IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GRILLING A FROZEN BURGER AND SMOKING THAT BARBEQUED CHICKEN?
Okanagan Woman headed over to Bernard Avenue to put this question to Andre Thomas, owner of Kelowna’s Memphis Blues Barbeque House. Andre has been serving up southern comfort food to Okanaganites for the past decade, so we know we’re in the right place.
Andre, is there a difference between grilling and barbeque?
"As Canadians, what we're typically doing on a hot afternoon, when we're throwing hot dogs and burgers on a grill, is grilling. It's not what Americans consider barbeque. Barbeque is slow cooking. You're cooking at a low temperature, typically using indirect heat, using some type of hard wood for flavour.
Do you find people know the difference between grilling and barbeque?
"More and more, but when we first opened Memphis Blues, it was an educational process. When you smoke the meats, the outside of the meats, including chickens and ribs, turns a bright orange, red or pink colour. People would mistake that for meat not being done properly. But, that's not the case. It’s an educational type of cooking."
What's the perfect drink to help pair with smoked meats?
Wine. Wine really opened my eyes to how the wine and food could be so elevated by each other. Drinking German Rieslings with rich, smoky meats, is incredible. Smoked meats go great with sweet, aromatic, high acidity whites.
What makes a great barbeque?
"There are different ways to truly barbeque. The most economical way is to buy a smoker. You can even convert your grill at home to become a smoker”.
How do you convert your grill?
“If you have a charcoal grill, all you need to do is soak some wood chips, make sure it's wood that can be used for smoking. Soak for 30 minutes, then throw the chips right onto the charcoal. If you have a gas grill it's almost the same process. You must soak the chips for about half an hour, but instead of putting them right on the gas, which you must not do, you wrap them in aluminum foil, two or three times and poke a few holes in the top. Put the foil package in the corner of the grill and it will help slowly smoke your meats to your desired flavour."
You personally barbeque and grill, why?
"I do it on a commercial basis and at Memphis Blues we use a hickory barbeque pit. It makes it easy because it's gas powered and we have all the dials, bells and whistles. At home, I have a Louisiana Grill. One thing I like about it is you can do both. You can smoke and you can finish off on the grill. Usually, I'll put on a nice tenderloin with some hickory and put it on a low temperature for about half an hour. Then I'll open up the grill and finish it off on the open flame."
What's the perfect amount of time to get your smoky flavours?
"I'll do a cedar plank salmon where I'll soak the planks for a half an hour and then I'll put the dry-rubbed salmon on the top rack of my smoker at a hot temperature like 450 degrees. After 15 minutes, it's golden and tastes amazing."
What type of wood chips are the best for the different meats?
"At home, I have buckets of pecan, cherry, hickory, apple and mesquite. It's nice to try different woods with different foods. Usually, I find that applewood and cherry goes better with fish and light meats like pork and chicken. some of the heavier smoked meats like steaks, go much better with hickory and mesquite, so it doesn't over smoke the meat.”
What's the #1 rule you live by when it comes to barbeque?
“Learn. It's constantly a learning experience. There are so many different recipes, sauces,
and dry rubs out there. It's not an exact science because it depends on what different individuals like. Try things out and see what you like. Give it a shot, what's the worst could happen?“