The long cooking time required for barbecue leaves us with a bit of a risk of having our glorious, labor intensive dinner from drying out... especially if you're attempting to tackle a big old brisket. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to keep this from happening.
Just follow one or more of The Three B's: BASTE, BRINE, AND BACON.
Basting, as you've read in previous posts, makes use of a thin, generally acidic "mop sauce" applied to the meat while cooking. Most bastes in barbecue use a lot of vinegar. This accomplishes two feats: one, adding a tangy flavor, and two, helping keep the meat moist. The acidic environment opens pores in the meat, allowing moisture to seep in.
A simple baste could be as minimal as one part water to about two parts vinegar. Try using a couple different kinds of vinegars for unique flavor, or try mixing in coffee, mustard, or hot sauce. For lower fat meats, mix some extra virgin olive oil into your baste, or butter if you want to make a REALLY savory beef roast.
We at Sizzle Grove believe in always basting back ribs, but not necessarily doing so for spare ribs.
Brining is something you're familiar with if you've read our article on cooking pork shoulder. What's great about brining is that it introduces flavor and moisture into very large cuts of meat, when spice rubs and bastes might not be able to penetrate through to the center. The acids help break the meat down, allowing fat and collagen to literally baste the meat internally. In addition to pork shoulder, whole turkey is a particularly great candidate for brining.
Brines aren't as complicated as people seem to think. They're essentially glorified marinades, with copious levels of salt. Just simmer a few cups of water (enough to cover the meat in a container), three parts salt to one part sugar, and maybe some vinegar or another acidic liquid. The exact amount of salt might sound a bit copious, generally about a cup of salt to a gallon of water. Keep in mind, some of this salt penetrates the meat, but most of it remains in the brine which is drained before cooking.
Again, we think coffee is a great adjunct for a brine. Even a strong black tea could introduce a unique flavor. Brine your meat for 24-48 hours.
Mmmmm, bacon. We love bacon. One of the great things about smokey barbecue is, quite frankly, the bacony flavor that hickory and other hard wood smoke infuses into meats. Bacon can also be used to prevent barbecue from drying.
Simply draping a few strips of bacon over a piece of meat while it's on your smoker may help keep it from drying out. This may be particularly effective when cooking flat cut brisket, which still requires a bit of time but has a significantly lower fat content than large, commercial brisket roasts. Fat is necessary for long cooking in order to promote moisture, and bacon adds both fat and flavor. Sweet, sweet, bacony flavor.
Next time you fire up your 'cue to make some pulled pork or smokey brisket, try one of these methods to keep everything juicy and awesome. Don't forget to tell us how it came out.