Memorial Day Barbecue, Stately Tanner Manor, Washington, DC: The Cooking Begins

It’s 10:00 a.m. and people are coming over at 6:00, which means that we’ll eat somewhere close to 7:00.  It’s time to start cooking.

When grilling most things — steaks, chicken, burgers — I wait until all of the coals are fully engaged before I empty the smokestack starter onto the grate.*  That creates far too hot a fire for barbecue.  For barbecue, I empty the smokestack when maybe half of the coals are engaged.  And — this is really important — I spread the hot coals across the entire bottom of the grill.

mem day coals

I add the hickory chunks.

meme day chunks

I put the grill on and add the pork, fat side up.  It is directly over hot coals.

mem day meat on

I put on the lid and close the vents almost entirely.

meme day vents

No indirect cooking here.  I want the fat to drip down onto the coals.  Adding the wet hickory lowers the temperature temporarily, and it stays low because of the limited oxygen available.  When the pork fat drips onto the coals under those conditions, the fat does not flare.  It creates pork fat smoke.   That adds flavor and helps keep the temperature down.  Low and slow.  And as Sam Jones says, “Pork fat is proof that God loves us.”

Once things are set, I start soaking a bunch of hickory chips.

mem day chips


*When I’m cooking steaks or burgers, I use hardwood chunks instead of the Kingsford briquets.  The chunks make for a hotter fire so you can have rare meat with a good crust.

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