This is the recipe for the chicken that my friends and I prepare each September for the annual Schroon Lake Fish & Game Club Bake, in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. At the club we cook on open “firehouse grates”. Each grate holds twenty chicken halves, arranged 4 x 5 on each grate. We cook on open charcoal pits that can accommodate twenty-four grates, and four hundred eighty chicken halves at one time. Serious BBQ!
The recipes are easily adapted for home use in smaller portions. There are two components to the recipe – the dry rub, applied before cooking, and the BBQ sauce, which is applied just before the chicken is taken off the grills. The recipe is certainly not restricted to chicken. Similar rubs and sauces are used on many classic BBQ dishes, from Texas brisket, to pulled pork, to slow cooked pork or beef ribs. I often use the rub on numerous non-BBQ dishes, anytime I am looking to add a quick zesty kick to a dish. Experiment!
Barbecue Dry Rub
The dry rub that is applied to a meat before it is cooked is possibly the most important component in the BBQ process. The difference between good cooked meat and great barbecue is the rub. Like barbecue sauces, there are many variations on the theme, but if you Google barbecue dry rub you will find most if not all of the following ingredients in most recipes. Experiment! Barbecue is not a formal doctrine. It is not a concerto. BBQ is jazz. It should change a little very time you do it. Most of all it should be casual and fun!
A recent Cook’s Illustrated included a recipe for rub. In it the writer stated that they detected little or no difference in the finished product if you applied the rub hours before cooking, or immediately before. To this I say – Horse Feathers! Apply the rub the night before, or at least the morning of your get-together. I can most certainly tell the difference. The following recipe can be prepared in any quantity; the proportions are the same. You can use teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, or your favorite hat. Use five hats of salt for one hat of mustard. (If you do use a hat you might have more rub than you can use in six months and you shouldn’t keep spices more than six months.) I buy my spices at Penzey’s Spices.
Standard Dry Rub recipe:
5 parts Kosher salt,
3 Parts (each) freshly ground black pepper, light brown sugar, and sweet paprika
1 part (each) dry mustard, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, dried oregano.
With a good rub as a base many BBQ cooks will forgo an additional sauce. Strictly from a flavor standpoint you really don’t need one. Some will argue that the sauce adds moisture, and it certainly does, but I encourage you to at least once – Try Going Nekkid! There are numerous advantages to this “Memphis Style” (sauce on the side) BBQ, not the least of which is that your beer bottle will not slip out of your hands so much if they are not covered with sauce.
People take their barbecue recipes very seriously. People will swear to their own secret recipes, and travel the country on the BBQ circuit trying to show the world that it is worth shouting about. Different regions of the country will favor various ingredients – some focus on vinegar, or molasses, or honey. Tomato based sauces are very adaptable to different dishes. You can utilize this recipe for ribs, or chicken, or pulled pork or brisket. If you Google BBQ sauce recipes you will find a hundred variations on this theme. I encourage you to experiment with the recipe and play with your own variations. I tweak the ingredients depending upon who is showing up, and how it will be utilized. I’ll use more cayenne pepper in a sauce or a rub that will be blended with a pulled pork and less pepper for a spare rib. Every bite of a rib will bring a fresh mouthful of seasonings and too much pepper can be overwhelming. Don’t follow this to the letter, but vary the proportions according to your own personal preferences, and your audience.
Recipe for Tomato based BBQ Sauce
Sauté one large chopped onion and four cloves of garlic in olive oil.
Off the flame add one cup bourbon and cook off alcohol for a minute.
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup course grain mustard
Two tablespoons hoisin sauce (or molasses)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon (each), pepper, thyme, oregano
This sauce, and most barbecue sauces, will contain lots of sugar, which means they can burn easily. In addition to the brown sugar, molasses or hoisin and ketchup all contain more sugar. If the sauce is used directly over an open flame, you will burn the meat. You cannot use any sauce like this directly over the flame for a long period of time. When slow-cooking pork or beef, cook indirectly by placing the wood or charcoal on the opposite side of your grill, or in a gas grill, place the meat over unlit burners, and light the burners on the opposite side of the grill. When grilling chicken or ribs, the sauce should only be applied at the very end of the cooking process – literally the last five or ten minutes. Enjoy!