Barbecue is in the Air!

By March 31, 2016 July 9th, 2018 Featured, Savory Cuisine Corner
Barbecue Ribs on the Grill

As we all start to enjoy the warmer weather this time of year, besides the wonderful aromas of spring in the air what “spring smell” can you think of that’s not natural but man-made – and it makes you hungry?! Hint: Think smoky and savory.

The smell of the backyard barbecue of course!

No matter what’s cookin’ on the grill it always seems like a special treat in a way. There’s no other style of food quite like barbecue. When a food gets grilled and smoked, something magical happens, and the resulting product has inspired widespread passionate devotion. And whether you’re a BBQ connoisseur or just an occasional rib-eater, there are some things you probably don’t know about this wonderful style of cooking.

Fun Facts about Barbecue Popularity

  • Barbecue has been a staple of American culture since colonial times.
  • George Washington wrote of attending a “barbicue” in 1769 (note: good ole George was notoriously bad at spelling).
  • Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States, hosted the first barbecue at the White House, and it featured Texas-style barbecued ribs. More on that topic in a moment…
  • The most popular foods for cooking on the grill are, in order: burgers (84%), steak (83%), hot dogs (82%), followed by chicken and ribs.
  • The side dishes most commonly prepared on the grill are: corn (41%), potatoes (41%), and other vegetables (32%).
  • The most popular flavors of barbecue sauce are hickory, followed by mesquite, honey, and then spicy-hot.
  • 75% of American households own a grill.
  • 63% of the adult US population fires up the grill at least once per month, and 48% do so year-round.
  • Preferred fuel for the grill: 61% use gas (propane), 41% use charcoal, 10% use electric grills.

Source for many of these fun facts about barbecue popularity: Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, based on online consumer surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012
By the way, the month of May has been declared National Barbecue Month and National BBQ Day is May 16 (who knew?!).

Now, exactly why do so many of us like to cook out? For most of us who enjoy grilling and barbecuing, it’s about the flavor (71% in a national survey answered “for improved flavors”). Other common reasons are for personal enjoyment, for entertaining family and friends, and for convenience.

So let’s delve into the most popular BBQ food that just begs to get grilled… the all American burger. A fantastic website for BBQ enthusiasts is AmazingRibs.com. And no surprise, the website is full of great tips for people who love to cook burgers on the grill.

On the “Hamburger Secrets” page guru “Meathead” Goldwyn advises, “Freshly ground meat produces the best beef flavor. Never buy anything labeled ‘hamburger’ or ‘ground beef’.” He adds a reminder not to mash the patty when it’s cooking on a grill (keep that spatula for flipping!).

And he has some words of wisdom about MSG (aka glutamate seasoning, or umami seasoning) as a flavor enhancer. Mr. Goldwyn instructs:
“Keep the mix-ins simple and few. Let the beef shine. Do consider adding 1/2 teaspoon Ac’cent (MSG) per pound of meat. It amplifies flavor. Don’t believe all the scary stuff you read about MSG. It has never been proven in lab conditions to cause any headaches or illness, and nobody in China gets sick from MSG. Glutamate is found naturally in many foods.”

The Amazing Ribs website also features a very useful glossary of “Cooking and Barbecue Lingo.” And specific to MSG it states:

“MSG (a.k.a. Monosodium Glutamate, a.k.a. Glutamic Acid):
Ac’cent is an additive you can find in most spice sections of the grocery. It is made of MSG a form of glutamic acid, is a natural flavor enhancer as well as a natural byproduct of some aging and fermentation processes. It is a popular additive in Chinese cooking and it is in many other foods such as the rub at the world’s most popular rib restaurant, the Rendezvous in Memphis. Some people believe that MSG can cause headaches, but scientists have had no luck proving the connection in controlled tests. I have not yet seen a definitive peer-reviewed scientific study on the subject, and that is the gold standard. A lot of people say it causes them headaches, but when they are brought into a lab and fed meals with MSG or a placebo, there is no connection. The eminent food writer Jeffrey Steingarten considers “Chinese restaurant syndrome” to be an urban legend and debunked it in a famous essay “If MSG is so bad for you, why doesn’t everyone in Asia have a headache?” The barbecue lover might also ask, “Why doesn’t everyone who eats at the Rendezvous have a headache?”

Speaking of ribs, and specifically the ribs at the Rendezvous restaurant (which Amazing Ribs refers to as “the most popular rib joint in the world”), Rendezvous offers its ribs “dry.” That means without sauce, with just spices and herbs instead. The ribs at this Memphis restaurant, which was founded in 1948, are sprinkled liberally with a “secret seasoning” (as distinguished from a “dry rub” because it is not rubbed in).

Amazing Ribs has perfected their own recipe for this “Rendezvous style” rub. To make it easy to digest we’ve placed it right below.

Recipe for Rendezvous-style Rub

Rendezvous-Style BBQ Rub

This recipe and photo was graciously provided by amazingribs.com, a site headed by "Meathead" Goldwyn. Goldwyn, who calls himself a barbecue whisperer who loves cooking as much as he does eating, is also the author of the NYT bestseller, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. Check out the site!

Course Seasoning
Cuisine American
Keyword bbq, seasoning, spices
Servings 2 cups
Author Meathead Goldwyn

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons American paprika
  • 4 tablespoons powdered garlic
  • 4 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons whole yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon crushed celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon whole celery seed
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried crushed thyme
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon Ac’cent® aka MSG or “umami seasoning”

Instructions

  1. Mix together all ingredients; use as a dry rub on your choice of meats. 

  2. Makes a bit more than two cups, enough for about 12 pounds of ribs. Rub can be stored in an airtight container for months.

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of amazingribs.com

“About the Ac’cent®. The label of the Rendezvous Famous Seasoning states that there is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in the blend. Ac’cent® is made of MSG and you can find it in the spice section of your store. MSG, also known as glutamic acid, is a flavor enhancer as well as a natural byproduct of some aging and fermentation processes. Click here to read more about it.”

If you can’t fathom ribs without a sauce, “Barbecue Diplomacy at LBJ’s Texas White House” is a must read. Not only for some great tips about making awesome BBQ sauce and BBQ “mop” but for a nostalgic trip back to the 60’s in the heart of Texas on President Johnson’s ranch (and some superb photos!).

Most of the food at LBJ’s barbecues was prepared by Walter Jetton. Here’s his recipe for Mop that your next dinner guests who are brisket devotees will absolutely thank you for!

Walter Jetton’s “Mop Sauce” for All Barbecue Meats
courtesy of AmazingRibs.com

A mop sauce enhances the meat’s flavor while grilling and keeps the meat from forming a “bark” (that hard crunchy shell of spices) too quickly and drying out or burning. It is meant to be used as part of a continuous basting of the meat and also helps slow the cooking time so that you get a long, slow cook. Often a barbecue recipe will include several flavoring components: a rub used before cooking, a mop applied during cooking, and a barbecue sauce added at the end.

Walter Jetton’s “Mop Sauce” (for BBQing meats)

This recipe and photo was graciously provided by amazingribs.com, a site headed by "Meathead" Goldwyn. Goldwyn, who calls himself a barbecue whisperer who loves cooking as much as he does eating, is also the author of the NYT bestseller, Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. Check out the site!

Course Sauce, Seasoning
Cuisine American
Servings 1 quart
Author Meathead Goldwyn

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Louisiana Hot Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/6 pint vinegar
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 3 ounces vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon MSG More Savory Goodness! -- monosodium glutamate

Instructions

  1. Mix together all the ingredients and let the mixture sit overnight in the refrigerator. 

  2. Use liberally on your choice of meats. 

Recipe Notes

Recipe courtesy of AmazingRibs.com

Note: A mop sauce enhances meat’s flavor while grilling and keeps the meat from forming a “bark” (that hard crunchy shell of spices) too quickly and drying out or burning. It is meant to be used as part of a continuous basting of the meat and also helps slow the cooking time so that you get a long, slow cook.

Hopefully this blog got you craving something savory. Spring is in the air. Time to get smokin’!

About MSGdishTeam

The MSGdish Team's goal is to provide timely and important information about glutamate, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the many culinary creations inspired by “umami" while connecting these topics to facts about food, taste, and health. The MSGdish Team is comprised of TGA staff professionals who are recognized as experts in science-based nutrition communications. Read more on the About page.

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