BBQ: What Makes It So Good?

Just about everyone enjoys a good barbecue. Maybe you enjoy smoking your own meat, or maybe you are just a huge fan of supporting BBQ restaurants, food trucks, and caterers. What exactly makes barbecued meats so addictively delectable?

The Marinade

Meat can be infused with virtually endless flavor combinations, but every good marinade must have three basic components.

  • Fat: A fat source is necessary to penetrate the fat-soluble meat. This can be olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, or any other vegetable-based oil. You can even use whole milk or yogurt as the fat source. In addition to fat serving as the penetration vehicle, it helps to keep your meat moist.
  • Acid: The acid not only adds flavor, but the enzymes in your acid choice also help to break down the tough connective tissues in meat, thus acting as a tenderizer. Good acid choices are fruit juices, particularly pineapple or papaya, as they have extra enzymes that help tenderize the meat; beer and wine; flavored vinegars; and buttermilk.
  • Spices and Seasoning: This is what determines the final flavoring. A marinade frequently has onions, garlic, or shallots as the base, which is then built upon with fresh herbs, dried or fresh chile peppers, and spices, like ginger or cinnamon. The zest from citrus fruits can also be used.

Sometimes a sugar source is added to balance the acid out. This can be things like honey, brown sugar, molasses, or maple syrup. Sugars should only be added to marinades for meats that are going to be cooked low and slow, though, like a pork roast; it will caramelize nicely. Do not use in marinades for meat that will be cooked over high heat, such as a steak; it will burn.

The fat-to-acid ratio should be 3:1. Tender meats, like fish, only need 30-60 minutes to marinate, whereas chicken and pork can be marinated from 4-12 or more hours. Be certain to not re-use any marinade as a sauce, as it has been contaminated by the raw meat. It must be thrown out. If you want to have a barbecue sauce to impart additional flavor as it cooks and to use as a sauce, create a new marinade or sauce to use.

The Cooking Method

Smoking and grilling meats over charred coals and flames stimulates the limbic system in the brain. This system, deep in the brain, is responsible for the sense of smell, emotions, and nostalgic memory storage. Just as virtually everyone enjoys sitting around a bonfire, barbecued meats evoke and stimulate the inner caveman. Smoke and heat was also once used to preserve meat. Simply put, most people love barbecued meats because it is in our genes.

If you find yourself craving barbecue, check out local restaurants like Grumpy's Bar B Que Roadhouse.