Questions to ask about BBQ

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

When you’re searching for the perfect BBQ, there are two questions you need to ask the cook behind the counter. If you get good answers, buy something. If you get the best answers, program their Take Out number into your mobile phone.

Here are the critical questions, and possible answers, with the “Best” answer provided by Bob Kantor of Memphis Minnie’s, when we interviewed caterers for our wedding.

Question: How long do you smoke your brisket?

  • Wrong Answer: Eight hours or less.
  • Good Answer: 12 hours.
  • Best Answer: 18 hours.

Explanation: Brisket is a tough, extremely flavorful cut of meat. It takes many hours of smoking to break it down until it’s tender, and for the smoky flavor to penetrate fully. Anything less than 10 hours and it’ll likely be tough, and boring. Most BBQ joints can’t commit to the full 18 hours, so when you find a place that does, you know they’re special.

Question: What is your philosophy of sauce?

  • Wrong Answer: Huh?
  • Wrong Answer: Baste early, baste often.
  • Wrong Answer: Slather it on, baby!
  • Good Answer: Served on the side.
  • Best Answer: Sauce is to hide your mistakes.

Explanation: BBQ that doesn’t taste great without sauce is not good BBQ. Sauce should enhance the flavor of the meat, not hide it. BBQ that’s coated with sauce is probably hiding something.

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