Tennessee style barbecue meats are fall-off-the-bone tender. This is due to the slow process of smoking the meat for several hours over a hickory flame. The temperature is kept relatively low, approximately 225°F to 250°F, depending on the cut of meat. If you have the time to devote four to eight hours to produce the most tender, flavorful barbecue possible, it is highly recommended that you allow for that much grill time. However, it isn’t always possible to spend that much time preparing a meal, especially when you have a craving that requires instant gratification. The recipes in this book have attempted to achieve a happy medium. It is impossible to get true Tennessee flavor from a quick grill, however, cook times and temperatures have been adjusted in some cases to provide Memphis style and flavor without it being an all-day affair. There are some techniques, tricks, and tools that you can use to produce authentic-style flavor and tenderness. These include:
- Hickory Smoke: Hickory chips lend a medium smokiness to your meat. The smoke is fragrant, but not overpowering, which is a perfect complement to Memphis-style rubs and sauce. You will find various sizes of hickory to grill with, from small chips to larger pieces of wood. I suggest going with the chips or slightly larger chunks. This allows you more control over how much hickory smoke and flavor you wish to add. It’s also easily adjusted throughout the cooking time. When using hickory chips, soak them in water before use. Cover them completely, and let them soak for about 30 minutes. This step is especially important when using chips over larger pieces of wood. Without this step, the chips will burn entirely before having the chance to impart much, if any, flavor. If using hickory chips is not an option for you, a similar flavor can be created using a hickory liquid smoke product not an option for you, a similar flavor can be created using a hickory liquid smoke product.
- Tools: Obviously, for real barbecue you need a grill, either old-school charcoal or gas. It should be said that some of the best grilled and smoked meats come from the simplest of tools, however, there are a few items and essentials that will enhance the final product. The essentials you need are long-handled tongs, a long-handled fork, and a long-handled spatula. You will also need a meat thermometer and some sort of protective wear for your hand. Along with this, it is important to invest in good grill cleaning supplies. Some natural seasoning occurs over time as a grill is used, but you want to make sure that the grill is thoroughly cleaned before each use.
- Flavor: The two single most important items to have for the best possible Tennessee barbecue are a tender, juicy, perfect cut of meat, and the rub or sauce. The quality of these items alone will elevate your barbecue to an entirely new level. Read a little further to learn the secrets of perfect sauces and rubs.