Smoking Meat, American Style

Smoking Meat, American StyleI have to say that I am not really aware of traditional American food, but a friend recently told me that what I think of barbeque is not the same things as what she knows. She said that most of what we eat, like hamburgers and hotdogs, is considered grilling. It’s a type of barbeque, but it is not what she grew up with at all. Apparently, there is another type of barbecue that is particularly prized in the South that is called smoking. This type requires a lot of time over low heat and with wood chips to create a smoky flavor. I have to admit hat I didn’t even know that such a thing existed.

I asked her what the taste was like, and she told me that it was really regionally specific so it is a little hard to explain. Apparently barbeque traditions are so strong in some areas that there are subcultures built around them. Different areas have their own sauces, which have different thicknesses, sweetness levels and spices. Also, people from different areas even use different meats, for instance some places in the American South, like North Carolina, would use pork, and barbeque it “whole hog” with a thin vinegar-based sauce. In many of the “Southern” styles of barbeque they eat coleslaw as a side dish. This is a tangy tasting cabbage salad.

A Texan, however, would have one of four main styles, and they really love something called brisket. As an example of one of the styles, in the eastern part of the state they use beef or pork with hickory wood for flavor. They then chop it and serve it on a bun with a sweet and thick sauce. My friend is from Texas and she says that this is her favorite type, but even in Texas the barbeque is completely different from one place to the next. One thing though, is that Texans usually eat potato salad and pinto beans with their barbeque instead of coleslaw.

Since this is a completely new cooking method for me, I started looking around to try to find out what it is all about. My friend told me that the easiest was to start is with a good electric smoker because they are easy to clean and the temperature stays even. I read a bit about smoking and it is amazing. Smoking takes a long time! The meat has to rest in a dry rub of spices for a while and then smoke for many, many hours. Having said that, it seems like with an electric smoker it is okay to just let it work on its own. Can you imagine if you had to constantly watch your food cook and add fuel for 9 or 10 hours! Some people still do it that way, and the people who do treat it so seriously that they have major competitions.

My friend said it is delicious and that Southerners are very proud of their barbequing. Anyway, it was an interesting thing to learn about and I am going to have to try that style of food someday.