Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Jedi Kitchen Tricks
I pulled the ribs out of their Cryovac, wipe them with paper towel and applied a nice layer of my favorite dry rub across all surfaces. I set my woodchips (pecan) and herb stems to soaking and started a lump charcoal fire with my chimney starter. I got all my tools prepared.
And then I brought out my mop.
The mop is an integral part of the Mythology of Barbecue . Images of hairy fat men, shirtless and sweaty, ball cap jauntily perched on their balding heads, wielding full-size floor mops soaked with flavorful liquids basting slowly cooking haunches of animal flesh. They do it for flavor. They do it for moisture. They do it to adjust the cooking time. They just do it.
There is some evidence that mopping does not have the effects that have been so often claimed. You can read more of one such analysis here. As for me, I really don’t care. It’s not a busted canard like “sear the meat to seal in the juices”. When I mop, the flavor and texture of what I am barbecuing comes out just as I want. The crust becomes a crust without burning. The meat gets “burnt ends” without drying out. The meat is succulent and tender.
If it ain’t broke . . .
I don’t baste with the mop constantly; I usually wait until the lid has to be open to add more charcoal and/or flip the item being cooked.
I have a suggestion, however, for the method – the tool if you will – for mopping. As the name suggests, the original implement used for large scale Q was a standard floor mat. Not so easy to find these days. For smaller items a dish mop, also difficult to find these days, was utilized. That’s what I used at the beginning.
You can find mops specifically correct that claiming to be specifically for the barbecue. They are just fancier dish mop. I have a couple I got as gifts. Never been used.
A basting brush is another possibility, but I find it does not hold enough liquid to quickly do the job. The surface area is simply not enough. That means the lid is up longer and everything inside is cooling.
The less said about the concept of the Charcoal Companion Basting Bottle the better.
My solution: a bottle left over from an otherwise unremarkable brand of wine vinegar The ingredients for my mop are simply added to the bottle and the sprinkle top snapped on. A quick shake combines all ingredients.
To apply, I simply shake the bottle over the meat. The liquid comes out in a mostly controlled fashion bathing the top surfaces of the meat. It makes quick work of the job. The holes in the top not only control the flow of liquid, they hold back the solids within the mop. I find these solids, especially the flakes of crushed chillies, seem to burn and get an acrid flavor when left to fall upon the surface of the meat. May be just me.
It also allows for a quick emergency addition of some vinegar to stretch out the supply.
Give it a try.
Special bonus tip:
Oil or grease filled paper towel from seasoning a wok or cast iron pan? Set some paper for draining your favorite breakfast meats? French Fries? Or just paper towel or a napkin used to blot up a spill of cooking oil or similar cooking fat?
I save them in an empty can with a loose fitting lid held on by a rubber band and I use them as fire starters. When I set my chimney up to start the fire I simply put a sheet or two of oily towel inside the newspaper, and stick it in the base of the chimney. When the lit newspaper catches the oily rag it acts like a paraffin camping firestarter, making the starting fire last longer and the charcoal start faster.
But that’s not all. Order now and get my secret mop recipe.
Uncle Scotty's Atomic Retrofire Basic Wet Mop
1 cup White Vinegar
1 cup Cider Vinegar
1 Tbl. Sugar
2 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper
1 Tsp. Aleppo Pepper
2 Tbl. Hot Sauce
Salt and Pepper
All this at no extra charge.