Celebrating All Things Barbecue!

Jun 5th 2019

Let's barbecue!

“Barbecue” means different things to different people. Traditionally, the term has meant smoking meats either on a charcoal grill, wood smoker or wood burning pit. Others think about barbecue as a highly seasoned vinegar sauce. We think of barbecue more in terms of sauces, rubs, and marinades rather than slow cooking meat in smoke. Moreover, we don’t limit ourselves to meats. Plenty of sturdy vegetables can be marinated or doused in a good barbecue sauce.

Our thinking about barbecue in this way is for very practical reasons. Most of us don’t have the tools to smoke and since slow cooking meat in smoke is a long process, most of us don’t have the time. But we do have ovens, slow cookers, spices, and vinegars to make delicious meals from meats and vegetables!

While a plethora of commercially made sauces adorn the grocery store shelves, and some of them are reasonably tasty, they cannot compare to a homemade sauce, rub, or marinade. Most of them leave an unpleasant chemical fructose aftertaste which does not lend itself to satisfied finger licking.

If you like to test recipes as we do and research barbecue sauce recipes you will notice something a little curious. Many, if not most of the recipes available on-line do not specify what type of vinegar to use. But vinegars taste differently depending on what they are made of, how they are made and the length of time they are aged. Even commercial vinegars, as harsh tasting as they are, have their own flavor. If you substitute red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar in a recipe, you will get a noticeably different result in the finished product. To get the flavor you want, know the flavor of your vinegar.

Unlike North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and other states, there is confusion in the ranks of barbecue experts about whether or not Virginia has a well-defined barbecue sauce. This is rather liberating as it frees us to experiment without apology to tradition.

The recipes below are easy. They are designed with the busy cook in mind. Ingredients are generally “pantry” items – and the recipes do not require an inordinate amount of time. And as always, adjust seasonings to your taste!

Be on the lookout for more BBQ recipes all month long!

Ketchup Based Basic Barbecue Sauce

This is a sweet, rich, tangy sauce which is even better the next day. We prefer using dark brown sugar, but if all you have is light brown sugar, use that.

Blend together all the ingredients. Taste. If preferred add another tablespoon of dark brown sugar. This sauce can be dressed up or left as is. If you like more heat, add a couple of dashes of your favorite hot sauce. If you prefer it more savory, add a tablespoon of Worcestershire Sauce.

Mustard Based Basic Barbecue Sauce

Blend together. If you want to mimic North Carolina barbecue sauces add an element of heat. One suggestion is a couple of dashes of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce. It adds smokiness and heat but be sure and taste after each addition. (Don’t worry too much! If sauce becomes too hot – just add more sugar.)

Smoky Dry Rub

  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine ingredients and stir together until well blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Spicy Dry Rub

  • 3 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 3 teaspoons dark brown sugar

Combine all ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pulled Pork with Smokey Dry Rub and Ketchup Based Basic Barbecue Sauce

Pulled pork, which is typically made from a “Boston Butt” or more correctly, the pork shoulder, can be made in a slow cooker or oven. It can be cooked with or without a barbecue sauce. We like to cook the pork in the oven with a dry rub, adding the sauce after it is pulled. The spiciness of the dry rub combines well with the sweetness of the ketchup based basic barbecue sauce. Recipe serves 8 -10.

  • 1 Boston Butt (8-10 pounds)
  • Smokey Dry Rub (see recipe) double the recipe
  • Ketchup Based Basic Barbecue Sauce (see recipe)
  • good quality buns for serving
  • favorite Cole Slaw

Sprinkle the dry rub all over the Boston Butt and gently massage it into the meat. Wrap completely with plastic wrap and leave overnight. Preheat an oven to 300 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and discard. Place pork in a large pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Cook the pork for 7-8 hours or until falling apart. Remove excess fat and discard. Pull the pork apart with forks.

Place the pulled pork in a large pot and pour over the sauce until the pork is thoroughly coated. Gently reheat and serve with extra barbecue sauce (someone is bound to want more sauce), buns and Cole Slaw.

Incidentally, one of us started this recipe mid-afternoon. She was tired that day and wanted to go to bed early but the pork needed an hour or so more of cooking. She ended up turning off the oven and leaving the pork in the oven overnight. The next morning, the pork was falling apart tender (no forks needed to pull apart) and absolutely delicious!

Ribs With Rub and Mustard BBQ Sauce

Baby Back Ribs with Spicy Dry Rub and Mustard Based Basic Recipe

  • 1 rack of baby back ribs
  • Spicy Dry Rub (see recipe)
  • Mustard Based Basic Barbecue Sauce (see recipe)

Some cooks like removing the membrane from the back of the ribs. Others believe that it is unnecessary and adds to the chewiness of the end result. If you want to remove the membrane, turn the ribs over (so bone or rack side is facing up) and insert a sharp knife between the membrane and the flesh at one end of the ribs. Loosen the membrane until you can grab it. Using a paper towel or your hands, pull the membrane off the ribs and discard.

Massage the dry rub all over on both sides of the ribs. You can leave overnight or proceed to cooking. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil (for easy cleanup), place the ribs in the dish and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 2 hours.

After two hours, remove foil and up the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees. Using a brush or spoon, baste the ribs with the mustard sauce. After 15 minutes, baste again. After 15 more minutes, if you prefer a little more char, turn the broiler on. Watch the ribs closely to achieve your desired char. Grilling for a few minutes is another option.

Some cooks recommend finishing the ribs by sprinkling over a little salt and drizzling honey over them. Looks lovely! They are designed with the busy cook in mind. Ingredients are generally “pantry” items – and the recipes do not require an inordinate amount of time. And as always, adjust seasonings to your taste!

Creamy Dressing for Coleslaw      

What's barbecue without coleslaw? Time to chop some cabbage for a tasty BBQ side!

Combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you prefer your coleslaw dressing tangier add ½ teaspoon Heritage Blend White Vinegar and taste again. Repeat until you are happy!