Jul 5, 2011

Lip Smackin BBQ

Nothing says the 4th of July like fireworks and BBQ!  We had plenty of both this weekend and the BBQ was all home made by yours truly.  We weren't going to let a little rain wash out our chance for enjoying the 4th with a cook out consisting of Pulled Pork, Brisket, baked beans, cornbread, potato salad and corn on the cob.....Lip Smacking good. I am not a competition BBQ'er so there will be no secrets given out in this post - just some sharing of things I learned and enjoy that hopefully give you something to try or a place to start with your own BBQ.

My WSM ready for action

I've always enjoyed cooking, almost as much as eating and getting into smoking some delicious BBQ was just the next step in my food travels.  I always enjoy something cooked over a charcoal or wood fire and just thought doing my own BBQ was too much so I limited myself to a gas grill and a charcoal grill - well until about 8 years ago when I ventured into smoking with the purchase of my first smoker -  Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet (WSM).  I went with the WSM based on the success that a friend had getting started and both of us owe that start to a website called The Virtual Weber Bullet which claims to be the source for WSM cooker information and discussion on the web.  I'd have to agree that it is.  This forum is loaded with great information on the WSM and other weber products but also has great information on how to get started, meat selection and prep to a great forum loaded with recipes of all kinds.  It's a must stop for anyone that plans on cooking on a grill or smoker.

Baby Backs on the WSM

I tell people that my WSM is like a ronco product - set it and forget it, but it is a little more involved than that.  Every time I do some BBQ I am really amazed at well it holds temps and how easy it is to operate.  All my BBQ is done on a WSM only because I can't afford one of the giant offset smokers.....YET!

The big three were on the menu for this weekend, pork butts, brisket and ribs.  All good BBQ starts out with a good piece of meat and I'm lucky to have a couple of local meat packing operations near by so finding those good pieces of meat isn't difficult.  I prefer bone in Pork Butts, whole briskets and Baby back ribs.  My family prefers spare ribs over baby backs so they win out most of the time.

14lb brisket lightly trimmed and ready for mariunade

16lbs of bone in Pork Butts ready for Rub
I've tried many different prep methods, rubs, sauces and wood when I first started out and it didn't take long to find a combination that everyone liked and it is still my go to plan when I am not in the mood for trying somethign new or being creative, but the nice thing about doing your own BBQ is you can make it the way YOU like it and make it better.

My BBQ rub on the left, Old No.2 on the right

Now that you have a good piece of meat you need a good rub and a good rub starts with good spices.  I've done the whole grind your own spices, but I'm fortunate enough to live just 20 minutes from the Spice Mill so I can swing in and pick up what I need or have some custom blends made for me at anytime.   When I first started I used a Basic Rub right out of Steven Raichlen's "How to Grill" book and over the course of the years I still use the basics of this rub but have adjusted it to my family's taste.  I like more of  sweet BBQ and don't like the heavy spicy seasoning which is easy to do if you are doing everything yourself.  I have and still purchase rubs from others and one of my all time favorites for brisket is Old No. 2 from TexasBBQRub.com.  I've gotten so addicted to this rub on my brisket that I refuse to try and duplicate it and won't smoke a brisket without it anymore.  Matter of fact, I need to stock up on this soon.

Ribs being prepped, slathered in Mustard and then sprinkled with rub

Pork Butts ready for a rest in the fridge

With the meat and rub all squared away I think about any prep work to the meat.  I am on the light trim train.  If I have a good piece of meat, then I do very little trimming and when I do trim it is only to make things consistent.   Some folks don't do anything but add rub and slap it on the smoker while others get creative with liquids and such from injections to wet rubs.  For me I again keep it simple here.  I do marinade my brisket for 8-10 hours in a liquid consisting of red wine, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and spices and I will never do a brisket again without letting it soak in this bath of goodness.  For my butts they just get a light coat of yellow mustard and a generous blanket of rub and wrapped up in plastic for a rest in the fridge.  My ribs get the same treatment as the pork butts.

After the rest in the fridge I remove the brisket and let it sit at room temp for an hour or two and then lightly coat it in some more Worcestershire sauce and then coat it in Old No2. rub.  The pork butts and ribs get un-wrapped and another generous sprinkle of rub.  Now everything is ready for the smoker.

Brisket all coated up in Old No.2 and ready for the smoker

Butts are ready for the smoker

I only use lump charcoal in my WSM.  Many folks will use standard old briquettes from Kingsford or Royal Oak in their smokers even thought many people claim you can't tell the difference between hardwood lump charcoal and briquettes I'm convinced I can so why change.  I prefer Wicked Good Lump charcoal but have used others like Ozark Oak and  Nature's Own Lump Charcoal.  What you use may depend on what you can get locally but many of the lump charcoals out there are available for purchase over the internet.  For a great review of the different brands check out the lump charcoal review on the Naked Whiz website.  There is some great stuff to be learned on this site.  I use a method I learned from the virtualweberbullet.com known has the Minion Method which starts with a full load of unlit charcoal and smoking wood in which you had some light charcoal to prior to assembling the smoker and it will run for hours - depending on the charcoal normally 10-12 hours straight.

Now good BBQ needs time to cook at a low temp - normally in and around the 225 degree mark so plan accordingly as low and slow is the theme with good lip smacking BBQ.   When smoking brisket and butts together it can take anywhere from 14 - 18 hours so I usually and doing my smokes over night and to do so either I stay up awake all night or invest in some tools like the Maverick ET-73 remote thermometer from Maverick Industries.  This little device is a life saver and makes getting some sleep possible on an overnight smoke which allows me to monitor the meat and smoker temps from inside my bed.  Setting a hi/lo temp alarms for the smoker will ensure I get woken up if things get out of whack.  Of course for some staying up all night and tending the smoker is part of the fun.  Me I like my sleep so I am refreshed when I put the feed bag on.

Finished Brisket with point removed - Point goes back on the smoker

Finished butt ready for a rest in the warm cooler
As far as smoking wood goes, I've have oak, mesquite, apple, cherry, pecan and hickory on had at all times.  For pork I prefer the fruit woods which will be a combination for cherry and apple.   For beef I prefer the hickory and a little mesquite but be care with it.  This is another great thing about doing your own BBQ as you can control the level of smoke and the flavor as well.  I've had BBQ in some restaurants that were just not edible because of the overpowering smokey flavor.

Sliced brisket - the picture doesn't do it justice

Brisket point shredded and soaked in Sweet Baby Rays

Pulled pork ready for the table

During the smoke I will rotate the meat and use a mop or spray to keep it moist and add flavor.  This can be something simple like some apple juice or another crazy concoction that you come up with.  Pork butts get cooked to an internal temperature of 195degrees while brisket goes for a 205degree temp.  For ribs it's all about the tear test, no temps taken here.  When the meat is done I make sure it gets a nice little rest wrapped all snug in aluminum foil and some liquid, usually what ever I was using during the cook, and then off to rest in a warm cooler.  You can hold butts and brisket fro 2-4 hours like this but make sure you stick a probe in in to keep track of the temp as they cool down.  This is a good article on holding, storing and reheating BBQ

Baked Bean sauce waiting ready for the beans and the pulled pork

Homemade Carolina mustard sauce

When you are ready to eat just open up the cooler and have at it.  I like to add a little liquid and some additional rub to my pulled pork as it sits in the pan but you can get creative with some finishing sauces as well which will add some additional flavor.  I don't eat my BBQ on anything other than a plate and a little dipping sauce on the side.  The meat and the rub should speak for itself so why cover it up with bread and sauce.   I prefer a Carolina Mustard sauce on my pork and Sweet Baby Ray's on my beef.  There are plenty of recipes out there for sauces so experiment and find something you and the family like.

Great place to start Basic BBQ Rub
Found in Steven Raichlen's Book How to Grill
1/4 cup Paprika
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
3 TBS Kosher Salt
3 TBS coarse black pepper
2 tsp Garlic Powder
2 tsp Onion powder
2 tsp celery seeds
1tsp Cayenne Pepper

Since I started making my own BBQ I am really reluctant to order it when out and about unless it is truly a BBQ pit because I like it the way I like it and I am afraid of being too critical when I eat someone's BBQ.  The one thing I truly love about making my own BBQ is that you can truly creat something you and the family enjoy, over and over and over again.

If you like BBQ and haven't tried making it yourself, then use the links in this post and get started and you will never look at BBQ the same way again.



  1. I've got to make some of that rub. Those are some nice hunks of meat!

  2. Oh what horrible timing. My smoker died awhile back and I'm going through withdrawal. Summer holidays aren't the same without something smoked...preferably ribs, brisket and/or fish. Perhaps the birthday fairy will deliver me one in a few weeks. Thanks for the tips, they are spot on. We've got get similar taste in styles and rubs and sauces. If you don't do fish yet, check out Windknots for a post called, I'm a proud smoker for some tips on smoking fish.

  3. Dang that looks good! I picked up a smoker about a month ago and so far all I've done is some salmon which turned out great. Might have to give some of this stuff a try.

  4. WOW! That beats the savages' Lobster, fluke, porgies, and clams! Nice holiday feast!

  5. Looks amazing. I love grilling/smoking! Can I come next year lol!

  6. I just won a smoker a month ago so this is prefect timing since I don't know what the heck I'm doing with it! haha. I can't wait to try your recipe out!

  7. I don't have the right equipment to do BBQ properly, but man does that look GOOD! I should look into getting a smoker. Dang!