Quick Recipes and Easy

Barbecue Recipe Science: Part II

There’s a whole lot of “science” behind what makes excellent slow smoked barbecue recipes develop their flavor, tenderness, appearance, and moisture content. So, let’s take a few of the reactions and try to clarify the science behind it…

Boiling Point of Water…

Did you ever notice that excellent, juicy barbecue is slowly cooked near the boiling point of water? This way, the water does not evaporate too quick and stays in and on the meat longer – basting the meat surface and keeping it moist inside and out. The slow and low temperature also allows the collagen in the muscle fibers to break down over time to produce tenderness. The boiling point of water is 212 deg F for those pit masters who didn’t know. But that’s only at sea level. As you go up in altitude, the atmospheric pressure goes down and the boiling point of water drops. At 1000 feet, it’s 210 deg F. At 2500 feet, it’s 207 deg F. At 4000 feet, it’s 204 deg F. And at 6000 feet, it’s only 201 deg F. That’s why it takes so long to boil an egg in the mountains. So… instead of cooking at 225 deg F at an elevation of 5000 feet, maybe try 215 deg F and just cook it a small longer. That way all your juices will not evaporate too quick.


I know none of you would ever do this in a million years, but have you ever had boiled ribs? They are usually fall off the bone tender. You have to slather on a whole lot of barbecue sauce to get any taste out of them, but that’s beside the point. The point is they are cooked at exactly the proper temperature (212 deg F) and the “tenderness” result is pretty excellent. When you cook ribs on a smoker and you use the foiling technique, you are essentially steaming the ribs. Steam is usually about the same temperature as boiling water unless it is under high pressure or reheated. The result is something similar to boiled ribs, but you don’t lose as much of the flavor. Properly used for small amounts of time, it’s an effective technique to produce tender ribs, butts, and brisket.


Also keep an eye on your weather. If it’s cold outside, of course you’ll need a hotter fire to maintain the proper temperature in your cooking chamber. Rain dropping on your smoker and evaporating will transport a lot of heat away from your smoker. So, if you see rain, build up your fire a bit and maybe open the vent a small more. On hot dry days, you’ll probably want a small bit lower temperature in your cooker so you don’t evaporate the basting moisture too much. Conversely, on very humid days, you can probably get away with a small hotter temperature.

For more information on slow smoking competition quality ribs, butts, chicken, and brisket, please visit Bill Anderson’s web site at bbq-book.com bbq-book.com or bbq-recipes.net bbq-recipes.net

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