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Lifestyles

June 20, 2014

BBQ MY WAY: Authentic southern style barbecue pit

I get a ton of questions on my website and from my readers about my brick barbecue pit. I never answer them very thoroughly because frankly, I did a terrible job of keeping any specific drawings or directions from when I had it built 12 years ago or so. So for today’s column, I thought I would try and reconstruct my process in case you want to build your own. Warning: Unless you are a mason, you may want to have someone build this for you.

Technically, any contraption that is capable of suspending meat over coals for long periods of time is capable of making good barbecue. The caribbean natives who many believe came up with the term “barbecue” literally dug a hole in the ground for the coals and then suspended the meat over the coals with sticks. But, an enclosed area for the meat and the fire make the process much more controllable and predictable.

I have made great barbecue on a Weber Bullet Smoker, or even on a regular Weber kettle grill by piling coals on one side and placing the meat on the other side. And while I don’t use it very often because of the time commitment, the best barbecue I have made is produced with our brick barbecue pit.

Here’s the set up and the cooking process. On one side of the barbecue pit we have a normal looking outdoor fireplace. Directly to the right of that we have another fireplace opening, but this one has a metal door, and above that fireplace is another opening with another metal door. The two “fireplaces” stacked on top of each other are actually one big chamber, with the upper fireplace being the area where the meat slowly cooks. The only thing separating the two openings are the racks in the upper chamber where the meat suspends.

With Weber Bullet Smokers and electric smokers — the later considered blasphemy in the world of real barbecue enthusiasts — you can set up your unit to slowly smoke meat all night without really having to be monitored. Not so with the barbecue pit. You start charcoal fires in the fireplace and the lower chamber. Then, add smaller pieces of wood and in the actual fireplace you add larger logs of wood. My choice tends to be aged hickory. After an hour or so you will have red hot hickory coals. With a coal shovel you will move the hot coals from the fireplace on the left to the other fireplace on the right, over which the meat is suspended. The bricks heat up to create a consistent cooking temperature. The goal is to keep a good fire going in the fireplace all day, providing the hot coals to transfer over.

So what you are doing is cooking the meat as authentically as possible by using real hickory coals that you yourself have produced in the fireplace. As the meat slowly cooks, you will notice the smoke isn’t heavy and gray. It is actually fairly clear with a slight blue hue to it. And the smell of the hickory is just unbelievable. It’s a fantastic way to spend time with friends and family on a beautiful weekend day. And we use the fireplace quite frequently even when we aren’t creating barbecue.

Years ago I researched the design for the barbecue pit. The website I came across is still there, but it has not been updated for years. But for the most part, it provides you with what you will need, a design, as well as building instructions. Here’s the site, http://www.ibiblio.org/lineback/barbecue/wdh.htm. It was created by a young southern guy named David Lineback. I spoke to Dave once while building my pit. He used to be active in online barbecue forums years ago, and would get quite testy when people would mention gas grills or anything that wasn’t authentic. He was seen as the defender of true southern style barbecue.

If you are looking to make changes to your backyard by building a patio, or you are building a home, you might want to consider adding an authentic brick barbecue pit to your list. I know my family and friends have loved ours.

— Dave Lobeck is an Edward Jones Financial Advisor in Jeffersonville by day and a barbecue enthusiast on nights and weekends. Liz is his wife. He is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society judge. You can contact Dave with your barbecue and grilling questions by emailing him at davelobeck@gmail.com or at www.barbecue-My-Way.com.

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