The City Magazine Since 1975

’Cue Summer

March 2011
’Cue Summer
Your guide to dishing up winning barbecue from your backyard

There’s some debate about what barbecue is. A noun, a verb? A coveted Southern secret, an  al fresco dinner invitation? We sought the answer to this and other queries by quizzing a trio of connoisseurs from Charleston’s veritable Who’s Who of experts on the subject: Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ, Billy Quinn of JB’s Smokeshack, and Jimmy Hagood of Food for the Southern Soul. As for what constitutes true ’cue? They agree. It’s all about the smoke—that’s what turns meat into barbecue. “Anything else is just, well… grilled,” says Billy.

<p>Our experts recommend St. Louis-cut pork ribs (taken from the midsection of the rib cage) for their density and fat content, or spareribs (located toward the hindquarters). Baby backs are quality cuts of meat, but they’re leaner so you miss out on some of the flavor. To ensure uniform cooking, ask your butcher to trim rib racks into an even rectangle. <strong>Perfect Form</strong> • Cooked right, an uncut rack should form a nice arc that either holds firm or begins to crack in the middle when you grip it at one end with a pair of tongs.
<p>While it’s common to cook the shoulder or even go whole-hog, our experts agree on the Boston butt as the go-to cut for pulled pork. Taken from the upper part of the shoulder behind the pig’s neck, it ranges in size from six to nine pounds and is evenly marbled to produce tender, well-flavored meat. Plus, from a practicality standpoint, not much goes to waste with Boston butt—there’s nothing but a shoulder blade to throw away. Cook with the fat cap on top, facing up. “This way, it braises the meat,” says Aaron Siegel of Home Team BBQ.
<p>Cook chicken bone-in and skin on. The skin’s fat keeps it moist, which is important when cooking lean meats because they’re prone to drying out. Plus, rubs won’t adhere to the chicken without a little skin. “At home, you really can’t beat beer can chicken—it’s easy and nothing fancy,” says Billy, of the no-frills method of propping the bird on an open, half-full can of beer to grill. <strong>Brine & Dine</strong> • Brining—marinating uncooked meat in a solution with a high salt content—is an easy way to add flavor to poultry and other lean meats.