BBQ 101

Is there anything better than diving into a mess of smoky, barbecued meat? When it comes to BBQ, there are no rules about what kind of meat you can throw on the fire — but here, we're going to focus on one of the most popular barbecued meats — pork.

States across the country will argue that their BBQ is the best, but the truth is, anyone can create a drool-worthy barbecue dinner with the right meat and know-how. There's a lot of hub-bub about smoking vs. grilling, wood vs. charcoal, and sauce vs. dry rubs, but all we know is that we'd like to try them all. Here are some of our best tips for preparing two classic BBQ favorites: ribs and pulled pork.

Ribs

Ribs are one of the most popular dishes served at BBQ joints, and for good reason. When prepared well, they are succulent, savory, smoky delights! Here are our favorite tips for barbecued ribs:

Seasoning/dry rub. No matter what route you choose to go in the seasoning department, you always want to at least salt your ribs before tossing them on the heat. Many people prefer to season their ribs with a dry rub, which imparts flavor as the meat cooks.

Low and slow is the way to go. As is true with all BBQ, cooking your ribs slowly over a low heat is the best route to tender, juicy meat. How long you'll have to cook your ribs depends on whether you have baby backs or spare ribs, so be sure to check your recipe, but as a general rule, most ribs take between 2-3 hours to cook over low heat.

Sauce at the end. Whether you choose to put sauce on your ribs or not is up to you, but if you do plan to add a sauce, be sure to do it when your ribs have finished cooking. Because most BBQ sauces contain sugar, they are apt to burn while cooking. If you sauce your ribs at the end, you'll avoid burnt sauce.

Baby back or spare ribs?

Baby back

Not everyone knows the difference between baby back ribs and spare ribs — ribs are ribs, right? Not quite! Baby back ribs come from the parts of the ribs that are connected to the spine of the pig. These (ahem) babies are smaller than spare ribs and tend to measure 6" and taper down to 3" at the smallest end. Baby backs are more tender and leaner than spare ribs, but they also tend to be more expensive.

Spare ribs

Spare ribs, on the other hand, are cut from the pig's baby back ribs and run down to the breast bone. These ribs tend to have more meat with better marbling (and you know by now that fat = flavor). Because spare ribs are bigger than baby backs, they take a bit longer to cook.

Pulled pork (pork butt)

The beauty of pulled pork is that it is as economical as it is delicious. Pork butt is a large, inexpensive cut of meat that becomes absolutely delicious when barbecued properly. Typically, pulled pork is made from cuts in the butt primal (which we now know is actually the shoulder, thanks to Pork Primals!); however, it can be made from any fatty pork roast. Here are our tips for preparing succulent pulled pork:

Rub-a-dub-dub. As with ribs, it's always a good idea to season the outside of your meat. Whether you choose to use a flavorful rub, or simply salt and pepper, be sure to liberally season your meat and let it sit for a few hours to really soak in.

Low and slow is the way to go. Whether you choose to cook your pulled pork in a smoker or a slow cooker, the best pulled pork is always cooked over a low heat for an extended period of time (it will vary based on the weight of your meat, but plan to cook your pork for about 1-1/2 hours per pound).

Shredding. Once your meat is fully cooked, let it rest for at least 30 minutes before pulling it apart. This allows the juices to redistribute and prevents them from spilling out as you pull the meat apart. At this point, your pork should be so tender that it begins falling apart on its own, but simply using two forks or tongs to separate the meat should work well.

Seasoning. Some people choose to add additional seasoning to their pork at this stage, while others will add sauce. This is up to you: season to your heart's delight!

Keep in mind that Sugar Valley Meats prepares our own fully cooked pulled pork that is available in our retail store if you're ever in a pinch for time!

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