Barbecue Basic Terminology

Hello Bar-b-que lovers!

I thought we’d take it back to the basics today so this is the first in a series devoted entirely to Bar-b-que terms. Its one thing to love “the que” another to be able to cook it still another to master it. I think understanding the jargon and being able to “talk the talk” is important; besides who doesn’t want to know the difference between a “mop” and a “rub”. So in no particular order, let’s dive in!

Dry Rub – Could I mention anything else first? Of course not! A dry rub is a combination of spices and herbs that you apply before cooking. You’ll find them in many flavors and sometimes even for specific meats.  I personally feel most rubs contain too much salt, that is why I make salt my last ingredient. I want to always taste what I’m cooking not overpower it.

Fat Cap - The thick layer of fat between the meat and the skin. This term comes up quite a bit when you see recipes about searching for the right cut of meat, preparing it and cooking Fat Cap up or Fat Cap down.

Smoke Ring - The moneymaker pink layer near the meat’s surface, resulting from a chemical reaction to wood smoke. This is what every BBQ and Smoking enthusiast looks for and is the first sign that you did something right!

Brine - A wet brine is salt mixed with water and a “sweetener”. Many conventional recipes use juice, herbs and spices in wet brines. A dry brine is salt applied to the surface of a food. The salt dissolves and diffuses into the meat. It helps protein hold onto moisture during cooking and amplifies flavors. I tend to use brines with bigger meats that are cooking longer. Examples would be Pork Shoulder/Boston Butt, Brisket and Whole Turkey.

Hardwood - Wood from dense low sap woods such as oak, hickory, apple, cherry, and many others. These are best for smoking foods and over the cooking process their natural flavors will seep into the meat. At the end of the day you should experiment with different types of woods and food, but here is a list of some typical parings:

Apple wood has a fruity and sweet smoke that pairs wonderfully with pork, fish, and poultry.

Cherry wood’s flavor is best suited for red meat and pork.  

Maple has a sweet and delicate taste and tends to darken whatever meat you’re smoking and is typically used for poultry and ham.

Alder has a light and naturally sweet flavor; it’s great for fish, poultry, and any white meat.

Pecan gives meat something of a fruity flavor and burns cooler than most other barbecue woods. It is best used on large cuts like brisket and pork roast but can also be used to compliment chops, fish and poultry.

Oak is great for big cuts of meat that take a long time to cook.  Try it on Pork roasts, hams and ribs and chicken.

Hickory has a strong and distinct flavor that’s ideal for red meat and ribs.

Mesquite is a powerful wood can easily overpower your meat if used improperly. Avoid using mesquite with larger cuts that require longer cooking times, or simply use it with other woods.

Low 'n' slow - keeping the heat low, under 275°F and usually closer to 225°F, and taking your time, the fats and collagens melt, making the meat juicy and flavorful. Too much heat and the proteins get bunched up in a knot and the meat is tough. Cooking low 'n' slow means you usually do not have to turn the meat over because it is not exposed to direct heat.

And the last term for toady – but certainly not the least important is……..

Beer – Beer is carbonated fermented grains and water, often flavored with the flowers of the hop plant. There are infinite styles and flavors. It is often used to enhance sauces, marinades and even cooks. It plays an important part in the barbequing, grilling and smoking experience.

Be sure to tune in next time as we continue exploring the terms that make up the wonderful world of barbeque, grill and smoking.



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