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I'd like to get opinions on what you think makes your bbq great. Is it mostly the quality of the meat that you start with or is it mostly your smoking technique that makes it so good? Is meat quality pretty much a constant so that your smoking technique is the determining factor in the taste of the finished product? Or is a 50-50 or some other ratio?
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I think it goes without saying that you should use the best quality meat available. But beyond that, technique to me is more important. Simply because your technique should be essentially the same whether you are cooking with select, choice, or prime.

So I say technique is most important. A good example is how people do in competitions once they have taken a great class like with butcher BBQ or others.

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
I would have to say that CS and this forum is what makes my Que taste great. I feel that the preparation,ie.. rubs,marination, rest period is what adds to my taste of the finished product.

It is always best to start with a good quality meat, but it still needs to be cooked properly.This is where it takes time, experience and yes a good teaching to learn.

I have learned if you're willing to put the time in on your cooker, with help from our friends, you can learn to make your Que the way you like it to taste.

If you are going to do comps? A top notch cooking class can be very helpful, essential with the proper timing. At least that's what I'm lead to believe.
My thoughts:

Good technique can overcome some lower quality meat

Good meat can NOT overcome poor technique.

Example. I try to teach the basics about meat, but a lot of times in the forum it's poor application of technique that impacts the final cook; heat control, method, rubs, sauces, woods, etc, etc.

Can I make great Q out of bad meat? No, I can make good Q, but not great.

Can you make great Q out of bad technique. Sure, but it's hit and miss.

That's why the #1 thing I recommend is take notes and in those notes track your meat type, etc.
I would say the key to success for me is the CS and the forum which boils down to equipment and techniques I “borrow” from the experts on the forum. I live in New York and the sky is the limit when it comes to meat suppliers. Everyone on this forum I assume has a credit card and internet access, so you can buy anything. I can get my hands on Berkshire pork, Duroc pork, heritage breeds, and I am sure anything else I/we want from the internet. However, I use what ever I can find at Costco or the restaurant supply store for cheap.

For me, a newbie home smoking enthusiast the point is to have fun. The point is not to break the bank and order some special breed that cost an arm and a leg. I experiment with what is within my budget. I am not going to spend $50 plus on one pork butt and try a new rub or temperature. That is not fun to me.

I would some day like to do two types of pork butt side by side and try to taste the difference but that is still a few years away. If I still can not taste the difference between cherry and apple wood then how am I going to taste the difference between Duroc and Berkshire. I am having fun and my friends like what I provide for free. The only reason I would see to buy the pricey pork is if I was selling it, competition or a special event such as birthday or 4th July. This would be assuming I can prove I get a better product with the expensive stuff. I have not had many chances to play with beef yet but I will stick with my plan. Buy within my budget, experiment, have fun, read the forum, and order pizza if all goes wrong.

Sorry that was very standing on my soap box. Just enjoy yourselves and buy whatever you can afford. And please take notes and post if you notice a remarkable difference between different grades of meat.

Has anyone ever on this forum tried to do one specific cut of meat such as a roast with all three grades (select, choice, or prime) at the same time with the same technique, temps, wood, etc?
Originally posted by nysmoke:
Another question - Should I expect the meat that I buy commercially (e.g. Sam's, supermarkets, etc.) to be of consistent good quality or do you get a bad piece every now and then? On the other hand, do you always get a good piece of meat from a butcher?

There's no guarantee, even from the butcher. I've seen too many butcher not really know what they're doing, so guess it depends on the butcher.

I wouldn't put so much thought into it, I get consistent quality from my Sam's, others do not so you just need to cook some and if you find a quality you like, go back to that place. Key is local, you need to check them out yourselfs; I've seen good and bad, but it always varies for different people.

Key is to just cook a bunch and refine your own techniques.

Ask the butcher a lot of questions and find out if he's cutting his own, where he gets his meat (a lot of them get from the same suppliers that Sam's does, Wholesaler's) and if he cuts his own.

Couple of places here in town that call themselves butchers, I put them to the test and asked them if they could provide me a NAMP120. When 9 out of 10 said they'd have to customer order it or didn't know what it was I gave them the answer.

It's what real butchers know as a Brisket.

Oh, and for you El, I don't recommend spending the extra money on Waygu Briskets or Berkshire pork, they're overpriced give what you get normally. Go for it if you want to, but I just don't see paying that kind of money for something, that to ME, isn't all that extra special.
Last edited by Former Member
Originally posted by El:
I would some day like to do two types of pork butt side by side and try to taste the difference but that is still a few years away. If I still can not taste the difference between cherry and apple wood then how am I going to taste the difference between Duroc and Berkshire.

I am in pig country and have my pick of the best pork money can buy. I have cooked duroc and berkshire, and don't find it to be remarkably better than the IPB butts I usually buy, but they cost about 2-2.5x as much. Just try to sell a BBQ plate boasting of berksire pork for $16.00 when the guy down the street is selling generic pig for $9. Frowner
nysmoke, I'm glad you started this topic.

I pay careful attention to technique when I'm smoking. I read a lot and ask questions on forums like this one to try to learn from experienced smokers. I will experiment with new techniques now and then, mostly ideas I pick up on forums or from cookbooks, but not on every smoke. Most of the time I try to keep it simple and I try to do it well.

For example, I cooked spare ribs in my Amerique for the first time yesterday. I decided to practice some of the advice on this forum to keep to basics. I trimmed them out St. Louis style, as usual, then I rubbed one rack with CS Rib Rub, and the other with plain salt and black pepper. I smoked them for five hours, only opening the cooker once during that time to remove the trimmings (brisket section and the skirt meat).

I did nothing else to those ribs. I did not spritz them or foil them, like I have done in the past. They were the best spare ribs I've ever cooked. The meat had a firmness that retained its form, yet it was also tender, juicy, and flavorful. It bit clean from the bone.

Those spares came from Costco. I have some in my freezer that I bought at Sams, and I'll be trying those soon.

I guess I'd say that my CS smoker and being careful about cooking technique seem the most important factors in achieving my best.

But lately I've begun to pay more attention to the meat itself. I'm trying to learn how to judge a piece of meat for quality. I'm paying attention to Smokin's comments about judging the butcher too.

I have a long way to go before I can say that my Q is great, but I sure enjoy the process of getting there.

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