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Q

SCENE 1
Pappy Red's B-B-Que: Roswell, GA - 11:08 am

   Barbecue. I can think of no other word in the American culinary lexicon which inflames such passion. Americans are united by their universal love of this stuff, but they’re also divided by our idea of what it actually is. Maybe that's half the fun, because barbecue fans like to fight as much as they like to eat. They fight about the meat, the smoke, the cooking time and, oh, they get practically medieval on the subject of sauce. As for those who cook this stuff professionally, well, let's just say the CIA could learn a lot about secrecy and misinformation just from talking to pig masters. Don’t believe me? Well, let's go talk to some about how they do that thing they do.

SCENE 2
Swallow at the Hollow: Roswell, GA - 12:23 pm

    [voice over] Well, I did pry open the mouths of a few pitsters. One pit master claims that you have to let the smoke mix with Mississippi Delta blues.

SCENE 3
Slopes BBQ: Roswell, GA - 1:41 pm

    Oh, another says that the pigs have to be drunk on bourbon at the time of well, you know.

SCENE 4
Pappy Red's B-B-Que

   The only whiff of consensus I detected is that barbeque results " when a tough and borderline inedible piece of meat is exposed to low levels of heat and hardwood smoke for anywhere from four hours to four days. "Jeez. I don’t know about you but I think that all we’ve got to do is taste good barbecue and then back-engineer our own product with solid food science as our guide. After all, barbecue is not voodoo, it's not magic, its not even rocket science. It's good, plain, old-fashioned ...

SCENE 5
Pappy Red's B-B-Que

    [a plate of BBQ is set on the table in front of him] Mmm. Now I don't want you Lone Star staters to get your Stetsons in a wad but for most Americans, barbecue means pork, but not all pork is created equal. What we want from the final dish know in barbecue parlance as pulled pork is fork-tender, succulent, and digit-lickin' good.

Tender
Succulent
Digit (Finger) Lickin' good

    This means the meat must contain enough connective tissue— collagen— to convert into a considerable amount of gelatin. There also needs to be enough fat on the outside to baste the meat through the long cooking process.

    Now hams do barbecue very nicely, but unless you're a professional, you'll probably end up with something kind of dry, and you're going to need a lot of sauce. Several different rib cuts contain the right stuff , but that's another show ... one that we've already done, I might add. The only way to really get smoke into the lean loin is to cure it first and then you end up with something more like Canadian bacon, which is good, but it's not barbecue. That leaves the arm area, known as the picnic ham which is way too gristly and the shoulder, or Boston butt. Since it does a lot of work— for a pig, at least— it contains the required fat and connective tissue. But what I really want to know is how a shoulder came to be called a butt.

Ham
Ribs
Loin
Picnic Ham
Boston Butt

SCENE 6
Whole Foods Market, Atlanta, GA - 2:33 pm

GUEST: Ed Cifu, Butcher

AB: Hey, Ed, why do they call it Boston butt?
ED CIFU: ' Boston' I'm not sure about. ' Butt' probably relates to the fresh ham, where the lower half would be, like, the picnic which is called the shank half and the upper half is called the butt.
AB: Oh, of course. It's just like a ham. The bottom’s the shank, top part's the butt. Exactly. Well, I need one.
EC: Would you like a whole or a half?
AB: Oh, whole, absolutely.
EC: Trimmed or untrimmed?
AB: Oh, untrimmed. That guy right there.
EC: Untrimmed?
AB: Beautiful.
EC: You're sure, untrimmed?
AB: Untrimmed, 100 percent.
EC: It's your money.
AB: Great!

    If you're a regular viewer, you've probably heard me bemoan the low-fat fate of the modern American pig. Even untrimmed, I'm not sure there's enough fat in that shoulder to keep the meat lubed during the long, thermal trip to Q-dom. So as is so often the case with pork, we are going to have to turn to chemistry.

AB: Ed! Oh, there you are. How do you like your Q?
EC: Oh, I like my butts South Carolina style, my ribs Memphis style, and Georgia's a little sweet for me.

    And this guy's from New York.

AB: See you, Ed.

The U.S. celebrates National Barbecue Month in May..

SCENE 7
Inside AB's Trailer

    I realize we've made our share of brines on this program in the past, but is one is going to be a little different. Oh, you'll have to excuse the surroundings, we're out in Hollywood, California, building the sets for "Good Eats the Motion Picture," and this is the trailer they gave me to live in. Really, it's nice. Anyway, unlike our Nobel prize-winning turkey brine, which had to be built hot in order to open up and activate the herbs and spices inside of it, this brine can be built cold, be cause all we're really interested in is pumping up the cells with moisture and a little seasoning.

    The hardware: your digital scale and a small, clean plastic cooler. I'm going to zero out the weight, and instead of using 12 ounces of kosher salt, we will use 12 ounces of pickling salt, okay. Pickling salt is made for pickling, made to dissolve in cold fluid. But make sure that if you use it that you weigh it, because it does not fill the same amount of volume as kosher salt because the grains are very, very tiny. [noting the scale] Twelve. 12 oz. Pickling Salt
    We need some sugar to counteract all that saltiness, but regular old table sugar will not dissolve in cold water. Luckily, we've got a lot of options. We could use light corn syrup, dark corn syrup, but I prefer molasses. Why? Because molasses brings a lot of other flavors to the party, and the way I see it, molasses and barbecue kind of makes sense. But remember, this stuff is heavier than regular sugar, so you can't just volume-measure it the same. So we're going to go by weight 8 ounces. I'm going to zero out again. Now 8 ounces of molasses is probably more like 3/4 of a cup, whereas regular sugar is a cup for about 8 ounces. This is going to take a little time. 8 oz. Molasses = 3/4 Cup
    There we go, and I'm going to zero out one more time, and add water. We need 2 quarts of water, that's 4 pints, a pint's a pound the world around. So we're looking for four pounds of water here. 2 qts. Water = 4 lbs.
    A little bit of whisking. See. One hundred percent liquid. All done. Now all we have to do is move the meat. For that, I like to don a little bit of protection. Fat side up, and push it right down into the cooler. If you really push it, it will kind of wedge it down into the bottom so that the meat stays completely submerged. Excellent. Now all we have to do is get this into some refrigeration. Oh, bother. I'd say about 8 to 12 hours on this.

Refrigerate 8-12 hrs.

    By the way, if you can't find an actual place to refrigerate it, you could always fill up, like, a 1-gallon zip-top bag with ice and seal it up really good and put it on top of the meat. That would keep the meat submerged, and it would keep the brine cold. Excuse me, I've got to go buy some ice.

The world's largest barbecue cook-off is held every October in Kansas City.

SCENE 8
Outside Alton's Trailer

    As previously mentioned on this program, the word barbecue derives from a very old Caribbean word, barbacoa , meaning to cook on green sticks directly over a smoldering fire. It's a method that's been popular with the Indians of Espanola and that surrounding area since, well, long before Columbus got his first boat. Now the problem with this kind of cooking is that it's very vulnerable to the whims of weather, okay? I mean, the wind comes up and it messes up your fire, and of course, a little rain will really ruin your day. Now the peoples of Polynesia cracked this problem by digging a pit and then lining it with hot rocks and coals. They put a whole pig right on top of that, then covered that with banana leaves and then sand. Of course, the problem here is that there's no convection, so smoke cannot do its mysterious mambo around the meat. Most modern pit masters, of course, have traded in their holes in the ground and racks of sticks for steel.

SCENE 9
Alton's Grill and Smoker Storage

    As you can see from my personal collection, I don't have a problem with grills or smokers. But I do have a problem sending a grill or a smoker to do a barbecue pit's job. Now it's true, a charcoal grill can attain nice, low levels of heat, but this kind of fire requires a lot of hand-holding, and it's nearly impossible to keep the heat out of direct contact with the meat. Now there are some rigs that get around this problem with isolated fireboxes. This one's on the side heat goes here and the meat goes here. The problem is, they require quite a bit of know-how and a lot of money.
    As for gas grills bad news. Even the best gas grills cannot produce real barbecue because when propane burns it creates water vapor, and that water vapor kind of creates a protective barrier between the smoke and the meat it's not good. That leaves electric smokers, which are pretty good at maintaining low levels of heat for a long period of time. The problem is, they're still metal, okay, and metal doesn't hold on to heat it conducts it out into the outside world. No, if we're really going to imitate a barbecue pit, we need the insulating powers of earth, but that doesn't mean we have to dig a hole.

SCENE 10
Outside Alton's Trailer

[AB drags a plant in a ceramic pot out of the trailer, removes the plant and tosses it aside. He places a hot plate in the bottom and then places a grill grate in the top of the pot. He then places a shallow pot upside down on the top of the first pot. He returns and places a pie pan on top of the burner.]

    Sweet, huh?
    It's a ceramic smoker.

    Yes, it's going to work! We've got all the necessary components. Look. In the bottom we've got a hot plate, okay, it's going to create the heat, and this nice, thick terracotta is going to insulate it, it's going to hold it in. Oh, the one thing we do have to do is, we have to make room for some air, and we're going to use the wood. You could do this with bricks, you could do it with rocks," you could do it with those fancy little feet they make, you know, to put planters on. That also provides a nice place for the plug, huh? There we go, Just run that through to an extension cord, put another piece on the other side there. Now a heavy-duty pan, okay? That's going to hold the smoke accelerant, and we'll get to that soon. Grate out of a kettle grill standard issue in the top. Food's going to go on that, and then we top it all off with a heavy, insulated lid. Oh, and I almost forgot at the hardware store, just a standard replacement thermometer for a grill. Drop that right in the top. He he. The best thing? I spent exactly $47.32. Try to buy a ceramic cooker for that. Excuse me.

 

Hot Plate
Terra-Cotta Pot
Wood, Rocks, Or Heavy Duty Pan
Grate
Terra-Cotta Pot
Grill
Thermometer

SCENE 11
Inside AB's Trailer

[AB is watching a clip from Pork Fiction on his TV]
AB: That's your rub there, I guess.
JR: Exactly.

    Boy, if there's anything barbecue fans like to fight about, it's sauce. Personally, I avoid the fray by just steering clear of the stuff altogether. I mean, we've already upped the flavor ante in our barbecue by brining it first, right? Of course, we could add some frontline flavors with a nice rub. Yeah, I know, we've done rubs on this show before.

 

[clip from Grill Seekers]
    ... wet stuff on the red stuff ...

 

[clip from Ham I Am]
    Ever so lightly. Now this layer we kind of want thick.

 

[clip from Where There's Smoke There’s Fish]
    Sprinkle it on, and don't be shy with it.

 

[clip from Pork Fiction]
    Lay on the rub, and don't be prissy about it. Contact is critical. Now ...

    But in each of those cases, the rub was applied to the target food well in advance of cooking, almost like a marinade. Now since our pork— freshly out of the brine you might notice—is going to be cooking for so long, there's no real reason to introduce the rub until right before we introduce the meat to the heat, so to speak. So I am going to start the rub with one teaspoon each of whole fennel, whole coriander, and whole cumin. I always reach for whole spices when I can, because the flavor stays safely in the seeds— or fruits, depending on the spice— until you release those flavors via grinding. Once they're out you'd better use them quickly, because the aromatic oils are volatile. If you don't use them, you lose them. Now I always do this in a coffee grinder that I keep just for grinding spices. 1 tsp. Whole Fennel
1 tsp. Whole Coriander
1 tsp. Whole Cumin
    Now I'm going to toss in one tablespoon each of chili powder, and onion powder and paprika, and you don't have to be exact with this. It's not like it's going to blow up or anything. And just spin it a couple of times to mix it. There. Now we're going to need something to apply this with. 1 Tbs. Chili Powder
1 Tbs. Onion Powder
1 Tbs. Paprika

[AB finds a shaker with a fine mesh lid]

Paprika was brought to Hungary by the Turks in the 16th century.

SCENE 12
Inside AB's Trailer

    Since we brined our butt, there's no real reason to add salt to the rub, and that means you can turn the volume up or down at will without worrying about over or under-salting meat. Now I like to sift for proper distribution and then pat for proper adhesion. Just don't breathe in too much when you're this close.

SCENE 13
Outside AB's Trailer

    It's often said that barbecue has but three ingredients: meat, time, and smoke. Although the heat that carries the smoke does the actual cooking, the smoke itself acts as a kind of airborne marinade. Of course, what flavor ends up in the meat depends a lot on what you're smoking. If the wood is soft like pine, spruce, or cedar the smoke will include resins and creosote, which taste very yucky indeed. It's a good reason to stick with hardwoods. And since we're not looking for a lot of steam, we're going to stay with dryer well-cured hardwood, and we never let it fully combust. That would make flames, flames produce soot, and soot, also, is not a very good thing to eat.

Use dry, well-cured, hardwood.

    Now when smoking hot and fast, say salmon I like sawdust, because it's the best way to produce a lot of smoke very quickly without flames. But when the cooking is low and slow like barbecue I use chunks of wood, because they last longer and give off smoke very slowly. Think of it as time-release. And yes, I am very particular about the kind of wood I smoke. Why? Well, if you're cooking something in less than six hours over smoke, smoke is smoke, as long as it's hardwood smoke. But when you move past six hours, then the individual flavors of the smoke start to come out. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some lumberjacking to do.

"Liquid Smoke" is made by burning hickory hardwood,
condensing the smoke, and filtering it.

    [voice over] To crank up your smoker, simply remove the food grate, place several chunks of hardwood on top of the pie pan, plug in the hot plate, replace said grate, lay the meat fat side up right in the middle, and re-lid. Oh, and don't forget the thermometer.

    The reason that I like to use a hot plate is that it is controllable, and that's important, because I want to keep the heat in that smoker at between 210 and 220 degrees.

Heat in smoke between
210° and 210°

    Why? Well, you have to remember, we're not just cooking this meat to doneness, okay, like you might a roast or a steak. We're cooking it to tenderness, and that is a very different thing, indeed. Let's say for a minute that these noodles are muscle strands inside our pork shoulder, and gelatin is the connective tissue that holds it together. Now if we just cook this to, say, 145 degrees the way you might a pork roast it would be done and edible technically. But see, this connective tissue would not have begun to dissolve. In other words, it would be tough. If, however, we were to slowly bring this whole mass up to 200 degrees and keep it there for a while, the collagen would dissolve.

[time lapse show the gelatin "melting" on the aluminum sheet pan]

    At this stage of the game, the muscle fibers themselves are relatively dry because they're overcooked. But the eater isn't going to notice, because the strands are nicely lubricated with lip-smackin' gelatin. And since this process takes awhile, it's nice and smoky-tasting, too. How long are we talking about? Well, depending on the exact size and shape of your shoulder and the exact temperature inside your smoker, we're talking anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. Yeah, I said it was good eats, I didn't say it was fast eats.

According to the Barbecue Industry Association,
75% of all U.S. households have barbecues.

    How much smoke your Q takes is up to you. Me, I change the chunks every time the smoking stops, until the shoulder's taken three doses.

Change chunks each time smoking stops for 3 doses.

[AB removes the top of the smoker using gloves then removes the grate with the meat on it with two pairs of spring loaded tongs. He dumps out the ashes using the tongs, adds more chunks, replaces the meat, and then the lid.]

Henry Ford invented charcoal in the early 1920's.

SCENE 14
Outside AB's Trailer

    [sound of pig squealing] Sounds like I'm due for some Q. Take a look here. Little hot. Ah, sorry you can't smell that. The question is, of course, is it tender? Yep, I'd say so, but not as tender as it's going to be after a nice, hour-long rest in heavy-duty foil. There. Just cover that up there. Doesn't have to be perfect. No, we're not resting because the dissipation of heat will allow the meat to reabsorb juices, it's just too hot to pull right now. Give it an hour, half-hour, if you're greedy.

SCENE 15
Inside AB's Trailer

    And now we put the pull into the pulled pork. Ha ha ha ha ha. I said it was good, I didn't say it was clean. What's that? You say you wanted chopped pork?

Supposedly, barbecue was first used for the most
problematic of all meats - human flesh.

    Now if my barbecue kung-fu is righteous, there won't be any need for sauce whatsoever, though I do admit I occasionally mix a little sweet pickle juice with a bit o’ mustard and some hot sauce, just for squirtin' and dippin'.

Sweet Pickle Juice
Mustard
Hot Sauce

    I also like to garnish my sammich with a little creamy coleslaw. There. Does real pork barbecue take time, effort, patience, and custom gear? Yeah. Is it worth it? [with his mouth full] See you next time on Good Eats.

[crew rushes in and begins taking down AB's trailer]

AB: Hey, where's all my ...

SCENE 16
Inside The Oven Via Oven Cam

    [in a whispered tone] I don't wanna say this with the barbecue purists around but if you don’t want to take the time to smoke your Boston butt for 12 hours. Just smoke it for two maybe three hours then wrap it in heavy-duty foil and slide it into a 300 degree oven. It’ll be done in about 4 more hours. Pretty good, huh? Just don't tell anybody, okay ? Okay. Bye.

Smoke 2-3 hrs.
Wrap In Heavy-Duty Foil
300° Oven For 4 hrs.

horizontal rule

Transcription by Mario Garcia
Proof Read By ???

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010