If what I've read and seen on TV is true, barbecue competitions are brutal, gladiator-like contests. You'll never catch me entering one.
First of all, I get enough of standing over a hot stove indoors, thank you.
Secondly, most of the contestants seem to be men — big, burly, intensely competitive men — and their smack-talk frightens me.
Lastly, I've seen first-hand how seriously my own husband and son take their barbecue, and I'm not entering any cooking contest where the main ingredient in the sauce appears to be testosterone.
We were at my son Josh's house for a casual barbecue recently. I was helping my daughter-in-law in the kitchen when, through the window, I overheard Josh and Doug debating dry-rub versus a sweet or smoky.
"I prefer KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce to Kraft," I interjected, plopping down in the lawn chair next to Doug.
Both men turned and stared at me in horror. Finally, Josh managed a strangled sentence: "You ... do ... not ... put ... bottled ... sauce ... on ... real ... barbecue."
They schooled me in the finer points of barbecue that afternoon. I took copious notes, lest I commit another barbecue faux pas — especially in front of people outside the immediate family, who might not be so forgiving.
Here are some barbecue vocabulary words I learned, along with their definitions — from what I remember, anyway. (I got hot sauce all over my notes.)
Barbecue spices: I'm not telling you. Get your own recipe.
Dry smoke: My notes say I was watching Josh toss wet hickory wood chips on the hot coals.
Electric grill: "You may as well use a toaster oven."
Fall-off-the-bone: A term used by restaurants to describe their barbecued ribs, because it sounds better than "dry and overdone."
Glazed: How your eyes look after eight hours in a cloud of barbecue smoke.
Grilled vegetables: Don't do it. Meat. Just meat. And lots of it.
Grill wok: An accessory you don't use to make barbecue. Ever.
Hot coals: Meat cooks at a strictly defined distance above these. "Strictly defined" is a subjective concept.
Kettle grill: You fill the bottom with charcoal briquettes, which you try to light, but fail. Spritz them with lighter fluid, try again, fail again. Spritz them with more lighter fluid, try again and succeed, causing flames to leap 12 feet into the air, licking at rain gutters. Six hours and two fire extinguishers later, the coals are the perfect temperature to cook barbecue that tastes like lighter fluid. "Perfect" is a subjective concept.
Marinated: What the cook gets after five or six beers.
Mop: Use this to apply sauce at precise intervals during cooking. "Precise" is a subjective concept.
Rub: How to get the hickory smoke out of your eyes.
Sear: What the sun does to the top of your head for eight hours while judges make the rounds at barbecue competitions.
Smoker: A person you don't want standing over your grill.
Thermostat: Thermostat? We don't need no steenking thermostat! Experts just know when the coals are ready. Of course, "expert" is also a subjective term.
Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at firstname.lastname@example.org.