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Of smoke and wonderfulness

April 2, 2021

Time for another Baconian essay. Or not.

Barbecue, as opposed to grilling, and regardless of whether it is a whole pig in North Carolina or a brisket in West Texas, is an exercise in patience.

For instance…

It is currently 0410 (4:00 a.m. to most people).  I have been up since  0300.  The brisket, which I trimmed and seasoned yesterday, came out of the refrigerator at about 0315. By 0330 the lump charcoal was starting in the charcoal chimney. Now, I’m waiting for the smoker to come up to the temperature where the magic happens so I can actually put the brisket on. At the height of summer, that would have already happened, but although the winds are calm, it’s about 52 degrees on my patio, so the warmup time is a bit longer today.

0430 and the brisket is finally on the smoker.

In many ways, barbecuing, the “low and slow” process which produces that wonderful greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts amalgamation of smoke, meat both lean and fat, and carefully selected spices, is similar to smoking a pipe. I used to smoke cigarettes. Smoking a cigarette is a function of just a few minutes. A pipe of good tobacco is a much more contemplative experience, often taking up the better part of an hour. In the evening, it’s a fine adjunct to contemplating the end of the day. Similarly, while I can grill a good steak in just a few moments of actual cooking time, barbecue takes far longer and provides more time for thought and reflection. And so, dinner today is planned for about 1900. I’ll be on my patio, monitoring but not opening the smoker, virtually all that time. What am I going to do other than think?

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