Now that the weather has warmed up and the Memorial Day weekend will soon be arriving, thoughts turn to the great outdoors and that large appliance that sits on everyone’s back patio – the barbecue grill.
Whether you have one of those fancy-schmancy gas grills or make do with a simple round charcoal Weber, there’s no denying that barbecue is a national pastime.
Actually, tho… a lot of what most Americans do isn’t true barbecuing, but instead it is grilling – slapping some steaks or burgers or brats on a hot grill and cooking it fairly rapidly over fairly high heat. Barbecuing uses lower temperatures, often with indirect heat, to slowly cook the meat while allowing the smoke to give it that special flavor. Grilling tends to be used more for expensive, tender, thinner cuts of meat that can cook quickly (such as t-bone steaks), while barbecuing is intended for the thicker, tougher, less expensive cuts of meat such as brisket, which require lengthy cooking in order to become tender.
But regardless of whether you grill (as most people do) or barbecue, getting some friends together in the back yard to chat, drink beer, and savor some outdoor cooking can be a lot of fun.
I used to live in Kansas City, one of those places that is known for its barbecue. While spending my years there, I picked up a recipe or two for making your own barbecue sauce. Barbecue sauces vary all over the country – those in the South and especially along the coast tend to be more vinegary, while in the West they are more tomato-based. Kansas City sauce is usually rather rich, tangy, and spicy.
Here is my recipe for a traditional Kansas City style barbecue sauce:
4 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup molasses
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup honey
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
- Combine all ingredients in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to blend well. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure sauce does not scorch.
- This sauce will keep for several weeks in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
Makes about 10 cups.
Kansas City barbecue is traditionally basted in sauce while cooking, as well as afterwards. However, bear in mind that there’s a big difference between basting while barbecuing, and basting while grilling. In addition, the sauces used in basting meats for barbecuing are not necessarily the same sauce you will put on your meat before eating. The above recipe can be used for basting…IF you are doing a long and slow smoke cooking over indirect heat, lasting at least a few hours.
On the other hand, if you’re doing more of a fast and hot direct heat grilling, I recommend that you wait til the last stage of cooking to slather on the sauce, as the sugars in this sauce (molasses, honey, etc.) can easily make it burn, which doesn’t taste so good. If you’re going to use it on grilled chicken, for example…wait until your chicken is about finished, and then baste with the sauce during the last 5 – 10 minutes of cooking. Serve it on the side also, to pour over your meat before eating. (By the way…here’s a tip – I tend to boil my chicken or cook it in the microwave first til it’s fairly done, and then put it out on the grill for the final cooking to give it that outdoor grilled flavor.)
Here’s another sauce recipe:
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbs. onion salt
1-1/2 tsp. celery seeds
1-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 cups tomato ketchup
1/4 cup white vinegar; more to taste
2 Tbs. prepared yellow mustard
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
4 Tbs. butter, cubed and chilled
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (You may want to have a lid handy to protect yourself and your kitchen from any splattering.) Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 min., stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated.
This sauce works pretty much like the first one, but it’s a more traditional sauce that isn’t quite so sweet. However, the butter does give it a certain richness. It’s also not quite as spicy.
But whichever sauce you prefer, whatever method you use, and the choice of meat preferred, cooking outdoors can definitely be fun. So gather your friends around, fire up that grill, prepare those sides (baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw, corn on the cob, etc.), and be sure to have plenty of cold drinks handy.
Pardon me while I go help myself to some more ribs…