Welcome to Barbeque Nation!!
If you are into mouth-watering, "low and slow" BBQ - well, you have come to the right place! Regardless of whether you are a "newbie" simply wanting to know how/where to get started - or a "backyard champ" wanting to improve your skills - or a "pro" competing out there on the BBQ circuit - Barbeque Nation has something just for you...
We go about things just a little bit differently around here. There's no "forum" - therefore, no "bull-loney" to have to wade through... Barbeque Nation is all about "news you can use" - useful information/tips/comments to help make your barbecue experience a much better one. Our mission is to spread the "good news about Que" out to people at all levels of experience and interest!
We also feel we have assembled a wonderful "staff" of guest writers that will help bring a wealth of knowledge and insight regarding BBQ. You just never know who may show up here "at our table" from time to time!
So - pull up a chair, put another log in the firebox - and spend a little time with us as we share some smoke together...
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Que School - "Low & Slow"
In the world of BBQ, you will often hear the term "low and slow". This refers to the cooking of meats at a low temperature ( a pit temperature of 225-250 degrees F) and slowly (over a longer period of time.)
Okay, Hoochie - what exactly are we accomplishing here by cooking "low and slow"? Other than creating an excuse to sit around outside and maybe enjoy a brewski or two - or maybe three? Well - glad you asked!!
When we barbeque, we are generally are dealing with cuts of meat (brisket, ribs, pork butt) that are rather "tough". Historically speaking, these were the cuts of meat the wealthy turned up their noses at - and since the poor were generally the ones buying these "undesirable" cuts of meat, they figured out a way to turn it into a delicacy via "low & slow".
Meat is composed primarily of protein muscle fibers held together by strands of collagen and fat tissue. Beginning at an internal meat temperature (not to be confused with the pit temperature) of around 140 degrees F - and plateauing around 160 degrees F - we will begin to see these collagen stands begin to "unwind" and turn into a "gelatin", the fat will begin to "melt", and the muscle fibers will begin to "relax" and the juices "absorbed" instead of being "squeezed out". When done the proper way, these "reactions" when working in harmony produce a very tender and moist piece of meat.
We can achieve this internal temperature - and various degrees of the desired "reactions" mentioned above - either quickly or slowly. Care to guess which way will yield the better quality "reactions"???
The process of collagen turning into a "gelatin" is a slow process. It does not happen instantly when the internal meat temperature hits 140 F - it takes time. The longer you allow the meat to travel through an internal temp of 140-160 degrees F, the more collagen will turn into a "gelatin". The same holds true with the fat "melting" - we get more of that process when we are "low & slow".
And when we are "low and slow", the protein muscle fibers slowly "relax" and the juices are "absorbed" rather than "squeezed out". Cooking barbecue in this fashion results in tender, succulent meats.
If you are experienced at cooking barbecue, you know about the "barbecue plateau" where your meat tends to get stuck at a certain temperature (around 165 deg F) and stay there. An experienced pit master knows this is when all the "good stuff" is happening... your collagen strands are unwinding, your fat is melting, and your muscle proteins are slowly relaxing instead of seizing up.
So... the "barbecue plateau" is a good thing. When your internal meat temperatures start to rise after the plateau, you need to start checking for doneness because any further cooking will tend to dry your meat out.