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Good BBQ Is No Crock

Sep 07, 2014 08:07AM ● Published by Ron Wilkie

Smoke ’em if you've got ‘em. Ribs that is, or pulled pork or brisket, or... Smoked meat, I love it. Like many great foods there is an art and science to good barbecue.

The other weekend while digging into some great pulled pork at a celebration, one of the guests asks me how the pulled pork was prepared. In this group I’m know for my barbecue prowess, but someone else smoked this pork.  I was there when the cooking took place to ‘observe’ and drink a few cans of beverage that featured blue mountains, so I gladly shared the chef’s secrets.

When the conversation was over we both commented on how good the pork was and he parted ways. A woman sitting across the picnic table from me was listening in, looked up at me and added; “This is good pork, but it would've tasted just as good if cooked in a crock pot.”

I’ve heard similar statements by many practical chef’s, usually busy super moms, when I serve baby back ribs off of my smoker grill. Taste is subjective, so I smile and politely agree, that is what happened on that night as well. It was a celebration after all, why argue a subjective point at a time like this? Besides I hadn't finished my pulled pork and coleslaw yet.

Great celebrations are enhanced by great food. Heck for me great food is a reason to celebrate. The statement has been eating at me for 2 weeks now, so it is the subject of today’s Ron’s Rambling.

Smoking meat takes time, patience and babysitting. There is an art and science to it. Why do I prefer smoked meat? If done correctly, tough meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Yes, yes that happens with a crock pot too so let’s move on. Cooking over low heat smoke also produces a phenomenon called carmelization.

Carmelized meat happens when wave after wave of smoke reacts with the outside of the meat forming a layer of crust that is chocked full of savory flavor. In BBQ circles this is frequently referred to as ‘burnt ends’ on a roast that has been slow cooked over smoke. If you ever eat at a place offering burnt ends, order them. It is to die for. In Kansas City, my favorite BBQ town, burnt ends are always the first dish to be taken off the lunch menu each day. Why? Because the demand always outlasts the supply.

You just can’t duplicate the flavor that slow smoking adds to meat in a crock pot or an oven. But this is one man’s opinion. I’m biased so don’t take my word for it, let’s go to the internet. My first search; ‘Crock Pot Restaurants in Wisconsin.’ The total is eight, with The Melting Pot a fondue spot being the most recognizable. Now the search is for ‘BBQ Restaurants in Wisconsin.’ Wow, big difference. My search engine gave me 7005 hits for BBQ places in Wisconsin alone.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for every cooking appliance made and I love my crock pot. Autumn and winter are just around the corner, comfort food comes from such devices and who doesn't love a good soup? But it’s called Famous Dave’s for winning all of those BBQ competitions not crock pot competitions and there is a tasty reason for it!

So to end this ramble, please do not tell me the ribs I babied for 4 hours over a hot smoker grill would've been just as tasty if I’d put them in a crock pot and walked away for 4 hours. That’s just, well…a crock.

Speaking of which, my 17 year old asked me to make a crock of chili today. Don’t mind if I do! Later.

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