kosher salt.

“The only difference I notice from year to year is they frequently change the proportions of the spices they use,” Ruiz said.

The Gasoline Alley Cookers are faithful to a preparation technique that calls for coming up with a concoction of spices, hand rubbing that mixture into the meat, wrapping the meat in plastic wrap and refrigerating it overnight.

“You have to be careful not to over-season the meat since what’s most crucial to the judges is the taste of the meat coming through,” Ruiz said. “The only time I was aware of a cook getting carried away with spices was when I tasted a slice of brisket that had way too much cayenne.”

Once the seasoned meat is out of the refrigerator, cooks turn their focus to their custom-made pits, the wood used as the heat source, the temperature and the amount of smoke produced.

“It’s really a matter of practice,” Ruiz said. “We used to go out of our way to find white oak. Now that’s not very accessible, so we just use whatever oak we can get in Galveston County.”

A cooking time of eight hours (of course, the timing depends on the size of the brisket) at a low temperature of 250 F to 300 F seems to work best.

“What you’re trying to do is produce enough smoke so you create a smoke ring around the outside of the meat, giving it a smoky — but not overly smoky — flavor,” Ruiz explained.

To provide the meat with sufficient moisture, the team wraps the brisket in foil for about the last two hours. Other teams do a barbecue sauce mop while the brisket’s cooking, but not the Alley Cookers.

Then, when it’s time for the final judging — whether it’s brisket, chicken or pork spareribs — the entry must be literally the cooked meat out of the pit. No sauce is allowed.

“There have been years we’ve placed in the top 25 teams for ribs and for brisket,” Ruiz said. “We look upon that kind of win as a real victory since almost 400 teams compete each year.”

To learn more about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, go to www.rodeohouston.com.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 09:56 AM   #2
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8 hours?? But Famous Dave's only cooks theirs for 2 hours. This article doesn't seem reliable.

BQ-- someone once told me that the worst thing your comp. que could be is bland. The guy in the article says not to overseason....Do you think it's the amount of rub, or the excessive use of strong flavors, like cinnamon or thyme, sweet or heat?
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Unread 02-23-2006, 10:36 AM   #3
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By overseason, I assume he meant not to season the meat so much that you only taste the rub/sauce and not the meat. IMNTBHO, a rib still needs to taste like pork when you eat it.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 10:41 AM   #4
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I gotcha. I know you don't want to kill the taste of the meat-- but as one who doesn't compete-- I'm wondering where the line is between bold and overseasoned.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 11:35 AM   #5
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I think I overdo it when I season my ribs. No one complains so I keep doing it.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 11:47 AM   #6
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Are there any strong flavors in the rub, Smoker, or do you think you apply plenty of it?
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Unread 02-23-2006, 12:14 PM   #7
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She's wrong. Rub can help or overpower. The secret is in the cook.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 10:29 PM   #8
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I think the real secrets to good BBQ is smoke, meat, and passion. Everything else is there only to enhance those three.
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Unread 02-23-2006, 10:40 PM   #9
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Excellent call, Wayne! Excellent!
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Unread 02-24-2006, 07:34 AM   #10
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For me, good bbq is about the people I get to share it with, the process and the time spent absorbing the smoke.

Fwiw, I often throw the rib trimmings in without rub, and think that smoke is plenty of seasoning....
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Unread 02-24-2006, 08:32 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by backyardchef
8 hours?? But Famous Dave's only cooks theirs for 2 hours. This article doesn't seem reliable.

BQ-- someone once told me that the worst thing your comp. que could be is bland. The guy in the article says not to overseason....Do you think it's the amount of rub, or the excessive use of strong flavors, like cinnamon or thyme, sweet or heat?
There are thousands of rubs out there - turbinado/salt based to a dried vinegar and mustard based - I have yet to have a bad one on a brisket.

I think you nailed it - balance of the flavors is key. For example - IMHO, you have to have a little celery in anything you are going to put on beef. But if you cover it in celery powder - yikes. Believe it or not... in one of my pork rubs I use some old bay seasoning.... who knew? I think most judges will tell you that they don't want to be able to pick out a flavor - they want to taste the meat - not one of the enhancments.

As far as overseasoning... Some rubs will tell you to cake them on, some say sprinkle. I am thinkin it is personal taste on that front. I will use heavy rub on a whole brisket, and go lighter on a flat. same idea with spare ribs vs. baby backs. Personal preference.

Wood as a flavoring is the same way... get too much and you don't taste the meat. Nothing worse than bitter meat. I have had food get bitter because of too much Hickory smoke. Maybe some of the texas guys can weigh in on Mesquite - I have heard it is one you have to be very careful with vs. say, pecan. No Mesquite here to cook with - how do you fair when using it?
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Unread 02-24-2006, 09:32 AM   #12
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Thanks, Andy. Interesting take on things. I've actually been applying more rub these days. Usually with the briskets, I slather, rub and let sit for a while, then right as I put it on the pit, I hit it with a couple more good shakes.

I've only used mesquite coal for grilling, and dust in the stovetop smoker. Not a ton of flavor with the charcoal, just a little smokey. In the stovetop smoker, it adds a nice tang. Not my favorite, though.
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Unread 02-24-2006, 09:48 AM   #13
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Mesquite is probably in the personal taste category as well. Some folks swear by it, and others hate it. Personally I use it in moderation. It has a very distinctive flavor, that can be overpowering and/or bitter. Love it with turkey and chicken for salads, sammiches, tex-mex type foods. I'll often add a little to the other woods I use when doing brisket and spares (served dry).

One of the better known places in Tx., Cooper's in Llano, uses mesquite exclusively. They cook over coals. You don't get a much cleaner burn than that. Eliminates the risk of getting some funky wood in your cooking fire. Mesquite is the only wood I've ever had that has ever just plain smelled bad! Burned the rest of that load for firewood just to be safe.

Let it dry well, remove any funky looking bark and add in moderation until you get the feel for the flavors and it's a great wood. When heating up the pit it is my best friend. It burns HOT and fast. I'm adding oak and/or pecan about the time it is burning out and it's time to put the meat on.
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Unread 02-24-2006, 10:10 AM   #14
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Some of the Best Orange Ruffy I ever had was over Mesquite.
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Unread 02-24-2006, 10:55 AM   #15
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Interessting. I've been use mesquite lump for heat and hickory chunks for taste. Nothing like that Mulberry at Greg's though....
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