Monday, April 14, 2008
Safeway's National Capital Barbecue Battle, in the shadow of the Washington Monument and the Capitol Dome, attracts contestants from around the country for two days of live music, fantastic food and that one-of-a-kind smell of savory, smoky meat dripping over open heat.
The 16th annual contest is home to the DC Lottery Barbecue Challenge on Saturday June 21st and the main event, the U.S. National Pork Championship, on Sunday, June 22nd. Within these two competitions, a wide range of barbecue will be grilled or smoked and presented for consideration.
In a future post, I will break-down the rules of each competition and offer a brief tutorial on what makes something "barbecue." More importantly, I plan to discuss what makes "good barbecue" and, hopefully, we'll all learn what makes barbecue "award winning."
On the first day of the competition, Shirtless Mike's BBQ will enter some variation of our much-loved Saturday afternoon staple, beer-can chicken. Moving past its redneck roots, our beer-can chicken is brined in cider-mulling spices, dry-rubbed, then slow-smoked over a sweet and savory mix of apple juice, beer and spices and basted with our homemade honey-spice glaze. I will be writing much more about this time-honored BBQ classic, but for more information check out the definitive resource on all things beer-can chicken.
On day two, we will be entering an as-yet-to-be-determined recipe for pork shoulder, using a variation on a dry rub as well as a homemade vinegar-based sauce. Familiar to fans of pulled-pork, the shoulder contains part of the pig's front leg and has a large amount of marbling throughout the meat. As any barbecue lover knows, marbling + smoke + time= juicy, tender, unforgettable barbecue. This fatty and flavorful cut carries out this BBQ philosophy to its natural high point.
I hope to include a brief guide to barbecue butchery in this space, but for the time being, the always-useful "A Cook's Thesaurus" has this entry and diagram on the pork shoulder.