Low & Slow BBQ
This is a foreign concept to many Brits but it’s a practice that’s growing in popularity. Slow cooking at low temperatures is the name of the game here. This requires a BBQ with a lid and positioning the food so that it is not directly over the heat source. This can be done on both charcoal and gas BBQ’s no problem, wood can be added to give a delicious smokey flavour.
Beautiful Slow Smoked Brisket
Cooking this way opens up a whole new world of options for BBQ over grilling alone. Effectively you are using your Q like an oven so anything you’d normally cook in an oven can be done in the BBQ, with the option of adding smoke for flavour. Low & slow cooking works well for cooking larger cuts of meat, whole roasting joints can be cooked this way. Furhtermore it is great for cooking tougher, cheaper cuts of meat and getting incredible results. Pork Shoulder, brisket and beef chuck are cuts of meat that are full of collagen and connective tissue, making them tough. But slow cooking them allows all that connective tissue to breakdwon and baste the meat from the inside out. The end result is fantastic buttery-soft tender meat – delicious!
A further advantage of this cooking style is that it’s great for gatherings. You put the effort in well in advance, prepping your meat and putting it on the BBQ, by the time your guests arrive, you can enjoy the party knowing that your food is happy cooking away on the BBQ.
We’re gong to share a few basic pointers and tips for low & slow cooking on this page. For more information you might want to visit our online BBQ learning community Grill School where we will go into a lot more detail about techniques for preparation, set up, fire control and cooking. One thing you’ll find with this kind of BBQ is that everyone does things a little different and there’s many many ways to achieve a great end result.
You can cook almost any meat slowly. Some meats however don’t really see much benefit from it. Typically with items such as chicken breasts, burgers or steaks, grilling them quickly will give just as good a result. Some meats work well grilled or cooked slowly, pork tenderloin can be sliced and grilled to perfection, but left whole and cooked slowly gives a very different and delicious result.
Good Quality British Banger With A Smoke Ring
Where low & slow really comes into its own is for larger and/or tougher cuts of meat. I will quite happily braise chops in the BBQ, I get amazingly soft meat and a beautifully smoked gravy to go with them, but what is really great is cooking a whole joint on there. Prime cuts like rib of beef are great with just a kiss of smoke, cooked medium rare and the traditionally cheaper cuts like pork shoulder, brisket and chuck are great cooked for a long time until they’re melt-in-the-mouth soft. Some more unusal cuts like ox cheeks and pork jowl are also fantastic when cooked slowly on a BBQ with a bit of smoke.
When buying meat, always try to buy good quality produce. This in itself can be a challenge in today’s supermarket culture but if you can it’s always good to buy good meat from a real butcher. Cuts like pork shoulder are pretty cost effective, unfortunately even the traditionally cheaper cuts of beef tend to be pricey these days. I always say I’d rather eat less but eat better quality. One word of warning though, some of the speciality pork breeds like Berkshires are very rich and when slow cooked the results can be a bit too rich. It will depend upon your tastes but before splashing out on an organic, free-range Berkshire Boston Butt be aware you may get a very rich end product.
Preparation – Trimming, and Flavour Enhancing
When slow cooking on a BBQ fat is both your best friend and your worst enemy. The marbling of fat through your meat is going to give you bags of flavour and a succulent texture, but thick layers of fat around the outside will shield the meat from seasonings and smoke. You will treat trimming differently for different cuts, for instance, you might trim all the fat off the top of a pork shoulder, but on a brisket you may choose to leave a thin fat cap. There is a wealth of information scattered around the web, Youtube can be a great resource for learning about different approaches to trimming.
Enhancing flavour can be done in various ways, the most common is to apply a rub to your meat. A dry rub is a mixture of salt, pepper, herbs and spices that you pat (not rub) onto the surface of the meat, this will add intense flavour around the edges of the meat. A rub however will not get flavour deep into large cuts of meat, for strong flavoured meats like aged beef this doesn’t matter but for milder flavours you might need to add more to balance the intensity of where the rub has worked. Traditional marinading suffers with the same issue, it will not penetrate larger cuts of meat right to the core. This is where injecting comes into play, instead of just soaking your meat in a marinade you can use an inexpensive marinade injector to pump marinade right into the middle of the meat.
Setting Up Your Q For Low & Slow
Smoking Whole Chickens On The Throne
When setting up for low & slow barbecue, you’re looking to cook away from the heat source. If using a gas BBQ you might light the burners on one side and put your meat on the other, with gas you’ll control your temperature via your burners. When setting up a charcoal BBQ, you might either put your charcoal to one side or just put it around the edges, you’ll then use the vents on the BBQ to control the temperature. You should always make sure that you have enough exhaust airflow or you can get a build up of dirty smoke in the BBQ, this is commonly achieved by opening the top vent fully and controlling temperature via the bottom vents.
Whe ncooking indirectly it’s always a good idea to put a foil drip catching tray under your meat to stop all the fat and juices running into the coals. They may not ignite while the lid is on but when you lift it the rush of oxygen can cause major flare-ups.
Cooking & Resting
Always bring your meat up to room temperature before putting it on the BBQ, half an hour out of the fridge before starting to cook is usually enough. While cooking it is important to leavethe meat well alone, it’s tempting to regularly lift the lid to check on it, but every time you do, you let a lot of heat escape and extend the cook time. Use of a probe thermometer can help you ensure you cook your meat to the correct temperature, you can purchase models where a wired probe sits in the meat throughout cooking and the thermometer sits outside the cooker so you can keep an eye on things without lifting the lid.
Slow Smoked Pork Shoulder
If you want to add wood to your fire for smoke flavour you can use chips or chunks. With chunks you can just nestle them in your fire and they’ll burn slowly, with chips you might soak them or you might put them in a foil pouch and prod some holes in it. Both of these methods are designed to slow down the rate the wood burns at. Personally I always take the foil pouch approach as I find throwing wet chips on a fire gives my food a damp wood taste. Be careful with adding wood not to oversmoke the food, a gentle whisp of blueish white smoke is all that’s needed to get a great flavour profile. If you’ve got so much wood on the fire that it’s giving off plumes of white smoke for the entire cook you’ll likely end up with bitter acrid tasting food.
As important as the cooking, is the resting of the meat after cooking. Resting allows the fibres in the meat to relax and the juices to redistribute evenly around the meat. A large cut of meat should rest for at least half an hour. A common approach in the BBQ world is to foil the meat wrap it in a towel then throw it in a preheated cool box for a couple of hours. This allows an extended rest period and makes a massive improvement to the end product.
We’ve just included some basic pointers here. You will find a lot more info on Grill School as the site grows. Currently though, our discussion forums are one of the best places to visit to learn more about low and slow cooking. Our forums are full of low & slow enthusiasts as well as the Pit Bosses from our leading Pit Masters teams, and everyone is always eager to offer help and advice.