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American BBQ Secrets

Elena Heatherwick

Texans take their barbecue seriously. So do other denizens of the High Plains, for that matter. Brad McDonald, an journalist from the South, recently set out to explain to the British readers of the UK newspaper The Guardian exactly how to go about making great American barbecue.

There are three steps, says Brad. First, during the initial cook period, the idea is to take on smoke flavor. Your rate of cooking is relatively constant for the first couple/few hours.

Then, once your meat gets above 70C/160F, the cooking slows down, and you enter “the stall.” That’s when collagen begins to break down, but it’s neither raw nor done. This is the point when many professionals will wrap their meat in butcher’s paper, to retain moisture near the surface and prevent drying out.

Finally, “the jump.” This period is crucial. Pull your meat when it’s between 89-90C internally. The temperature will continue to rise and carry over into the temp zone of 91-95C, where you’ll get the moist and tender meat you’re aiming for.

Here’s Brad’s recipe for smoked goat shoulder:

You will need a barbecue that has a lid, and preferably a built-in thermometer, to smoke the meat. Adding wood chips to the hot coals provides the smoke. Follow the same time and temperature instructions if cooking in the oven.

Serves 6
1 goat shoulder (around 1.25-1.5kg), shank removed
25g salt
100g black treacle
10g black peppercorns, crushed

1 Rub the goat shoulder with the salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes, or until the surface begins to sweat.

2 Rub the treacle all over the shoulder, then season with pepper. Smoke slowly in the covered barbecue at around 110C/230F for 2 hours.

3 Remove the shoulder, wrap it in greaseproof paper, then return it to the barbecue smoker for another 2-3 hours, or until a probe thermometer reaches 90C/195F. Allow the meat to rest in a warm area for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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Cajeta barbecue sauce

Sauce matters: a good barbecue sauce stays with you all your life. Cajeta is a Mexican confection made from sweetened, caramelised goat’s milk; it’s similar to dulce de leche.

Serves 6
For the barbecue sauce

530g ketchup
40g tomato puree
360g apple cider vinegar
60g yellow mustard
1 heaped tsp garlic powder
1 heaped tsp salt
240ml water
450g light brown sugar

For the cajeta
500ml goat’s milk
140g sugar
1 vanilla pod or ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 Combine all the ingredients for the barbecue sauce, then simmer, stirring very frequently, until it reaches the thickness of ketchup. Set aside.

2 Now, make the cajeta. In a big pot, at least 3 times the volume of the goat’s milk, bring the milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat.

3 Mix the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) to a paste with 1 tbsp water. Add to the hot milk (it will foam up and bubble, but don’t be alarmed). Put it back on a low heat, stirring regularly. Simmer until it is caramel-coloured and thick, like toffee sauce. Reduce the heat as you go. It will take between 45-60 minutes.

4 To make the finished sauce, combine equal quantities of cajeta and barbecue sauce, then mix together until smooth.