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Author Archive: "Hillary Jordan"

The Church of Barbecue, Epistle III

Thou shalt not overcook thy meat. This is, as I was saying in my last epistle, one of the most fundamental commandments of the Barbecue God, and probably the one that man in his ignorance and imperfection has broken most often. When you're a guest at a barbecue, and your host asks you how you would like your steak cooked, do not answer, "medium," "medium well," or, God forbid, "well done." This is blasphemy, pure and simple. The meet and right response is: "Medium rare, of course," or, "Bloody, please." And if you are the host and one of your guests asks you to overcook his steak, do not compound blasphemy with heresy by acceding to his request. Simply follow the time-honored example of master chefs the world over and serve the steak medium rare.

The question of how long to cook other meats is a thornier one, particularly with respect to poultry. It saddens me to think how much of the chicken I've eaten in my life has been overcooked. The desire to avoid hospitalization for salmonella poisoning, while understandable, is no excuse for heresy. Get an electronic meat thermometer with a transmitter that allows you to monitor the chicken's progress. Stick the thermometer in the meaty part of the thigh, making sure it's not touching the bone. A whole chicken will need to cook between two and three hours, depending on the temperature inside and outside the cooker; pieces vary and will need to be closely watched. Which brings me to another commandment: Thou shalt remove the chicken 5 degrees before it reaches its indicated doneness. Have faith and resist the temptation to cook it longer — it will keep cooking after you remove it from the grill, and it will be perfectly done when you serve it. This commandment applies not just to chicken, but to all meats.

The Church of Barbecue, Epistle II

The Church of Barbecue celebrates diversity, and there are many different kinds of cookers it sanctions, from simple kettle grills to mighty smokers capable of cooking a feast for dozens of worshippers. There is just one commandment with respect to cookers, and it is absolute: Thou shalt not use a gas grill. Only charcoal imparts the proper flavor to barbecue. Grilling with gas is an act of heresy, punishable, if not by eternal damnation, then by blandly flavored meat, which is almost as bad.

Think of your cooker as your altar, and yourself as the celebrant. Cleanliness is next to godliness: keep the inside and outside well-scrubbed, using only all-natural cleaning products (such as Simple Green). When conducting services, stay calm and focused. Avoid distracting conversations. If others insist on talking to you, stick to the weather or Britney Spears's latest breakup; avoid interesting, potentially diverting topics like whether President Bush is drinking again. And while we're on the subject of alcohol, it must be said that immoderate beer drinking during services, however natural or "right" it ...

The Church of Barbecue, Epistle I

Like my father before me, I worship at the Church of Barbecue. I live in a place with long, serious winters, so I don't get to practice my faith year-round, but I try to make up for it with frequent, sometimes nightly, services during the more temperate months of the year. The instant the temperature creeps above 50 degrees, or even remotely feels like it's warmish, out comes the Hasty-Bake or the Weber (more about these two essential pillars of my faith, and the differences between them, later) from the garage, and on go the ribs or the steaks or the chickens or the game hens or the ducks or the pork loins or the sausages or what have you.

Though I consider myself to be an observant and devout practitioner of my faith, my father is the undisputed High Priest. Daddy's brisket has been known to make grown men and women fall to their knees, their eyes rolling in their heads, incoherent groans of ecstasy issuing from their mouths. And that's nothing compared to the fervor elicited by his whole smoked chickens or his bone-in pork loin with ...

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