Time to break out the barbeque, smoker, or both if you have them

Don’t let the memory of last month’s frost warnings put you off dreaming about summertime, which should be arriving any minute now, along with all of the mouthwatering, sun-drenched barbeque fare that accompanies it.
From a home cooking perspective, there has never been a better time to barbeque. There is a tolerance of and a hunger for a range of styles, all the way from roasting animal carcasses in primitive fire pits to top-of-the-line, stainless steel and ceramic gadgety backyard innovations.

You may not even see the word ‘barbeque’ on the websites of some of the more high-end retailers of barbeque equipment these days, who are now favouring terminology such ‘outdoor kitchen system’, trying to avoid anything as old-fashioned and dad-like as ‘BBQ’.

The upside of trends like these is that people are no longer content using the barbeque for a sole purpose like grilling steaks or plank roasting whole fish, glorious as those activities are, but are now plunging into all-day smoking exercises, trying to perfect their own version of spice-encrusted Montreal style brisket, or chasing whacko trends like beer can chicken or baking a cake on the grill.

With that in mind, Salty visited Charlottetown’s Butcher and Butcher, to ask Chris van Ouwerkerk for his barbeque favourites and for his insight into how his clients are incorporating recent trends into their own outdoor cookery.
“People are getting a little more adventurous and building things to smoke with,” he said. “Even conventional barbeques, you can throw wood chips into a certain area and start smoking. But the real thing is you see a lot of people buying ceramic smokers now, Big Green Eggs or their variations.”

When it comes to barbeque, however, the most satisfying cooking experiences never change, with grilled hamburger more or less defining the flavour of summer, while rib steaks, T-bones and strip loins retain pride of place as the ace, king, and queen in your barbeque deck of playing cards.

“The main go-to’s are your sausage, burgers, steaks and chops,” van Ouwerkerk said. “But we get a lot of people smoking this time of year, bringing the smokers out. That’s where you get some of the different cuts, like pork shoulder, whole shoulders, pork belly, brisket from the beef, lots of things like that.”

As for what van Ouwerkerk himself favours on the barbeque, “I think my favourite one lately has been pork belly burnt ends,” he said. “Burnt ends is a typical beef dish from the South, but a lot of people are going with pork belly now, where you take it, you cube it up, and then you sauce it, smoke it, sauce it some more, and then grill it up. And that makes for a really nice, different tasting meal.”

Asked what kind of time commitment the home smoker might be looking at, van Ouwerkerk replied, “With that, it’d probably be about six hours would be your window. Some people go up to a whole day with certain things, especially with beef burnt ends or brisket. That’s a 24-hour process. That’s the beauty of it. I think it gives them a connection to the food again. That’s what I’m here for.”

About Terry Dawes

Terry Dawes is a Montreal-based writer, having graduated with Fine Arts degrees from both Concordia University and the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. He grew up on Prince Edward Island.

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