There is perhaps no activity is more indigenous to summertime in America than the backyard barbecue. A Weber grill, well-stoked with charcoal and emitting fragrant, smoky aromas of, say, some grilled, 1-1/2 inch-thick New York strips, or a grill-roasted beer-can chicken, or maybe a couple of racks of baby backs slowly smoking all afternoon, is as American as surrogate moms, sugar-free, low-fat apple pie, and a pre-bankruptcy General Motors product.
But what of us apartment-dwelling proletariats who live in one of Alameda’s late 19th-century fire-traps with a conflagration-paranoid landlord who wears a smoke detector on his head and has fire extinguishers duct-taped to his legs?
As Seinfeld’s soup Nazi might say, “No Smoky Joe for you, babalou” There are then but two choices: Settle for some of the local uninspired, inconsistent commercial ‘cue, or turn your good old home oven into a Texas BBQ pit.
Real BBQ is nothing more than seasoned meat, usually beef or pork, covered and slowly cooked over a slow fire that flavors the meat with its smoke.
Although replicating the smoke is difficult in a home oven (unless it’s as grungy as mine), the smoke flavors won’t be missed if zingy sauces, rubs or mops (bastes) are used to season the meat. This is also a good way to avoid the nasty carcinogens present in wood and charcoal smoke. It’s best to avoid the chemical smoke substitutes; they tend to add an acrid, chemical harshness to the flavor mix. Here are some recipes for real Texas BBQ without the ‘cue.
Without the ‘Cue BBQ Beef
1/4 lb beef roast (chuck, eye of round or sirloin tip)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups Coca Cola (not diet!)
1 3/4 cups ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut slits all over the roast. Stuff each slit with slices of garlic. Season roast well with salt and pepper. In a heavy skillet over medium- high heat, brown roast well on all sides in oil. Remove roast from skillet, and blot off fat. Place roast in a foil-lined pan. Pour Coke and ketchup over roast, then drizzle with Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Cover pan loosely with foil, then place in oven and cook for 3 hours. This roast will be very tender with a nice, garlicky BBQ taste.
Without the ‘Cue BBQ Ribs
2 racks pork ribs, regular or baby back
BBQ sauce of choice (Bull’s Eye Original is good)
Heavy aluminum foil
Pull any silverskin and excess fat off the ribs. Cut the racks in half vertically. Tear off 4 pieces of foil that are about 6 inches longer than the rib sections. Coat the ribs all over with sauce, then wrap each section tightly with foil, and place in the fridge for 24 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the rib sections in the oven with the foil seams facing up, and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the ribs from the oven and turn on the broiler. Remove the ribs from the foil, smother with more BBQ sauce, and place on a broiler pan and broil close to the flame a couple of minutes on each side until the sauce is bubbly. With a sharp knife, slice the meat between each bone about halfway down and serve ribs immediately.
Without the ‘Cue BBQ Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken half-breasts
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups BBQ sauce of choice. (Bull’s Eye Original is good)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy, ovenproof skillet (not cast iron) over high heat until oil begins to smoke. Brown the chicken until light golden on each side, 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Pour the fat from the skillet, and off the heat, add the BBQ sauce, stirring up any browned goodies on the bottom of the skillet. Simmer the sauce, over medium heat, for 2 minutes, stirring often. Off the heat, add the chicken to the sauce, and turn each piece so it is thickly coated, spooning sauce over each piece. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until the thickest part of each breast reaches 130 degrees, about 12 minutes. Then set the oven to broil and cook about 6-10 minutes longer, until thickest parts of the breasts reach 160 degrees. Transfer chicken to a plate and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sauce in the skillet, and transfer to a bowl. Serve the chicken, and pass the sauce.