by Kenny Franklin

Christ came to teach us how to barbeque and for that we are truly thankful. He was arguably the greatest barbeque chef of all time. He would share with people meat he had barbequed and everyone who had the opportunity to taste it all agreed it was the best they ever had and all they could talk about was when they could get more. Christ picked a few men he thought had the potential to cook and took the time to teach them how to barbeque the same way he did. Initially, they just followed Him around and watched Him cook. They asked many questions about how He made His meat turn out perfectly every time. Of course, Christ knew that the best way to learn how to cook is to get out and fix something on your own. He always answered the sou -chefs questions but often seemed to be a little vague on some of the specifics so they would be challenged to dig a little deeper for the answers to their questions. His sou-chefs soon began sharing their barbequing knowledge they had learned from Him and could often be found discussing the theory of barbeque with others. Unfortunately, they began debating who the greatest cook among themselves was before any of them had even cooked anything. Although they often missed the point or focused on non-important details of the cooking process, Christ continued to patiently school his chosen sou-chefs on what they needed to know, until it was time for Him to go. He knew that they would eventually understand His secret to his amazing food and his cookbook would make perfectly good sense to them after he had left them. Interestingly enough, he told them about the basic ingredients he used- salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt but never told them exactly what the ratios of his seasonings were. I am sure He could have talked about chemistry, thermodynamics, heat transfer, microbiology, and metallurgy and delve into unlocking the mysteries behind food science but I doubt that His sou-chefs would have been able to wrap their brains around what He was even talking about. It was simply enough to know what the results would taste like if you did the process right. Christ knew the ones who were his true followers were the ones who heard the barbeque call and would fire up their pits and followed him in the newly established method of cooking meat. It is only natural that when you start cooking you will want to learn all you can about everything related to barbequing so your meat will turn out the best it can. You try to get your food to taste as close to the Master Chefs food as possible. When his sou -chefs asked when they would be able to cook like him He simply told them to wait until He sent them the fire.

And then there were those who claimed to know it all about barbequing. They had read every cookbook on the subject but never seemed to be able to cook anything on their own. They even had written a bunch of cookbooks themselves. They went around and criticized others for their technique, telling them what they felt that they were doing wrong and trying to enforce a self-imposed code of barbequing procedures and standards set forth by the Order of Professional Pit Masters. They could often be found at live cooking demonstrations put on by the Master Chef trying to see what He was doing and then criticized Him over His techniques. They even went so far as to call the Health Department to register complaints about His cooking practices which they claimed was an endangerment to public health and safety. They accused Him of violating the Public Health and Safety Code. They cited things like the fact that He didn’t have a properly inspected food preparation area, didn’t use a three-hole sink to properly wash His hands, didn’t use food handling gloves, didn’t wear a hair net and didn’t provide the public with the proper nutritional information. Of course, they missed the point. The greatest Chef to ever live was doing live demonstrations in front of them and handing out samples and all they were concerned about was to make sure that He followed the rules. The Master Chef said that someday they would realize it was not enough to know everything about barbequing to be considered a chef. They were simply food critics. To them, Christ said You are no chef of mine.

Early barbequing consisted of cooking chicken. Soon debate followed over the superiority of white meat over dark meat, but Christ showed us that the whole chicken could taste good, although He seemed to favor the leg/thigh pieces that no one else seemed to want to eat.  Later, after the Master Chef left, it was revealed that other meats could be barbequed….all kinds-pork, lamb and sausage, and all cuts- ribs, sirloins, brisket, tri-tip, and even the skirt steaks!

You can never judge a good chef by looking at them. Some are loud and overweight, always bragging about how good their food tastes and they spent a great deal of time polishing their pits. But some of the most amazing cooks are thin and nondescript individuals who don’t make a big deal about what they know about cooking. They simply cook great food the best way they know how, usually using only the most basic equipment. Those are the chefs that you want to talk to about improving your own technique.

Methods of cooking have evolved over the years. Huge barbecue pits capable of producing vast quantities of meat are now common. There are endless arrays of tools that are used to simplify and speed up the cooking process. Some work well and have been used for a long time. Others look flashy and impressive but when they are actually used to cook with they just bend or break. Sometimes it is actually faster to use your hands to do the work than try to use a tool. The result is fast and efficient cooking but the result is dirty hands. Remember that hands can be washed but worthless tools are usually a waste of time and money. It is interesting to note that although the flashy pits get a lot of attention, the meat barbequed in a 50-gallon barrel tastes just as good. You can even get satisfactory results by barbequing with a stick over a small bed of coals!

To this day the chefs debate over what Christ did to make his meat taste so good. Everyone agrees that he used a blend of salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt. Where the ingredients came from or how much seasoning he used is up for debate. Chefs have claimed that they have figured out Christ’s dry rub recipe by piecing together all of his writings and deciphering what they call his recipe “code”. Some argue that the only salt to use is made from seawater from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Israel as there are minerals in the salt that can be found nowhere else in the world. As it turns out, barbeque made with salt from other locations tastes exactly the same. Some think that there were some herbs and other seasonings in his rub. You don’t need monosodium glutamate or artificial tenderizers to make good barbeque. Some argue over a wet or dry method, open pit or covered. Still, others argue over how Christ picked out the meat. Did he pick out each piece individually or buy it by the case? The truth of the matter is that He simply didn’t write it down because it wasn’t important to turning out good barbeque.

As it turns out, the true “secret” or “mystery” to barbequing isn’t in the seasoning at all.  People have spent so much time arguing over what went on the meat that they overlooked the most obvious of all reasons for why things turn out the way they do. It is the fire. Sure, you have to find some meat and rub it down with the basic seasonings. But then you throw it up on the grill and let the fire do the work. By definition that is what makes something barbequed! Each meat responds differently to the fire.

Thinner cuts and poultry tend to cook quickly and reach temperature sooner. The larger cuts have to be allowed to cook more slowly over longer periods of time. Trying to get them closer to the heat will only serve to produce tough, dry meat or worse yet, burn it. A good practice is to set your grill to allow the meat to cook at a slow and steady pace and let the fire do the work. Remember that for meat to be done is not the amount of time spent on the grill but rather when the optimum internal temperature is reached. You can tell if the meat is done by using an internal probe thermometer. If the thermometer registers the correct temperature then it is done. Some meat may look done on the outside but is still cold inside. Check the internal temperature with the probe if or, if you are an experienced cook, you can whack the meat with your turner and see how it reacts. If the meat is giggly, it is not done. The center will be cold, raw and tough. Do not try to serve it as it will make you sick and contaminate the other meat if it is allowed to be mixed in with good meat. If the meat is firm but yields to the piercing of a fork indicating a tender center, then it is done. Some have tried to cook meat in an oven and smother it with sauce and use imitation smoke flavor so it looks and smells like barbeque, but when you taste it you realize that it is missing that something special that only comes from meat cooked over a fire. Nothing else can produce that flavor and texture. Meat cooked by any method other than over a fire is just pot roast.

And what did the Master Chef have to say about the sauce?  What kind did He use, when did He put it on, and what technique did he use to put it on? The Master Chef had a favorite kind of sauce he seemed to use quite a bit. Just because the Master used a particular kind of sauce doesn’t mean that His preference is the only kind of sauce to use. Any kind of sauce is ok to use. The Master’s sauce was water­ based and made from stuff on hand. It was always applied after the meat was done. If the sauce was sprinkled on before cooking, the sauce simply burns off and has no effect on the meat. And instead of basting or dabbing the sauce on with a brush or spraying it with a spray bottle He always immersed his meat in the sauce. This was done as close to the finish of the cooking process as possible as the sauce seems to react with the residual heat from the meat to give it a nice glazed finish and develop deeper flavors as opposed to a watered down taste if you wait a long time after cooking. But either way is acceptable.

What it all comes down to is firing up your pit, however plain or fancy, work out your own blend of the basic ingredients: salt, pepper, onion salt, and garlic salt, put it on some meat and then throw the meat over the fire. Don’t rush it. Let the fire do the barbequing. Patience is of great importance. Share with others what you have learned over the years about cooking. Motivate and inspire them to give them the confidence to try cooking on their own. Beware of those who try to cook with margarine instead of real butter. Look forward to the day when we will have a place at the Master’s table. Always cook over a good fire and your meat will turn out perfectly every time.

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