Today I’m launching my new series on the blog called “Balcony BBQ” which is – if you couldn’t guess by the name – all about barbecuing on your balcony! Who says you can’t smoke ribs and brisket on your balcony? Ok, maybe my condo association says I can’t, but what do they know? I’m doing this because I love barbecue and I want to share with you the tips and tricks I’ve picked up and discovered that have helped me work on my recipes in my urban setting. I wish to help those who want to have awesome barbecue but may have limited access to proper equipment and still achieve delicious ‘cue.
Some of these techniques are ones that I’ve adapted and have successfully achieved the tastes and flavours of legit smokehouse bbq. I know what you’re thinking, “the season is over, what use is BBQ tips good for in the autumn?” I think brining your barbecue cooking indoors in the off season is a great way to work on your foundation recipes.
The essence of barbecue starts with your recipe and the seasoning of your proteins. Whether it’s ribs, brisket, pork, fish, chicken, turkey or even game, like in any other aspect of cooking, the proper preparation of the meats is a vital step in your barbecue.
The core of your bbq is going to be your rub. A rub is a versatile spice blend that will impart a base layer of flavor that will accent all elements of your cooking (sauce, smoke, brine) as well as aid in tenderizing the meat. It’s often applied before you start cooking, but it’s also used throughout your cooking process, from adding it to your barbecue sauce, to using it as a finishing dust.
Not specific to any particular region or school of barbecue, the most basic rub consists of three major elements: salt and sugars, peppers, and transition spices.
First thing to consider is your salt to sugar ratio. High salt content rubs work best for brisket, beef ribs, fish and game meat like venison – heartier proteins that will take to salt a lot better. Tip: use hickory smoked salt, if you’re not using a smoker to achieve a light hint of smoke flavour in your food – nothing will replace actual smoke, but it will give you a good idea of what to expect (if you’re not actually smoking your meat).
Your barbecue rub needs to be a balance of flavour and heat. Like any form of cooking, seasoning starts with salt and pepper. Many different kinds of peppers will impart different kinds of heat. White pepper is more mild in flavour and has a gentle heat, where as black pepper is the business. Cayenne pepper has an initial bite of heat but doesn’t resonate. Try different types of peppers such as dried jalapeño pepper, crushed szechuan peppers to experiment on flavour profiles of your signature BBQ rub. Add your pepper incrementally and taste your rub, you can always favours to it add, but it will be difficult to remove.
Refined white sugar will scorch at higher temperatures. Brown sugar – white sugar mixed with molasses – will add colour and flavour. Pork, pork ribs, and poultry will benefit from rubs with a higher sugar content. And for the love of all things smokey and delicious, don’t use artificial sugar.
Transition or “marrying” Spices.
Transitional/marrying spices are those that compliment your salt, pepper and sugars and tie everything together. These spices aren’t as pronounced and over powering as other spices. These spices include, cumin, paprika, mustard powder and chili powder. Cumin is aromatic and smokey and will accentuate peppery notes in your rub. Paprika (mainly used for colouring) has an inherent floral aroma that will tie in with your signature spices. Chili powder is a premixed blend of other spices (that may already be in your rub) that will just bump everything up a little umami notch.
Signature spices are just that, your signature on your rub. Onion powder and garlic powder are often used in most rubs, and depending on your tastes, the ratios will vary. Try using other aromatic spices such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, but do so cautiously; these spices can easily over power your rub. Mustard powder is great for adding a brighter notes to your spice blend, something that will cut through everything. In the end you want a harmonious blend of spices that will accent your meat but not overpower its natural flavour.
My general barbecue rub is pretty basic. I like my rub slightly on the sweeter side. The ratio is often 1/3 of my rub is a combination of white and brown sugar but will adjust this according to what I’m cooking. I also include, sea salt, pepper, paprika,cayenne, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, mustard and a pinch of celery salt. I’ve use this combination of spices on everything and have gotten pretty great results from beef, pork ribs, chicken and fish (I’ve even dusted my omelettes with it before!) Awesome on the grill, smoker and in even the oven. Use this as a starting point for your rub!