December 25, 2002

Meat & Bean Results

Overall, the BBQ yesterday was a success. The meat came out smokey, tender, and juicy. The beans worked out fantasic, and I'm thrilled to be able to save a step when making them in the future. The contents are:
- 1 lb white beans, soaked overnight
- 1/4 C brown sugar
- 1/4 C molasass
- 1/4 C tomato paste
- 4 C liquid (combination of the soaking liquid, stock, water, what have you)
- shot of hot sauce
- spices of your choice (I used cumin)
- salt and pepper
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
You sweat the vegetables in a large dutch oven, then add in everything else but the beans, bring it to a boil, then add the beans. The dutch oven is placed in the smoker (or oven) at around 225, covered. It cooks until the beans are tender (which seemed to be around 4 hours), and later uncovered. This adds smoke flavor to the beans, along with cooking off any excess water. It also lets the flavorful grease from the meat drippings fall into the beans.

I pulled them off the BBQ after a total of 10 hours, toweled off any extra grease on top, and let rest covered until we were ready to eat. You can actually cook them any amount of additional time as long as you stir them every hour or so, and add liquid if things seem to be drying out too much. The reason you can add salt at the begining, and why you can cook them so long is the acid in the tomato and the sulfer in the molasass. I also normally make them a bit hotter than this time around -- but I know Carol's mom doesn't like food that too spicy.

The meat was interesting in that it got a very strange bi-level smoke ring on it. The "smoke ring" in BBQ is the red or pink color around the outside of the meat. It's formed when the nitrites/nitrates in the wood smoke combine with the myoglobin in the tissues of the meat. This same reaction is what causes sausages and hot dogs to be pink (although there, the chemical is placed in the meat rather than delivered via smoke).

The process of smoke ring formation halts when the meat reaches around 140 (with BBQ meats generally being pulled from the fire between 180 and 195 degrees) So generally, I start my rig at a lower temperature and gradually raise it throughout the day. Smoke rings don't add anything to the flavor, but there is a certain pride in getting a really nice one. It lets folks you you really did "low and slow" it. I probably had a temperature bump at some point during the day which gave me this really interesting pink-red-pink-red progression into the meat. My other theory is that the meat was a bit colder this time around than normal, which caused it to warm up in an odd pattern.

The "user group" for my particular BBQ rig (yes, there really is a user group!) would scoff at the above science. Lots of folks there say that thermometers (which I use) and science have no place in Real (tm) BBQ. Now I'm the first to love the art of BBQ -- and there certainly is one -- but why avoid the extra info on purpose? After all, these were the people that covered the outside of their firebox with styrofoam and then were surprised when it melted and caught fire!

Posted by dowdy at December 25, 2002 10:09 AM