Make Perfect Barbecue for Christmas

Okay, you cooked a turkey at Thanksgiving, and you’re ready to try something else for Christmas dinner.  Or perhaps you’r trying to decide what to have to ring in the New Year.

The answer, as so often is the case, is barbecue.  But how do you make perfect barbecue?  Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place.  Here is a reprise of an earlier post on a fool-proof method of cooking pork butts or shoulders.  Since we’re in the bleak midwinter, you’ll want to pay special attention to Step 4, Adjusting to Inclement Weather, but don’t be daunted.   I used this system for years making my food contribution to the office Christmas I Mean Holiday Party.

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Memorial Day is coming up, and that means the opening of Prime Home-Cooked Barbecue Season.  For your convenience, I’ve gathered together a series of posts describing the five — well, six — steps involved in making perfect barbecue.  They give you a detailed guide, and now you have them all in one convenient place.  Follow these steps and you’ll make some great barbecue.

Note:  This procedure involves pork barbecue, and specifically pork butts or shoulders.  Different techniques are involved in cooking beef briskets or whole hogs.  We’ll get to them in the fullness of time.

Here are five steps posted separately on Independence Day, 2016, with notes on what is discussed in detail in each post:

1.  Getting started.   Buying and trimming the meat, using the proper equipment, starting the fire, adding hickory, adding the meat, setting the vents.  Note: never let the coals flare: flames are the enemy.  And hickory is your friend.

2. Watching and adjusting.  Checking the coals, testing the temperature regularly, adjusting the vents.  Note: never let the coals flare: flames are the enemy.  And hickory is your friend.

3. Adding more hickory.   Detailed procedure for adding more hickory, more temperature testing, vent adjustments.  Note: never let the coals flare: flames are the enemy.  And hickory is your friend.

4. Adjusting to inclement weather.  How to deal with rain, high winds, winter weather, and (most likely) extremely hot and humid weather.  Note: never let the coals flare: flames are the enemy.  And hickory is your friend.

5. The nearly finished product.  Frequent checking, additional hickory, and final vent adjustment.  (Although lots of the guests want to see the finished product after you close the vents, so the fire continues to get air.  It cools a good bit and keeps the meat warm, but is very slow to go out.)

Things got busy once the guests arrived, what with greeting 67 guests, keeping the coolers full, testing all of the appetizers, and then serving the pork and testing all the rest of the food.  I never got around to writing about serving the barbecue, so the following is from Memorial Day, 2016.

6.  Serving the finished product.   Serve one butt at a time.  Pull and chop the meat in front of the guests in a very rough chop.  Be careful with the knife, as people just will reach in and grab a stray chunk, and blood can add an unpleasant iron taste to the meat.  Serve with a good sauce, ideally Ollie’s Barbecue Sauce, on Martin’s Potato Rolls or hamburger buns with sliced pickles (hamburger chips, please), and/or roughly chopped raw cabbage.

Disclaimer:  The barbecue will be great, but perhaps not actually perfect the first time you make it, but it’ll be very good and it will get better and better every time.  Go ahead and get started.

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And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.

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