Do you want to know what I’m tired of? Over the past year or so I’ve grown tired of the partisan bickering in barbecue. Barbecue is all about “The 3 Fs.” Barbecue should be about food, family and fun instead of arguing over what makes up “real” barbecue or whether there is a right way or wrong way to cook something.
It used to bother me when people would cook something on the grill and call it barbecue. It used to really bother me when my mom put Miracle Whip on my pulled pork. It used to bother me when people would boil their pork ribs before they put them on the grill. Okay that one still bothers me…a lot. But for almost everything else I’ve decided to adopt the same approach to Tripper in the classic movie Meatballs. After all is said and done, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
What I’m talking about is getting past nit-picking about what is or isn’t barbecue. Before you get all worked up I’m not talking about call anything cooked in a slow cooker barbecue. But could we get past worrying about if grilling is barbecue or not. You and I both know that IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
Can we get past arguing about what state has the best barbecue. Can we get past the “if it’s not pork it’s not barbecue.” Fat side up, fat side down. Texas crutch or no Texas crutch. Charcoal, pellets, lump does any of it really matter? No, IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER!
I used to look at barbecue a completely different way. I used to have some hard and fast opinions about the right way and the wrong way to do something. Grilling was grilling and barbecue was barbecue and you should never confuse the two. Barbecue was verb, not a noun. Pork was barbecued on the smoker and you held a cookout and not a barbecue.
Maybe it’s that I’m getting older, maybe I’m just mellowing. But I’ve come to the realization that IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER! Do you know what does matter? What matters is cooking food that makes your family and friends smile. It’s the look on my grand children’s faces when they get to stand around the grill or smoker with me. It’s the enjoyment my friends have when they taste some slow smoked pulled pork. Never once has someone asked me with I used my pellet smoker or if I used my WSM. They don’t care, why should I?
I started to look at this differently over the past year or so as I interviewed a few “famous” pitmasters and chefs for this blog. Interviewing Adam Perry Lang twice and reading his books gave me the first epiphany. Chef Lang lays it out in the Introduction of his first cookbook Serious Barbecue:
“When I started writing this book, my first order of business was to take a stand: “Barbecue” does not just mean the slow-cooked, smoke perfumed meats of the South. It also means the charred, juicy direct-grilled meats, which I had become equally obsessed at perfecting.” If grilling is barbecue for Adam Perry Lang then this blog writer and backyard cook isn’t going to argue with him.
As much as I disagreed with the attitude of Chef Michael Chiarello in his book “Live Fire,” he pretty much summed up what was important about cooking outdoors; “At the end of the day, when the food as all been served and savored, what’s left is your connection to the people around your fire.” Isn’t that connection what is most important about cooking outdoors? Why do we become so obsessed with trying to convince people there are absolutes in barbecue? It likely has a lot to do with pride.
I recently interviewed a pitmaster for a possible blog post and after hanging up the phone I emailed his publicist and told them I couldn’t do the story because there was no way I could make this person sound nice. All I had were quotes that basically said, “If you don’t do it the way I do it, then you’re doing it wrong.” I came away from that conversation wondering how many times I sounded that way. How many times did I insult someone with a “I know the only way to do something” attitude? I didn’t want to be that person, anymore.
Is reading this blog post going to suddenly turn the barbecue world into a kinder and gentler community? Probably not, but at least I can say I tried. And just for the record a couple of things I can’t compromise my opinion about. You should never boil ribs before cooking them and my Superfast Red Thermapen is faster than any other color.