There’s no mystery to making the most tender, lip-smackin’ and finger-lickin’ good barbecue. Always use quality ingredients, select the flavorings you prefer, and control the cooking temperature. Temperature may be the most important element, because a fire that’s too hot can ruin even the best cuts of meat and scorch the flavor out of any sauce ingredients. Experiment with your favorite sauce and rub ingredients to make your barbecue your own. Aim for low temperatures and slow cooking time, and your tender barbecue will keep your family and friends begging for more.
Prepare the meat by trimming excess fat that may cause flare-ups. Wash chicken in cold water and pat it dry. Look for membranes along the inside of a rack of ribs. The membranes hold the meat and bones together during cooking. If you want the meat to fall away from the bones after it is cooked, simply peel away the membrane before cooking.
Marinate the meat for at least two hours, or overnight. If you use a dry rub instead of marinating, put it on the meat for no longer than two hours before the meat goes on the grill. Either way, keep the meat covered in the refrigerator.
Preheat the grill to a low temperature, about 300 degrees Fahrenheit if you have a control dial. For a grill with two burner jets, turn on only one side and place the meat on the cooler side of the grill away from the direct heat. If your grill or cooker has adjustable racks, raise them high above the heat source.
Slow-cook the meat until it is almost done. Baste with your favorite barbecue sauce every 10 minutes during the last half-hour of cooking. The BBQ Institute recommends using sauce only during the last 30 minutes of cook time.
Five to 6 pounds of meat may need to cook for four to five hours or longer, depending on the thickness of the cuts and the type of meat. The key to maintaining tenderness when cooking on the grill is to use low but safe cooking temperatures and indirect heat over a long period of time.
Make a folded foil pouch to cook ribs if you removed the membrane. Start the meat on the rack in low-temperature, indirect heat on the grill. As the ribs cook and begin to soften, transfer them to a foil pouch. Return the meat-pouch to the grill to finish cooking. Add sauce and seasonings to the pouch about 30 minutes before the meat is done.
For a sweet and spicy flavor, try a very light dusting of dry, ground mustard on the surface of any kind of meat before you grill it. It cooks into the juices throughout the meat, giving the meat a spicy bite. Follow by basting the meat with your favorite sweet barbecue sauce.
Check the meat only occasionally. Every time you open the grill, it lets heat escape and lengthens the cooking time. Opening the grill also allows flavor-enhancing smoke and steam to escape.
As of May 2011, the USDA’s guidelines for cooked meat temperatures advise that beef and pork cuts should reach 145 degrees Fahrenheit. internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat. Use a quality meat thermometer for an accurate reading.