BBQ tips from former NFL great turned pitmaster Bubba Baker

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 13, 2008



Bill Livingston is the top football writer at the Plain-Dealer of Cleveland, a big fan of the Cold, Hard Football Facts and truly a man after our own hearts.
 
After all, he loves good food and football with equal passion, and included plenty of both in his book, "The Great Book of Cleveland Sports Lists" (co-authored with Cleveland radio personality Greg Brinda).
 
One of the lists includes barbecue tips from Al "Bubba" Baker, the former Browns defensive end turned barbecue pit master and restaurateur.
 
Here's Baker's tips, straight from Livingston's book. We're going to try to hunt down some recipes from Baker, too.
 
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The former Browns defensive end owns Bubba's Q in the Cleveland suburb of Avon (the place is easy to find – just follow your nose down Route 83).
 
The man is passionate about his product, with his ribs racking up awards about as regularly as he sacked quarterbacks during his playing days. A native of the southeast, Bubba grew up feasting on Carolina mustard-based sauce. Baker, who has taken courses from Texas A&M in meat preparation, toured the legendary Central Texas barbecue joint circuit, with good friend Earl Campbell, to gain more insights into his art. The man knows his 'cue.

9. Don't cheat on the meat. Get a quality piece of meat, whether it's baby backs, spareribs, whatever.

8. Pre-season. It's too late to season the meat after it's cooked. You've seared it and closed the pores. Put your dry rub and spices on before you start.

7. Choose the right method. You have two choices: grilling or barbecuing. Grilling is done at high temperature, 400 degrees Fahrenheit, to cook the meat quickly and sear the juices in. Barbecue is done at a lower temperature. Low and slow is my motto.

6. Choose the right chips. If you have wood chips, be careful what kind you use. Hickory and mesquite have a very strong flavor that not everyone likes. I tell people to use indigenous wood. What is Ohio chock full of? Apple trees! So use applewood.

5. Don't boil ribs. If your mama ever made soup, you might remember how the stock looked, all the stuff floating in the water after she boiled the meat. With ribs, that's flavor you're boiling out. You can wrap the ribs in foil and bake them at 300 degrees for three hours, then grill them quickly the next day. If you try to barbecue them then, you will dry them out.

4. Sauce is a condiment. Don't make the meat swim in sauce. Only baste it with sauce the last 5 minutes. Every commercial barbecue sauce out there has some sugar in it. Under heat, what does sugar do? It caramelizes. So you have burned sugar on your good piece of meat.

3. Be passionate about it. Don't just try to make a good meal. I tell my staff, the enemy of great is good. I'm not satisfied with good barbecue.

2. Use the fat. Take the fat you cut off pulled-pork sandwiches and add it to the grill before cooking ribs. The smoking fat gives the ribs even more flavor.

1. Pace yourself. You can't eat barbecue every day. If you did, you'd be on Oprah Winfrey as the fattest man in America.
 

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