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Five Rookie Mistakes to Avoid when Barbecuing

Part of the BBQ Sauces, Rubs and Marinades For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Mistakes are bound to happen as you explore barbecue cooking, but they are a part of the BBQ adventure. Here are five rookie mistakes to avoid:

  • Being in a hurry. If you want fast, cook a grilled cheese. If you want barbecue, chill out. Slow is the essence of barbecue. Cooking at low temperatures for a goodly amount of time is what makes barbecue barbecue and makes the meat melt in your mouth.

    Before you cook, put some thought into how much time you're going to need, how you want to season or sauce your product, and the sides you want to serve with it. Good planning makes you less likely to get distracted when your meat needs you most.

  • Taking meat from fridge to fire. Putting meat onto the grate right from the refrigerator adds a lot of cold air to your smoker, and that's likely to lead to condensation of creosote from the charcoal. The creosote floats up via the smoke and onto your meat, adding an undesirable flavor and texture. So let your meat sit at room temperature for about an hour before cooking. Most recipes count on your doing so and advise cooking times that are based on the meat starting at about room temperature.

    Letting meat rest at room temperature for more than an hour is a bad idea. When it gets too warm, it also becomes susceptible to bacteria.

  • Adding sauce too early. Two mainstays of barbecue sauces, sugar and tomatoes, have low heat tolerance and cook faster than meat. Apply these types of sauces too early and you'll end up with a burnt, black, crackling coating before the meat is done. So wait until the meat is almost finished cooking before you add a sweet sauce with tomatoes. A minute or two on each side of the meat over a low to moderate flame is all the time the sauce needs to add taste and texture.

  • Poking holes into the meat. Don't use a fork to move the meat. You want to keep the precious juices inside the meat, so use tongs. Stab it, and you provide a sure route for the juices to ooze out, taking with them any hope you had for great barbecue.

  • Forgetting rest time: Slice into meat before giving it a chance to rest, and you lose almost half the juices. Meat juices go where the heat is lowest, so give them a chance at your cutting board and they run for it. Allow the meat to rest after you take it off the heat: The juices will be reabsorbed by the proteins that set them free in the first place. Cut into a well-rested piece of meat, and you find tender juiciness rather than a puddle around your desiccated pork chop.

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