One of my true Summer passions is cooking on the barbecue. There’s something about cooking on an open flame that speaks to the primal side of a lot of people; men and women alike. When I went Paleo through the later part of Winter and into Spring, I started to wonder about how it would change my approach to the barbecue. You see, I come from the slather-it-in-barbecue-sauce-and-burn-both-sides school of barbecuing; something I learned from my father. There isn’t much skill or technique involved but what gets produced is moderately good and generally well received. The problem is, of course, barbecue sauce is persona non grata in Paleo land. The second ingredient listed on most commercial sauces is sugar. As I look right now at the ingredient list of a bottle of sauce the “highlights” are:
- Sugar in the number 2 spot.
- Salt coming in at number 5.
- The delightful sounding Modified Cornstarch (really it’s corn, they made it starchy, and then they “modified” it) at number 6.
So I was left trying to figure out how to approach the barbecue season without resorting to my usual tactics. What I discovered is that my kitchen already held most of the ingredients I needed to enjoy Paleo-style barbecue.
First up, turn down the temperature. I’ve always had a tendency to cook at a higher than necessary temperature. The first lesson you need to learn is turn down the heat and be prepared to cook for a longer period of time. Sure, you could turn up that burner and get done quicker but what you end up with is a burned and dry piece of meat devoid of the juiciness that makes meat so good.
The second thing are the actual seasonings you use. There are a whole galaxy or preparations, rubs, and spices you can use. I’ve happened on a combination of balsamic vinegar and steak spice for steak that is absolutely delightful. I generally marinate the steak in it for at least a day if not two before cooking so there is a bit of lead time involved. The good news is that preparation is easy. Get a plastic bag, throw in the steak (thoroughly thawed if previously frozen), and dump in liberal amounts of balsamic vinegar and steak spice. Put it in the fridge and every time you open the fridge, flip it so it marinates evenly. When you’re ready to barbecue, keep it moist while you cook it with more vinegar and you’ll have one of the best pieces of steak you ever tasted.
Chicken is still a work in progress but I’ve found a Jamaican jerk rub or even Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb are excellent choices. One thing you have to be careful with using any commercial spice combination are the ingredients. You wouldn’t think artificial ingredients could sneak in here but they can. I was astonished to find High Oleic Sunflower Oil (what does that even mean?), Disodium Inosinate, and Calcium Silicate in one commercial preparation. Just because it’s in the spice aisle doesn’t mean it hasn’t been touched by industry.
I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas for sauce-free barbecuing. Leave your hints and tips in the comments.