Well, you asked for it. Here, Smoky answers the most commonly asked questions. He is direct, honest and offers an insight into the time proven techniques to preparing great barbecue that is unavailable elsewhere. If you are unable to locate the exact answer you are seeking, feel free to contact him directly and ask!
He returns all questions . . . . . . .
FAQ Subject: Suggestions for barbecuing
I am one of those PhDs you mention that have developed so many ways to discern the character of regions and neighborhoods. One way we sociologists learned is the sociology of garbage. You can really tell a lot about people by what they throw away. Still, a better way is to study what they eat and how they prepare it. Of course, actually eating it is even better.
Enough humor. I have been a fan of barbeque for many years, although I really never quite grasped the difference between grilling and barbequing until I met you through your book. Fortunately I managed to avoid excess smoke.
After having practiced your techniques for years now I have a couple of suggestions that you might want to put in a new addition of your book.
Number 1: fire management is the key. Approximately how much oak cord wood or whatever is required for an ordinary afternoon cooking spareribs. (Note: if you load up the sidebox of most available barbeque devices, it burns down to coals that provide the needed heat for about 15 minutes. A veteran of camp fires I never really paid much attention to how much wood is required to provide a bed of coals that will provide 200 degrees of heat for at least 12 hours--yet I have done it all my life. My guess is that something like 100 lbs of oak cord wood is required for the average grill full of spareribs--perhaps more.
Number 2: What is a practical container that average homeowners could use for burning down wood outside of the sidebox to replenish coals? Most people cannot just, you know, build a big fire in their backyard. It leaves a big mess. Most of my life I have lived places where there was always an outside fire-ring for evenings out-of-doors, but most people cannot do this. Moreover, it is nasty when you stick in the shovel for more coals and you pick up a load of grass and dirt with the coals. See what I mean?
Alternately, perhaps you should not denigrate charcoal all that much. It does provide a long lasting and constant source of heat that is convenient to use.
Another trick for those that do not have space or desire to store a cord of oak in the backyard is the 25 lb bundles of hard wood they sell at the grocery.
Just some thoughts for how to get the average reader of your book to be better at the art of barbeque.
David F. Scudder, PhD
Thanks for the kind words. I am surprised to learn that you speak Nez Perce.
Thanks for your comments. I should have had photos or drawings of a few types of burn pits/barrels. Will include in the next edition.
The amount (volume) of wood needed depends first upon the moisture content and species of tree. Weight would be greatly influenced by the moisture. But the real variable is the efficiency of the pit/cooker. In the average sidewinder the entry to the exhaust is at the top of the cooking chamber. Therefore, heat exits without contacting the meat and the majority of heat acting on the meat comes from radiation from the heated top of the pit. In a much more efficient design, the entry to the exhaust is located at or below the meat grate so that heat is convected to the meat by the heated air stream as well as radiated from the heated metal. This design requires much less fuel. Where the coal bed is directly under the meat grate is the most efficient design and the meat benefits from the drippings vaporizing and rising back to be deposited on the meat.
The Southern Foodways Alliance is dedicated to the study of the history and migration of Southern foods. We have an annual symposium at Ol' Miss every October. This year the subject was barbecue.