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Tribune-Review article published on June 26, 2012....

Where there's smoke, there’s barbecue
By Olga Watkins
Published: Tuesday, June 26, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Ask a room full of people from different parts of the country for the definition of barbecue, and you can expect nothing but to be confused as a result of their answers.

Webster’s defines barbecue as a whole or split steer or large animal cooked over an open fire, and a social gathering where barbecued food is eaten.

In Kansas, BBQ is a specific type of sweet and smoky sauce that is served on a variety of types of slow-cooked, smoked meats. In Memphis, BBQ means ribs that are cooked with a dry rub or wet sauce, but it also refers to smoked meat or pulled pork on a sandwich bun.

In eastern North Carolina, it is the process of cooking a whole hog and serving it with a thin, vinegar-based sauce. But in western North Carolina, BBQ involves only the pork shoulder and a thicker, sweeter, tomato-based sauce. Most of South Carolina BBQ involves a whole, smoked hog, except for southern coastal regions, where pork shoulders and hams are commonly used.

Texas boasts at least four distinctly different regional types of BBQ, which regional types of BBQ, which include mesquite wood-smoked beef, mutton and goat in the west, and sweet, hickory-smoked beef in the east.

And, that’s only a sampling of our national BBQ appetite.

There is, however, one essential component in all forms and variations of barbecue, and that is smoke.

A commonly held belief among food historians is that the word “barbecue” was derived from the Taino language of the Arawakan Indians in the West Indian Islands from a word that sounded like “barbacoa” to the Spanish explorers who landed there.

The West Indian barbacoa was not the finished food product, but the wooden frame erected over a low, smoldering fire for the purposes of drying and preserving meat. The word first appeared in the Spanish dictionary in 1526 and then in the Dictionary of the English Language in 1755.

Thoughtfully and skillfully prepared barbecue, regardless of its geographical origin, includes complex layers of spicy, smoky, savory and/or sweet flavors of slow-cooked meats that melt in your mouth.

If you’ve watched barbecue shows or dramatically televised barbecue competitions, you may be a little intimidated by the thought of attempting this cooking method at home. But, it is a fairly straightforward process that requires more patience than anything.

Local barbeque guru J.P. Mackovich of Two Brothers BBQ in Collier took some time from his busy BBQ business to show us how you can achieve expert results with your backyard grill and his foolproof method for pulled pork.

Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be the undisputed grill master and barbecue champion at this year’s Fourth of July cookout. Plan to start this process one to two days in advance of your event or cookout.


First, you will need the following:

• A gas or charcoal grill with a small bag of high-quality, slow-burning charcoal or a backup gas tank
• A 2-pound bag of wood chips — your choice of hickory, apple, cherry, mesquite, etc.
• Heavy-duty aluminum foil
• 6 half-sheet size deep aluminum pans
• 1 meat injector (These range in price from $6 to $60 and are available everywhere from Giant Eagle to
• Sturdy kitchen tongs or meat forks or kitchen latex/vinyl gloves

• An instant-read thermometer


Olga Watkins is the head chef at Hollywood Gardens in Rochester, Pa., and leader of the Olga Watkins Band.


Pork and Apple BBQ


According to J.P. Mackovich, the real secret of great BBQ is to match your wood chips to your marinade, your marinade to your dry rub and your dry rub to your sauce.


In other words, if you want a sweeter finished product, use a sweet marinade and apple or cherry wood chips with a sweet dry rub and sauce.


For a savory or spicy finished product, use hickory or mesquite wood chips with a matching style of dry rub and sauce.

There are thousands of premade dry rubs and dry-rub recipes available. Use your favorite, or try one that fits the flavor you’d like to enjoy in the cooked meat. The same can be said of sauces. You can buy or make a sauce according to what results you’d like to achieve.


Apples and pork are a classic pairing. For Mackovich’s pulled pork, he chose an injected apple juice as his marinade, a sweet-and-spicy dry rub, apple wood chips and a sweet and spicy sauce.


Note: You can substitute a favorite cut of beef for this recipe. This cooking method can be used to prepare burgers, sausages, hot dogs and chicken. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees for medium doneness. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees for boneless cuts and 180 degrees for bone-in cuts.


1 (two-pack) bone-in pork butts (approximately 6 pounds each, average)

1 quart apple juice

2 cups dry rub

1 bottle (24 ounces) sauce

Sandwich buns


Empty the bag of wood chips into a bowl and cover the chips with cold water. The chips should soak for a minimum of 1 hour, but, ideally, for 24 hours.


Transfer the pork butts to a pan and use the injector to evenly distribute the apple juice throughout both pieces of pork. Discard any leftover apple juice.


Rub all but the fat side of both pork butts with all of the dry rub seasoning. Cover the pork and return it to the refrigerator to marinate while you set up the grill.


If using a gas grill, turn only one side of the grill onto low. If using a charcoal grill, set up a small but compact pile of charcoal on only one side of your grill and light it.


One half of a small bag of good charcoal should suffice. For charcoal grills, you will begin the rest of the process when the coals have already burned brightest and are producing steady heat from glowing embers.


When the grill is heated to 250 degrees, remove half of the wood chips from the water and transfer them to one of the aluminum half-sheet pans. Then double the pan so you have 2 layers of pan between the wood chips and the grill. Place the pan of wood chips on the lighted or hot side of the grill.


Place the pork butts on the cool side of the grill with the fat side down (fat side touching the grill grates) and cover the grill.

The chips will start to smoke when they begin to heat to the proper temperature. If the wood chips have been soaked long enough, you will, at some point, see a lot of smoke.


Do not be alarmed, this is a good thing. What you don’t want to see is fire. Fire will cause the meat to burn and cook too quickly. Fire should never touch the meat in this process.


Add a handful of wood chips every hour for about 5 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 162 degrees to 165 degrees. Use the rest of the soaked wood chips throughout this 5-hour period of time.


As you add the wood chips each hour, you can switch the position of the pork butts so that they trade places with one another, keeping the fat sides down. This will ensure that neither is too close to the hot part of the grill.


After the pork butts have reached 162 degrees to 165 degrees, remove them from the grill and wrap each in two large pieces of aluminum foil, crisscrossing the foil so the meat is completely covered and tightly sealed.


Return the wrapped pork butts to the grill, this time with the fat side up.


Continue to cook the wrapped pork on the grill for 2 hours to 4 hours, or until the internal temperature of the pork has reached 206 degrees to 210 degrees. At this temperature, the muscle fibers in the meat should be broken down, and the finished product should be extremely tender.


You do not need to add wood chips to the pan after the meat has been wrapped. Just position both pieces of meat equidistant from the hot end of the grill and try to ignore them for the next 2 hours, checking only to ensure that your heat is consistently at 250 degrees.


When the meat has reached an internal temperature of 206 degrees to 210 degrees, remove it from the grill and allow it to rest in a high-sided pan for about 15 minutes. Double the remaining 4 aluminum pans so that you have 2 doubled pans.


Unwrap each pork butt and dump one, juice included, into each of the doubled pans. Drain any remaining juice from the resting pan evenly into each aluminum pan.


It’s time to pull apart the pork. If properly prepared, the meat should basically fall apart at this point. Remove what is left of the thick layer of fat from one side of each butt and discard it.


Use sturdy kitchen tongs or meat forks or quadruple gloved hands — kitchen latex or vinyl gloves — to pull the meat apart and mix it with its juice until it is broken down into very small pieces.


You can then mix the meat with the sauce or serve the sauce on the side.


Serve the hot pulled pork immediately on sandwich buns, or cover tightly and refrigerate.


To reheat, cover the aluminum pans with heavy-duty foil. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat the pork at 325 degrees for 40 minutes to 50 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees.


Keep it warm in a chafing dish or crock pot that is set to low. If using a chafing dish, make sure there is sufficient water (about 3 inches in depth) in the bottom pan so it maintains a slightly lower level of heat and doesn’t cause the meat to dry out or overcook.


Makes 24 to 32 servings, depending on bun size. Mackovich teaches BBQ classes on occasion.