The secret of good barbeque
Here's a great article from the Galveston County Daily News about the secret of Barbecue - The RUB.
The secret to good barbecue is in the rub
By Linda Fradkin
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. WHITETRASH NOTE: In Texas, they seem to cook their brisket at a higher temp than most BBQ cooks. I would cook brisket at 225 F to 250 F. It will take longer, but the final product will be more tender.
“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. WHITETRASH NOTE: We need to talk more about the smoke ring. In another post I'll expose the truth behind the myth.
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.”
And speaking of RUB - did you know that Paul Kirk's RUB - Righteous Urban Barbecue restaurant is sponsoring NYC's first BBQ contest - Grillin On The Bay on March 25th? See you there.