Enjoy Some Great "Que"
Is it barbecue or barbeque, BBQ or Bar-B-Q or Bar-B-Que? Honestly, the choice is yours; all are correct. Then there is the question of method: do you barbecue food; do you smoke it; do you grill it? Confused? Well, let’s have a look. In the United States, the experts almost unanimously stand by the following definitions.
Grilling involves cooking food directly above the heat source. This is the method most commonly used in backyards across America. Charcoal, gas and electricity are common sources for supplying that heat. Grilling generally involves the use of marinades, salt, spices and herbs, and tomato-, sugar- and/or vinegar-based “barbecue sauce” to impart flavor. Grilling is quick, but because the temperature used is usually much too high, grilling often results in somewhat less tender, often dried-out and charred foods.
Barbecue on the other hand is mainly indirect cooking, where the food is not placed above the wood or charcoal heat source; gas and electricity are rarely used. Similarly, Smoking implies cooking the food away from the heat, by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering hardwoods, with charcoal, gas and electric as the heat source. Meat and fish are the most common foods used for barbecue and smoking, although hard cheeses, some vegetables and even course grained salt can be smoked. Smoked course sea salt makes a great ‘finishing’ salt.
In barbecuing and smoking (which are often performed simultaneously), a dry rub is often applied, quite generously, prior to cooking. Dry rubs are a combination of spices, herbs and other dry seasonings; the combinations are endless. All professional and many home cooks have their own ‘secret’ rub, the formula for which is closely guarded. A basting liquid may be used periodically to maintain moisture. Barbecuing and smoking are long, slow processes where the meat is flavored and tenderized by the process. Wet sauces are rarely used during the actual cooking period; if used, they are added at the very end, to prevent burning.
The Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) is one of the largest barbeque contest sanctioning organizations in the world, annually approving and judging more than 300 events throughout the United States. Barbecuing and smoking are the name-of-the-game at these competitions, where only fires using wood, wood pellets or charcoal are allowed; gas and electric heat sources are not permitted for cooking or holding the food.
Cooked entries are judged in four KCBS meat categories: Chicken, including Cornish Game Hen and Kosher Chicken; Pork Ribs (must include the bone; country style ribs are prohibited); Pork (defined as Boston Butt, Picnic and/or Whole Shoulder, weighing a minimum of five pounds); and Beef Brisket (corned beef is not allowed). Pork shall be cooked whole (bone in or bone out) and shall not be separated (pulled) during the cooking process.
The circuit of the KCBS competitive season runs throughout America from August through the following July. These competitions are judged by KCBS certified judges. Only qualified, Grand Champion winning teams, from KCBS certified “State Championships,” are invited to compete in the big-daddy of all KCBS sanctioned barbeque contests: the American Royal World Series of Barbecue Invitational, held in Kansas City. To qualify as a “state champion,” the local qualifying contest must hold a proclamation signed by the governor, declaring it a state championship contest.
In Missouri, a certified “State Championship” contest is held somewhere almost every week. These barbecue cook-offs are usually big events, with live music, crafts vendors, games and family activities. Plus, they are great places to experience Missouri and chow-down on some truly spectacular, down-home Que.
The American Royal World Series of Barbecue Invitational is the season finale for the American barbeque circuit. Taking up more than 20 acres in Kansas City’s historic Stockyards District, with nearly 500 competing teams from across America, The Royal is, without dispute, the largest barbecue contest in the world. Combined with a barbecue-related trade expo, this food festival truly lives up to its name: the “World Series of Barbecue.”
If you really love barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Que—well, whatever you prefer to call it—get out to one of these fantastic, family events. You can find one in Missouri almost any weekend, year-round. Heck, hit ‘em all and suck down some great American Que; you might even get some ideas to use at home. For a full list, go to the KCBS events page. Enjoy!