Q: How do I trim the fat off of meat?
A: First of all, fat is good. It will help keep the meat juicy for long cooking times. However, some large cuts of brisket have a very large fat cap that will not all render. You can trim some of the very thick areas a little, but never down to the meat. Pork shoulders usually do not need to be trimmed before cooking. Ribs have a membrane on the back side. I usually pull that off by sticking a butter knife under the membrane in the middle of the rack and pull it off in both directions at the same time. Or, you can take a sharp knife and score the membrane in a cross hatch manner several times so it will break apart when eaten.
Q: Why should I allow the meat to rest outside of the refrigerator before putting in the cooker?
A: Why should I allow the meat to rest outside of the refrigerator before putting in the cooker?
a-Allowing the meat to come to near room temperature makes for a more uniform cooking process. Keep in mind, you don’t want to let meat stand unrefrigerated too long and you certainly don’t want to set the meat outside or in the sun.
Q: How do I apply the rubs?
A: Applying rubs to any meat is easy. Generally, you want to do any trimming before applying a rub. It can be helpful to slather the meat in a light coat of yellow mustard before sprinkling on the rub. This will help it stick to the meat. For thin cuts of meat like ribs, a lighter coat of seasonings might be best. But for larger pieces of meat like brisket or pork shoulders, a generous coating of rub is best.
Q: Should I use charcoal, wood or gas to heat with?
A: This is usually a function of the style of cooker you have. Certainly all could be used as a heat source. If you do use gas, you really want to have some wood chips for smoke. You can buy a metal smoker box to put chips in and set it above the fire. Or wrap some chips in foil; poke toothpick sized holes in it to allow the smoke to come out. If you use charcoal, you can add wood chunks directly on the fire for some smoke flavor. Experiment with all sorts of wood…oak, hickory, apple, cherry…whatever you can get your hands on.
Q: How often should I check the meat?
A: If you are using a smoker or indirect heat, the less you open the lid the better. Heat and moisture will escape every time you do. A wired thermometer will be a great aid in knowing what your internal meat temperature is without opening the door.
Q: How do I know when the meat is done cooking?
A: There are 3 main factors in slow cooking, cut of meat, temperature, and time. Obviously something like brisket takes longer than ribs. The temperature of your cooker is important. Most barbecue is cooked between 225-250 degrees. Using an accurate thermometer is the best way to be sure of the proper temperature. The best was to test for doneness is to use a wired meat thermometer. Internal meat temperatures for brisket should be around 195-200, pulled pork 195, chicken 165, pork loin 145, ribs until they bend but don’t break when picked up in the middle.
Q: When should I add the sauce?
A: Sauce should be added at the very end of the cooking process. Most BBQ sauces have sugar and could burn if left on the meat too long. A good caramelization of the sauce/sugar is good, but too high of a heat will burn it. Alternately, you can serve warm sauce in a bowl for people to add on their own. Crazy as it sounds, some people like unsauced meat. But with a good rub, it’s ok to go dry.
Q: When should I slice or pull the meat once it is done cooking?
A: Meat needs to rest once you remove it from the cooker to allow the juices to flow back into the meat. If you slice or pull it too soon, you run the risk of the juices spilling out on the cutting board instead of staying in the meat. Pork shoulders are best pulled when they are still warm, but not too hot to handle. Once brisket has rested, use an electric knife or any long slicing knife.
Q: What should I do if the meat is done a couple hours before we’re ready to eat?
A: If you have cooked the meat, but are not ready to eat it yet, it can be wrapped in foil and then a towel and placed in a dry cooler. It will stay hot for quite a while that way. When you are ready to eat, you can take it out and slice or pull it.