Smokin’ with Larry ~ Questions Answered!

Q: What makes a barbecue pit that burns only wood so special?

A: No one says it better then the company that specializes in barbecue pits that only burn wood. Here is their explanation: “We pioneered the gas/wood combination pit in the 1970′s, but we discontinued it after only two years because we found that the barbecue produced in pits using gas to assist the wood was inferior to all woodfired pits. The ‘gas’ taste was very evident in the finished product. For safety, gas contains smelly sulfur chemicals called mercaptans to make it noticeable when there is a leak. This adversely affects the taste of barbecue. That is why barbecue from all wood fired pits is always better than product from our competitors’ gas/wood ovens. In these ovens, the products of the gas burner combustion, including the odorous components pass through the cooking chamber and come in direct contact with the meat. They will tell you that the gas is just there to ignite the wood, but don’t fall for that line… the gas burners in these ovens fire every time the temperature drops, tainting the meat with each firing.”

Q: What kind of wood works best?

A: We use hardwoods only, a combination of oak, apple and nut woods. We never use mesquite or other soft wood, because the smoke from those types of wood tends to be too strong.

Q: What kind of smoker do you use?

We’ve invested in the best, state of the art barbecue pit made. Compared to gas fired smoke ovens, wood smoked barbecue is not an easy or inexpensive way to barbecue. The best wood fired pits (like the one we use) cost over $15,000 vs. $200 to $7,500 for the commonly used gas fired pits with a supplementary wood box that creates some smoke.

A wood fire is more expensive than propane and requires more handling, time and attention than just turning on the gas, but the results are worth it. With our mission to raise the bar for barbecue, we had no real choice. In this case, the road less taken creates the best possible barbecue and nothing less is acceptable.

Q: How long are your meats smoked?

A: Our Beef Brisket is smoked at a very low temperature for a minimum of 20 hours. We know of no other company in the Bay Area that smokes their brisket for this long (a mere 8 hours seems to be the norm!). We charge a little more for our brisket because more time in the smoker causes it to shrink more and yield less. Simply put, the extra time to do it right costs us quite a bit more per pound. Our clients thank us.

Pulled pork is smoked with the bone in for a minimum of 12 hours at 225 degrees. This makes it lean, flavorful, tender and smoked all the way through.

Chicken is cut into 8 pieces, marinated and then finished with our signature dry rub that is made especially for chicken. We smoke dark and light meat separately for different amounts of time so breast meat is never overcooked or dry.

Pork Ribs are trimmed, heavily dusted with our signature pork dry rub and slow smoked in our pit until tender and juicy. Are they “falling off the bone” tender? I hope not! Smoked rib meat does not fall off the bone unless it was boiled, par-boiled, steamed or baked first!

The next time you see an ad for “falling off the bone” barbecue, ask for a bite without the sauce. Where is the tell-tale caramelized crust on the outside? Where is the flavor? Usually, in a bottle. Properly smoked ribs are tender, succulent and flavorful. But they won’t be falling off the bone until you sink your teeth in!

Q: Why are you so obsessive-compulsive about barbecue?

A: Guilty as charged. It might have been that early classical training in French cuisine at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York. After a 25-year career in some of America’s most highly acclaimed restaurants and hotels, you learn to sweat the details!

Seriously, there are plenty of barbecue joints that do a great disservice to a great American food. Once I decided to set the record straight and offer up authentic regional American cuisine, I had to do give it the same level of attention as I gave authentic French cuisine.