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As Brandon thaws from another long, cold winter, some may argue the best part of the season is the delicious aroma that starts filling the air each evening — a smell you might not have realized you even missed.
It’s a cooking medium with endless options and a variety of flavours and techniques, whether you like sweet or spicy, veggies or meat, cooked on high heat or low and slow.
"People like (good barbecue) because it takes a lot of time," said Jayson McCallum, owner of Smoked & Sauced Mobile BBQ, whose claim to barbecue fame is the low and slow approach.
"It can be time consuming and not everyone has the time to put it together. That’s why they like to get it from us, because we put the time and effort into it."
McCallum has been barbecuing for approximately eight years, and operating the wildly popular Smoked & Sauced food truck for two.
“People like (good barbecue) because it takes a lot of time. ... It can be time-consuming and not everyone has the time to put it together. That’s why they like to get it from us, because we put the time and effort into it.” — Jayson McCallum, owner of Smoked & Sauced Mobile BBQ
The truck is already booking events into 2020, he added, and has recently set up shop serving up barbecue at Just4Kidz.
"Low and slow is always key," McCallum said. "You’ll find with good barbecue and good tender meat, it’s done low and slow, so take your time."
McCallum uses oak wood in his barbecue, he said because it gives off a good heat.
Although it gives off a slightly more bitter flavour, McCallum knows how to balance it with a variety of dry rubs and signature sauces.
"You have to know how to pair the flavours together," McCallum said. "You’ve just got to be creative and find what works and what doesn’t work, and when you find something that works, just build on improving it."
Pulled pork is McCallum’s particular favourite, and he puts a lot of time into it so the flavours get to where he said they should be.
"For a good pulled pork, it takes about 16 hours."
If grilling is more your style — whether that be steaks, chicken or pork — a good sear is where it’s at, Assiniboine Community College culinary arts instructor Brad Leboutillier said.
"People tend to overcook their poultry on the barbecue because it’s a dry heat, so bringing it even a couple of hours before you grill can really help keep the moisture in." — Brad Leboutillier, Assiniboine Community College culinary arts instructor
"You have to keep your heat up to get a good sear … so start hot and then turn it down a little so you don’t overcook it. That way you get the nice grill marks on whatever you’re grilling."
A steak is pretty hard to beat if you get a good piece of meat, Leboutillier said, such as a tenderloin or a ribeye.
Seasoning a steak can be as simple as salt and pepper or a dry rub, he added, noting that a good dry rub can be as easy as garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika and chill powder.
When barbecuing poultry or pork, Leboutillier said brining your meat beforehand is a great trick to kick it up a notch.
A basic brine consists of water, salt and sugar, which you can add different herbs or spices to in order to maximize flavour.
"People tend to overcook their poultry on the barbecue because it’s a dry heat, so bringing it even a couple of hours before you grill can really help keep the moisture in," Leboutillier said.
A popular and growing trend in barbecuing is using sous vide cooking, Leboutillier said, a cooking process that uses a sous vide precision cooker to vacuum-seal food in a bag and cook it to a very precise temperature in a water bath.
"You can set (the precision cooker) to the perfect doneness of what you would like your meat to be and you can cook it submerged in water for even 24 to 48 hours to tenderize," Leboutillier said. "It won’t overcook it … then you just finish it off on the barbecue. It’s actually really easy to do, you just have to buy a few items."
While a wood or a charcoal barbecue pit can add more flavour, adding wood chips while cooking on a propane grill can be just as good, Leboutillier said, as it will inject smoke into the chamber and add a lot of flavour to your meat.
There’s a wide variety of wood chips that can be purchased at any local hardware store, Leboutillier added, each with their own flavour.
"You always want to make sure you have a hard wood, so like applewood, pecan (or) mesquite," Leboutillier said. "Mesquite goes better with a beef or a spicier rub, whereas applewood is more of a sweeter smoke."
It’s important to make sure the barbecue you’re using has a vent in order for the smoke to exhaust out so new smoke can be created, Leboutillier noted, otherwise the smoke can go stale.
"Stale smoke doesn’t smell or taste very good," Leboutillier said with a laugh.
When it comes to saucing your meat, barbecue sauce is a lot like a dry rub in that most people can make a good barbecue sauce with some staple items in their fridge or pantry.
Ketchup, brown sugar and vinegar will give you the base to add flavour to, whether that be liquid smoke to get more of a smokey flavour, Leboutillier said, or fruit — such as apples — to sweeten it up.
"You can really barbecue just about anything, so it’s kind of hard to generalize," Leboutillier said. "There’s so many different recipes (for brining, dry rubs and barbecue sauces) you can find online now. … There are so many options for good barbecue."
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