Explore the various bbq types that work for pizza
Everywhere in the world you go, you’ll probably find barbecue staring you in the face. In Tokyo, the smoke of a yakitori-ya, or stand, is unmistakable as the skewered sticks of fatty chicken thighs and scallion caramelize as they are brushed with a hundred year-old sauce of soy, sake, sugar and bone juice and placed over hot Bincho Tan charcoal. In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the smell of allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg fill the air as marinated chicken is served with mango-lime salsa spiked with scotch bonnet chilies. Or near Moscow, you’ll see Russian “Shashlik” cooking over a barbecue grill of “kostor.” These skewers of pork or lamb are marinated and brushed with the pungent Tkemali, or sour plum sauce originally from Georgia (the country, that is).
In our business, we have to appeal to a whole swath of customers who have their own differing definitions of barbecue. This is compounded by the many ways in which barbecue is served. The questions are endless. Consider:
- What kind of protein? Chicken, fish, shrimp, mutton, goat, pork, beef or lamb?
- What protein part? Shoulder, ribs, belly, legs, wings or chuck?
- How it is cooked? High heat, grill, barrel, low heat, wood, charcoal or smoked?
- How is it pre-prepared? Rubbed, cured, brined?
- What is in the sauce? Vinegar, fruit, tomato, molasses, citrus, soy or tamarind?
- How are you going to serve it? On pizza, on paper, on a bun, plated, stuffed or in the hand?
Now let’s talk about styles of barbecue.
- North Carolina: The old-school Eastern Carolina barbecue is whole hog and slow cooked on steel rods. This pork cooks fat-side-up in brick pits filled with smoldering oak embers. You won’t find ribs or brisket here. (Don’t even mention it. They’ll think you’re from Texas.) It’s all about the pulled pork or chopped whole hog with a vinegar-pepper sauce they call a “hog wash.” Some older joints slather this over the hog while cooking and serve it on the side with creamy coleslaw. The Piedmont style is usually from pork shoulder or butt cooked in a barrel over oak or hickory and has the almost identical Eastern sauce made with ketchup called “dip.” The “red slaw” on these plates is mixed with the dip.
- Kansas City: This is slowly smoked over different woods and covered in a spicy-sweet molasses-tomato based sauce. A wide variety of meats are smoked here — chicken, turkey, pork, beef ribs, burnt ends and even brisket. They serve this with French fries, cole slaw and Kansas City baked beans.
- Memphis: Pork is king here and ribs and shoulders rule even though restaurants in Memphis are serving beef and chicken. This protein is slow-cooked and pit smoked. There are two ways to eat your ribs here, either “wet” or “dry.” Dry ribs are covered with a dry rub of paprika, cayenne, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, pepper and celery salt. Wet Memphis barbecue sauce is ketchup-vinegar-sugar and spice sauce. Turnip greens, potato salad and cornmeal fritters (called “Dog Bread,” because dem dogs love ’em)
accompany this barbecue.
- Texas: Barbecue in Texas is best summed up as an argument just waiting to happen depending where you live in the state. East, Central, South and West have their own versions. South cooks in the Mexican “Babacoa” style sometimes in a hole in the ground. In the South, you can also find thick molasses sauce. Central Texas is just rubbed with spices and cooked over pecan or oak. East Texas style is cooked slow and long and served with a sweet tomato sauce. West Texas is cooked over Mesquite. In Texas barbecue beef remains the most common in the pits and a lot of places don’t even have sauce with the most concentration being the quality of the meat. White bread, crackers, sliced onion, jalepeño, pickles and fajitas accompany this barbecue — and cole slaw is not welcome here.
- St. Louis: Famous for the style of spare ribs cut with the rib tips, cartilage and sternum bone removed. This creates easily-cooked, uniform ribs which are grilled at lower temperatures around 300 F rather than smoked. These ribs are served with a heavy, tomato-based sauce that is slightly acidic and very sweet. (St. Louis consumes more barbecue sauce per capita than any city in the nation.) Pork steak, rib tips, bratwurst and Italian salcissia also reflect the city’s Italian and meatpacking past. Pass the white bread please.
The Bone Doctor’s BarbeCue Deconstruction
Here are some suggestions for the components of a great barbecue sauce containing the four components of sweet, acid, depth of flavor and spice. Remember that a lot of mixes contain alcohol and sweetness to make the barbecue most delicious. The alcohol burns off leaving the sweetness to bond to the meat and burn a nice char under heat.
Sweetness: Sugar, maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, brown sugar, agave, sweet wine, pineapple, orange, cantaloupe, cherry, blueberry, blackberry, pear, fig, apple, apple sauce, honey, palm sugar, coconut milk, sweet sodas, balsamic glaze, ketchup, mango, banana, grape.
Acidity: citrus, citrus zest, vinegar, lemon grass, ginger, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, dried peppers, red wine
vinegar, Pico de Gallo, tomatillo, pickled peppers, chimichurri, tamarind,and sour fruit.
Depth of Flavor: Coffee, chocolate, molasses, meat drippings, whiskey, rum, scotch, sake, coloratura, fish sauce, dark sesame oil, shallot, tomato paste, coriander, cumin, fennel, rosemary, oil cured olive paste, mint, cilantro, basil, paprika, oregano, sage, annatto seeds, thyme, sumac, cinnamon, allspice, garlic, onion, radish, mustard, fennel, truffle, Dijon mustard, dashi and porcini.
How to: Dr. (Ghost) Pepper Pizza
Dr. (Ghost) Pepper Glaze
We’ve been blessed with many farmers growing really blasting peppers, so we’ve made numerous hot variations on barbecue sauces. This one is a blast with all the sweet Dr. Pepper-blackberry with a hint of vinegar and the overwhelming latent burn from the “Ghosties.”
Pork Belly Prep
This procedure is a big hit at our farmers market and when we do catering. The cured and roasted fatty pork belly is a perfect food for a blanket of sweet and spicy sauce with a touch of earthy onion and garlic. When this is cooled and sliced I place both on a partially cooked spinach and gruyere pizza with either walnuts or pine nuts for a big “wow.”
For the Belly:
- Cut the skin off the whole belly and slice into thirds (approximately 8 to10 inches wide each.)
- Rub all pieces with ½ cup salt, ¾ cup sugar, and a dusting of black pepper and pack into a lexan. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the walk-in for 6 to 8 hours.
- Preheat your deck pizza oven to
450 F and place belly in a roasting pan fat side up. Cook for 30 minutes.
- Turn the belly over and cook for another 30 minutes. It should look cooked and golden at this point.
- Turn the oven down to 230 F and let the pork slow-cook for another 45 minutes to an hour.
- (Chef’s Note: This all depends which way you will serve this belly. For pizzas, you’ll want it less cooked as it will again be cooked on a pie. For a nice appetizer slice, the fat needs to render off a little more.)
- Pull out and let cool. Wrap and cool for service.
Belly Barbecue Sauce
Dr. (Ghost) Pepper Pizza
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.