How to Make Perfect Barbecue — And More!

Labor Day is fast approaching, and it’s best to start getting ready now.  It’s a great day to invite over a few friends — up to but not exceeding the legal limit — to relax, and to celebrate the day with you in a socially responsible manner.

The key to a Labor Day celebration is, of course, barbecue.  By barbecue I mean pork butts or shoulders cooked over charcoal and hickory.  You can find a tried and true illustrated, step-by-step guide to making the perfect barbecue here.  All you have to do is follow the directions and your guests will spread flowers in your path.

7 4 16 2 grills

That photo was taken in the halcyon days before COVID, immediately prior to the flower-spreading.

I figure about a pound of pork per person.  I always have some left over, and that’s by design.  That way I’m sure to avoid the shame of having someone leave our house hungry, and that our guests get to eat plenty of the world’s 8th most nutritious food.  (Really.  See here.)  And that way I have some more barbecue for another day.  You can reheat leftover barbecue according to these directions.

Pork barbecue likes some sauce, specifically a vinegar-based sauce that balances the richness of the meat.  Same with brisket.  This isn’t just me, it’s a scientific matter of chemical reaction.  See also here.  Please, don’t waste all of that time and effort with a sugary sauce that drowns the flavor.  If you want something sweet, try this delicious cake.  You better get cracking if you want to get the ideal sauce, Ollie’s Barbecue Sauce, in time.  If that’s not an option, follow the recipe for barbecue sauce here, or you may be able to find some Scott’s.  Harris Teeter usually has it.

You will also need hamburger-style buns for at least some of your guests.  Get either those real cheap supermarket buns or Martin’s Potato Rolls.  No fancy breads and, please, please, no brioche rolls.  Not with barbecue.  And — listen up, this is important — you should have available a bowl of hamburger dill pickle chips, and another bowl of chopped raw cabbage (not slaw) with which you and your guests can top the barbecue sandwiches.  Each offers a great texture and a taste counterpoint to the pork.  Try a sandwich each way, and let me know what you think.

You’ll probably want some slaw as a side, and some potato salad.   Here is the recipe for the perfect potato salad to go along with pork barbecue.  You can find a great recipe for Brunswick Stew here, although you probably will have to substitute for one of the ingredients.  You also can use this recipe from Parker’s Barbecue.

As with any holiday, the most important thing is to recognize and appreciate the immense contributions of laborers and the labor movement to our lives, health, and safety.  Now particularly, we should feel and demonstrate appreciation for the workers who grow and those who prepare the food we eat, who make the clothes we wear, who build the homes in which we live, and who provide the power that transports, lights, heats, and cools us.  They quite literally make our lives possible.  Each of us should always remember that and honor them.

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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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