BY JENNIFER KORNEGAY | Food/Photography BY BROOKE ECHOLS
We’ve all got our own preferences, so feel free to have your barbecue your way.
Pork, beef or chicken? Ribs or other cuts? If other cuts, pulled, sliced or chopped and then tucked between a bun or mounded on a plate? Dry rub or sauce? And on the sauce: thick or thin? Spicy, sweet or tangy? Yellow, red or Alabama white?
Despite multiple differences, some substantial, some subtle, in the styles and schools of barbecue served across our region, as a general food category, it’s firmly rooted in the South’s culinary consciousness. But there are internal debates down here. Some purists insist if it isn’t cooked low and slow over hardwood coals, it isn’t authentic barbecue. Some folks believe if it isn’t pork, it can’t be called ‘cue. But most of us enjoy it — or at least its signature tastes — almost any way we can get it.
Barbecue’s flavors have made their way far beyond traditional proteins to be found on shrimp and grilled fish. Heck, they’re no longer confined to meat. BBQ potato chips or nachos, anyone?
And while truly GREAT barbecue can be a bit elusive, and no matter where your allegiances lie, it’s hard to find bad barbecue simply because there’s so much of it.
In Alabama, we’ve got plenty of contenders when it comes to restaurant barbecue, from big-name chains to ramshackle shacks pumping out savory scented, siren-song smoke. And in the barbecue game, “amateurs” compete with the pro pitmasters, sometimes at events and often, just in spirit; plenty of home cooks swear (and their friends and neighbors stand by their stories) that their sauce reigns supreme and their ‘cue is championship-grade.
Some of our own readers have shown themselves to be quite confident in their barbecue skills by sharing their prized recipes. Try one or two, and feel free to add your own takes or twists. The only real rule when it comes to barbecue? Cook and eat what you like.
Glenda Weigel, Baldwin EMC
Glenda Weigel had her first introduction to barbecue shrimp on a trip to New Orleans more than 20 years ago and thought the flavor combo was spectacular. She’s been making her barbecue shrimp ever since. It’s become a fixture in her kitchen, thanks to its delectability and its versatility. “Everyone likes it; it’s so good,” she says. “And you can make it any time of year. It’s really season-less. It’s just as good in the summer as it is at a Christmas party, and it does make a great party food.” It’s also pretty simple to make. “It’s so easy, anyone can do it, even your husband!” she says.
- 24 large shrimp (shelled, deveined, tails left on)
- 24 slices bacon
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons dry sherry
- 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
- Remove shells and butterfly the shrimp. (Cut down the back and open up. Devein, but leave the tail on as a handle.) Place a piece of onion on the shrimp. Fold it up and wrap a piece of bacon around it, and secure it with a toothpick. Fix the rest of the shrimp in this way. Mix the remaining ingredients together to make a New Orleans-style BBQ sauce. Pour this over all the shrimp. Leave in this marinade for one hour. Turn shrimp a couple of times while in marinade. Barbecue over medium fire until the shrimp are cooked and the bacon is crispy.
- 1 pound premium bulk pork breakfast sausage
- 2 tablespoons BBQ rub of choice, divided
- 1 1-gallon seal-top bag
- 1 7.5-ounce cream cheese with chives, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons onion, minced
- 2 tablespoons green or red bell pepper, minced
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese
- 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
Prepare grill for indirect cooking or smoker at 250 degrees. Remove sausage from wrapper and place in the seal-top bag. Using a rolling pin, begin flattening the sausage to completely fill the bag and return to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to re-chill. Sauté onions and pepper in butter/oil until soft. Remove the sausage from the refrigerator, open the top, and with a sharp pair of scissors, cut down each side of the bag but leave it in one piece; this helps in rolling. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of BBQ rub evenly over the sausage. Spread cream cheese over the sausage to within about ½-inch of the edges. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and vegetables over the cream cheese. Using the plastic bag, roll the sausage into a roll like a jelly roll. Be sure no plastic is left on the sausage. Sprinkle the remaining BBQ rub on the outside of the roll. Place sausage roll in the smoker/grill and cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes before slicing.
Satisfying Succulent Southwestern Barbecued Pork Ribs
- 3-4 pounds pork ribs, cut into serving pieces
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pepper
- 1-2 onions, sliced
- 1 cup green peppers, chopped
- Hot chili peppers, to taste
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon celery seeds
- 2 teaspoons liquid smoke
- ¾ cup ketchup
- ¾ cup water
- ½ cup root beer
Place ribs in a pan and season with salt and pepper. Brown in 450-degree oven. Cover with onions and peppers. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over meat. Cover tightly and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Baste occasionally. Uncover for the last 15 minutes to brown.
Spicy BBQ Pork Chops
- 1/3 cup hickory barbecue sauce
- 1/3 cup steak sauce
- 1/3 cup apple juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 6 bone-in pork chops
Mix liquid ingredients and cayenne pepper. Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper. Grill covered until temperature reaches 145 degrees, brushing with sauce frequently. Let stand 5 minutes and serve.
South Alabama EC
In addition to some of the storied barbecue institutions that are home-based here, our state has another claim to barbecue fame: Alabama white sauce. This tangy, mayo-based liquid goes well with almost anything, but bathe some slow-smoke-roasted chicken with it, and you’ve got a match made in heaven. Sources trace its roots back to North Alabama, where Bob Gibson is said to have first concocted it in Decatur in 1925 when he opened Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. Its popularity and use have grown and spread alongside the fame of the restaurant and that of current pitmaster and chef Chris Lilly, husband to Big Bob’s great granddaughter, and a member of the Barbecue Hall of Fame.
Aunt Masa’s Soul Sauce (Barbecue Sauce)
- 1 10-ounce can Heinz ketchup (do not substitute)
- 1 quart apple cider vinegar
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 pint Frank’s Hot Sauce
- 2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients together and simmer until the desired consistency. Put into pint canning jars and either refrigerate or process in water bath canner for 20 minutes. This BBQ sauce is great on anything that you barbecue or would normally add BBQ sauce to.
Marsha S. Gardner
Al’s BBQ Sauce
- ¼ cup oil
- ½ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 8 or 10-ounce tomato sauce
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 4-6 shakes hot sauce
- 20 ounces ketchup
- 10 ounces Heinz 57
- 4 ounces liquid smoke
- ½ cup honey
- Spices: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes
Combine all ingredients. Bring to a slow boil. Simmer 15 minutes. Cool. For ¼ chicken, BBQ 45 minutes; ½ chicken, BBQ 90 minutes. Cook’s tip: For a dark sauce, substitute A1 Sauce for Heinz 57. For Texas chicken: Make a sop of 50 percent vinegar, 50 percent oil and a good shot of pepper. Sop chicken until 20 minutes before done. Then add BBQ sauce.
Central Alabama EC
White BBQ Sauce
- 6 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
Mix together and use for basting. Great on chicken. Cook in oven or open grill.
Coming up in October… BBQ!
It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!
Themes and Deadlines
November: Nuts | Sept. 8
December: Party Foods | Oct 8
January: Protein Packed | Nov. 8
Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.