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Smoking was little known to Winnipeg until Famous Dave's appeared in Winnipeg.  What we Northerners do with our backyard “barbecues” is actually Grilling.  Grilling uses high heat, fast cooking and tender meats.  By contrast, barbecuing or Qing uses tough cuts of meat (mostly), slow cooking and low heat.  Every Q master or Pit Master, has his/her own secrets but they all have commonalities; they marinade their meat for a very long time, most inject their meat, they slow cook it in smoke, and they serve the meat in a sauce.

The marinade comes in two forms, either wet or dry.  A wet marinade is practically the same as what you use when you marinade your meats at home.  A dry marinade is known as a “rub,” and most Pit Masters prefer the dry rub.  They like to rub their meat (let’s keep it family-friendly here) and let it soak in the flavours for hours, generally overnight.  Many Qers opt to inject their meat as well (family-friendly!).  Injecting the meat serves two purposes:  it adds flavour to the inside of the meat as well as helps to breakdown the tough meat fibres from the inside out.  Most Qers use a high acid injection to promote the tenderising process (something like apple juice).

After marinating overnight, the fun begins.  Some Qers spend thousands of dollars building smoking contraptions, some so big that you need a semi cab to pull them.  Some are small and compact enough where you can buy them from a hardware store and become a Qer yourself.  Big or small, they all have common features:  a heat source, a hydrating reservoir, a place for wood to smoke, and grill areas for the food.

The heat source brings the smoker to temperature, somewhere between 220F to 300F.  No one smokes below 212F (boiling point of water) and high temperatures would cook your meat too fast, not giving it a chance to tenderise. Many use the standard 225F.  Because the heat and the smoke are very dry, you want a liquid reservoir to keep your meat from drying out.  The smoke can come from any variety of fragrant woods; the most common include mesquite, hickory, pecan or apple, although most hardwoods will do—you wouldn’t want to use something like pine for obvious reasons!  Your wood can sit directly on the heating element or coals, or some of the fancier machines will have pre-fabricated wood pucks, pellets or bricks.  If you go the natural way, make sure you soak your wood thoroughly or you’ll end up with a blistering inferno!

Now, throw your meat in and they’ll cook happily until you’re ready to take them out.  Cooking times vary, from one hour for chicken pieces to 12 hours for beef brisket; the tougher the meat, the more time it needs.  Some people like to tent their meat after a few hours to help maintain the moisture, but at that point, you’re cutting out the smoke and turning your cooker into an oven.  That’s your choice to make and that’s one of the variables that determines who’ll be crowned Q champion.

Finally, after you take your meat out of the smoker, you have the option of serving it as is, or slathering it with barbecue sauce.  How to create the perfect Q is up to you and that’s what the barbecuing contests are all about.  The American BBQ Belt runs from Kansas City across to St. Louis, down to Memphis and across to the Carolinas.  Each region has its own belief about what makes the best Q.  Let’s not forgot the buckle to the belt, which sits by itself in the vast land of Texas.

Having tasted most (if not all) of the different kinds of Qs, what’s the best?  Well, that’s a matter of personal opinion.  What I like doesn’t matter; what matters is what the judges like.  There’s the challenge that faces us—and the challenge that we’re very excited to wrestle.  If you happen to be at one of the local barbecue contests, come to the BBQ competition area and come say hi!  Look for the Pit Monsters kiosk and ask us more about barbecuing versus grilling. 

 

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