BBQ is a sacred endeavour in our household.
Originally our love affair with charcoal began years ago in our first apartment. Mr. Spock and I had completely gutted our entire living space and decided to embark upon an ambitious kitchen reno which rendered our cooking space unusable for several months. Finding a little hibachi out on the patio left by the previous owners, we began our foray into the world of charcoal grilling and BBQ. It’s amazing but you actually are able to cook three meals a day on a hibachi! By the time our kitchen was once again in working order we had become quite creative with our BBQ culinary efforts, producing tasty egg dishes for breakfast, various warm salad concoctions and even dessert.
We were hooked. The taste from charcoal is just so much more appealing – the flavour is incredible! In comparison, gas BBQs seem to make everything taste like propane. Now you’ll notice that I keep saying “we” when referring to our BBQ efforts. Let me set the record straight and say that it is the royal “we” I am using! The Spock man is the genius behind the grill in our house and I quickly became relegated to sous chef, a position I am quite happy to fill. (Hey – I know where my strengths lie!)
Given our love for BBQ we recently jumped at the opportunity to register for a course in order to become certified Pacific Northwest BBQ Judges. In fact, that is how we celebrated our wedding anniversary! (Doesn’t everyone?!)
Over at Well Seasoned in Langley, owner Angie Quuale hosted a BBQ competition judging class on behalf of the Pacific Northwest BBQ Association (PNBA). Throughout the evening our group of BBQ lovers learnt all about good “Q” and what to look for during a competition. At the end of the course we emerged as certified BBQ judges, able to participate in any PNWBA sanctioned contests.
It was great to hear Angie’s stories of BBQ successes and failures, along with other interesting anecdotes about what it’s like to be on the BBQ competition trail. We also learnt the difference between grilling (cooking directly over flames) and traditional American BBQ (meat cooked over indirect heat within a closed pit, using low heat and smoke from a charcoal or wood fire). It is the method of low and slow that allows the connective tissues of the meat to break down and turn what would have been tough cuts into delicious, tender morsels.
The old school style of BBQ has its roots in the American south, although the popularity of this style of cooking has since expanded across the globe. That being said, each state still tends to have its own style of BBQ. For example in Eastern North Carolina the ‘Q’ traditionally involves pork shoulder (or whole pig) cooked with hickory smoke that is pulled and mixed with a vinegar based BBQ sauce and served on a bun with slaw. In Western North Carolina it is all about the pork butt, seasoned with a tomato based vinegar sauce. Texas prefers beef brisket smoked with mesquite or oak, in Kansas City it is all about the sauce, and in Memphis ribs and shredded pork rule (wet or dry).
I must admit that it felt a little strange critiquing BBQ that may not have been up to its original grand championship standards, but was still pretty darn tasty and nothing we would ever be ashamed to pull off our grill. Taking the judging course has definitely given me a new appreciation for good BBQ and the amount of energy (and money) that goes into preparing championship worthy dishes. Hopefully my hubby and I will get a chance to flash our new shiny judging badges at an upcoming competition!