There’s nothing that says summer quite like a backyard barbecue, lounging in the shade with your family and friends, downing a few cold ones or some lemonade, listening to music, letting the aroma of grilled meats wash over you. As easygoing as all that sounds, barbecues are also easy to screw up (trust us). So we went to an expert — Keith Monroe Waller, owner of Monroe’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Q — for an insider’s guide to ’cue success.
Folio Weekly: Describe your version of the perfect summer backyard barbecue.
Keith Waller: The grill is loaded with marinated chicken breasts, big juicy burgers and a variety of summer sausage links — served with chilled potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans. A great backyard barbecue should consist of lots of “framily” gathered with ice-cold beverages.
Should you sauce while the meat’s on the grill?
BBQ sauce should only be applied at the end of the grilling process since sugar burns when reaching temperatures of 265 degrees or more.
Sauce is always a hotly debated topic. Do you recommend having a variety on the table?
Everyone has a favorite type of barbecue sauce. To keep it simple, I recommend a sweet or mild tomato-based sauce and a mild mustard-based sauce. For a good Kansas City-style barbecue sauce, I recommend Sweet Baby Ray’s, and for a vinegar-based sauce, Stubb’s BBQ. If you like sweet with a little heat, come by Monroe’s and grab a bottle of Monroe Sauce.
For the novice, what’s an easy dry rub to concoct at home?
A mix of paprika, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, brown sugar, cumin and cayenne pepper.
Do you recommend wood-smoked, gas or charcoal?
Most barbecue purists would tell you only hardwood will impart a deep smoky flavor. If you own a gas-fired or electric smoker, you will need to burn wood to achieve a smoky flavor. If you are considering a smoker purchase, get one that burns charcoal or wood. You want to make sure not to use green [freshly cut] wood, as it will produce a foul-tasting creosote in your smoker. Oak, pecan, cherry and apple are great all-purpose smoking woods.
Talk about temperatures.
A digital thermometer is a must to check the meat’s internal temperature. For smaller cuts (pork loin and pork butts), you can pull the meat when at the desired temperature in the center without touching the bone. For larger cuts like brisket or beef roast, you may pull at 5 degrees less than the desired temp, because the outside layers will continue to transfer heat to the center. Allow it to rest for about 15 minutes to draw in the juices.
For pulled pork, you want to get an internal temp of 200 degrees, and the bone should pull without resistance from the pork.
For beef brisket, it is best to get the internal temp around 175 degrees and then wrap it in foil and finish until 195 degrees. This will give you a good smoked brisket without it drying out. For chicken, you will need to get an internal temp of 170 degrees, or until you can turn the end of the leg without resistance.
When the meat is ready to take off the smoker, do you let it rest and wrap it in foil, or does how and when you cut into the meat depend on what you’re actually smoking?
Once chicken has been removed from the smoker, it may be cut into quarters or cut eight ways. If using a bone-in pork butt, you will know if the pork [is cooked] correctly if the bone slides freely from the pork and is ready to pull. You may use a pair of large forks to pull the pork apart when it’s hot. After smoking beef brisket, you should let it rest to allow the juices to draw in and then slice or chop, depending on your preference.
What sides pair well with which particular types of barbecue?
Baked beans and coleslaw work well with most smoked meats. Potato, pasta and macaroni salads are great chilled salads to serve. If you’re looking for hot sides, mac and cheese, collards and sweet potato soufflé are excellent choices. I like to pair smoked chicken wings with pulled pork and beef brisket. Wings are quicker to smoke and they’re easier to eat than a quartered chicken. Slow-smoked pulled pork is always a favorite, but for those who don’t eat pork, you can’t beat a well-cooked brisket.