Why Should You Choose Butcher Paper for BBQ?
A most versatile compliment in the BBQ setting is butcher paper. From serving to smoke roasting, butcher paper as a derivative of Kraft paper has multiple uses in the culinary setting.
Choosing butcher paper for BBQ is a popular choice for those in the know. Especially favoured in the southern US state of Texas where the popular ‘stall’ method is widely adopted, butcher paper in all colours, shapes and sizes is a most necessary compliment.
Barbecuing or outdoor grilling is greatly appreciated by many cultures the world around. With many methods of cooking there are some popular apparatus used for particular dishes.
Recurring themes for barbecuing across the globe include: steaming, grilling and smoking. The issue with all of these in relation to quality of cooked meats is that all apply heat and air exposure to the meat. The combination of which will naturally dry out the meat.
Consensus would have it that barbecued meat, which ever country it originates from, is best enjoyed when moist and tender. Which leads on to the following question: ‘How can I trap in the moisture whilst barbecuing meats?‘
Of brining, broiling, or steam wrapping food, the latter is seemingly the simplest, least labour intensive, most authentically BBQ option of producing moist meat – and very cost effective too.
But before we look into exactly how butcher paper is most effectively used for the purpose of making moist barbecue morsels, we’ll take a broad scan at the world of barbecue.
The following are the main points of this blog post, entitled: “Why Should You Choose Butcher Paper for BBQ? The Definitive Answer”
- Barbecue: A Cultural Pastime
- The Science of Steaming Meat
- Smoking Meats for Fuller Flavour
- What The Critics Say About Butcher Paper for BBQ
- Serving Guests’ Food on Pink Butcher Paper
Barbecue: A Cultural Pastime
Barbecuing, as a method of outdoor grilling of foods, has been popularly adopted by peoples and cultures the world around for its multifacted merits. Whether for necessity or occasion, communal or household, the outdoor cooking method of barbecuing has a high incidence because of it’s versatility and unique taste.
The following are just some of the national nuances related to the art of barbecuing:
Occasion, Places & Etiquette
The hosting of a barbecue varies in occasion across the world. For some, it is a private household matter, perhaps with some specially invited guests in attendance.
In countries such as the US, barbecuing has become a thriving, heavily supported sub-culture. In Southern States, such as Texas, teams of men grouping together practice well honed, finely tuned and rehearsed methods of barbecue grilling. Barbecue competitions are commonly held between them, with prized honours shared among winning team members usually publicised within their state or city.
Festivals also lend themselves well as a backdrop to barbecue catering, where visitors gather together in breakout tents to feast on diverse arrangements of cooked meats, side dishes and drinks.
There are socially acceptable and expected practices also intrinsically linked to the throwing of a barbecue event. These social norms and etiquettes vary from country to country, but the prevailing observable differences can be summarised as such:
- Bring your own: in some countries, especially in the southern hemisphere, there is an expectation with every barbecue event for guests to contribute to the outlay by bringing a certain dish (self-prepared) or drinks which are presented to the host for distribution.
- Self serve: in come countries, guests are called to a service table, much like in buffet-style catering, where they are invited to take a portion freely from the vats of barbecued meat, sides, salads and drinks etc. In such cases, there are carefully observed courtesies adhered to dictating order and frequency of approach to the food tables by guests.
- Male/Female: The work of grilling foods and serving drinks is typically consistently delegated between men and women depending on culture. In many cases, men have adopted the lead role in cooking and serving – dishes & drinks, often allowing women/wives to care for children during such events.
- Safety: With barbecue environments, you simply cannot get around the introduction of certain safety risks such as heat, open flames, flammable fuels, raw meats and foods, crowding, trip hazards, heavy loads etc. it is important that those who are less likely to be able to avoid and manage such risks are cared for with special attention. Babies, children , those with disabilities, elderly, pregnant, tired/intoxicated, pets are special considerations for risk.
- Alcoholic Drinks: Where adults have allowed the consumption of alcohol at barbecues, due care and consideration of all risk implications surrounding this ought to be considered: supervision of children, intoxication, responsible driving etc.
- Meats: Certain religious practices around the world exclude the consumption of certain meats. Common exclusions are pork and beef, for example.
- Private/Public: Barbecues are commonly held privately catered functions, with the host family or person funding the occasion, either entirely by themselves or in conjunction with one or many others. In some instances, publically funded organisations like National Parks have been known to fund the rental costs of land for organising such events for the local community.
- Location: The planned location for a barbecue can vary wildly. Essentially, any outdoor space with open air or well ventilated conditions will do. One of the most popular features of a barbecue is the unconstrained nature of that particular style of catering: quantities for portion size, freedom to eat liberally, guests are mobile (great for cross-pollinating conversation), uninvited (yet welcome) guests can easily be added into the number and are not isolated or poorly accommodated due to formal restricitons, such as ‘seated place arrangements’. Common places for barbecues to take place are as follows:
- Night Markets
- Chalet Community etc…
Equipment & Fuel
The barbecue grill differs greatly from couuntry to country also. In some, it’s an empty steel kettle drum with a gridiron metal grating. Some people prefer using wooden mesh for mounting the foods, as the heat from below does its job of cooking.
Outdoor ovens of varying description and even underground pits have been used for cooking a variety of barbecue foods. There are unique advantages gleaned from each, which is appreciated by one type of people or another.
Interestingly in some far eastern cultures, innovatively adapting speciaist implements like steel farming ploughs are used in producing makeshift barbecuing couldrons in a rural setting. Setting metal tripod legs underneath it, enables the makeshift barbecue to accommodate a fire as heat source underneath.
Fuels vary between cultures, most popular options (depending on availability & cost) are:
- Charcoal briquettes
- Various types of wood
- Lighter fuel (starter)
The customary feature of every barbecue event is of course the meat! Meat, the flesh of one or other animal, comprises the main portion of the barbecue meal portion. Barbecue meats vary in terms of animal type, preparation and presentation – yet, the expected finish is always a smoked, savoury, flavoursome crispy in parts, but moist meaty dish.
Animals include: chicken, turkey, pork, beef, fish (tilapia, flying fish, sea bass, salmon, cod, snapper, mackerel and more), seafood (shrimp, lobster, crab), offal cuts, lamb, mutton, deer, wild boar, etc.
Meat preparations include: pie, burger, sausage, kebab, ribs, whole animal (e.g. pig) spitroasted, meat dumplings etc.
Meat has many accompaniments at barbecues. Depending on your region in the world, there are some very consistent trends associated with side dish and often hold traditional favour throughout the generations. Here are a few common examples of barbecue side dishes from around the world:
- Polenta or finely milled grain porridge
- Grilled sandwiches
- Fried noodles
Assortments of vegetables are usually added to the menu of barbecued foods. They again will vary depending on availability and cultural acceptance. Sometimes they are cooked, mixed, or even raw – there are no rules as such, but mainly the pursuasion will be national or regional cultural practice i.e. what people are used to having.
Here are a few examples of vegetables which you can expect to feature at a barbecue:
- Leafy greens: spinach, potato leaf, cassava leaf, broccoli, pak choi etc.
- Seasonings: garlic, onion, chilli, ginger
- Herbs: parsley, dill, mint, rosemary etc.
Glazes, Marinades, Dips and Sauces
Flavour is a main feature of barbecue foods, there is rarely a caution involved in the category of flavour when it comes to the outdoor pastime of open air barbecues.
Treating the meats with flavour enhancing accompaniments like glazes, marinades, dips or sauces either before, during or after cooking is commonly practiced in barbecue cooking.
Here are some descriptions for how the aforementioned treatments are applied for barbecue cooking:
- Glazes: thick, paste-like preparations are produced in advance of cooking meat and are painted onto the surface of the meat as a topping for packing in the flavour. These glazes can be sweet, savoury or indeed a mixture of both and can involve all sorts of ingredients.
- Marinades: the soaking of meats in a flavour enhancing pre-treatment for prolonged periods before cooking (sometimes days or weeks in advance), engrains within the flesh unmistakable flavour. Much more than a hint.
- Dips and sauces: At the point of serving, barbecue foods are often eaten with condiments such as dips and sauces. The nature of these may be either savoury or sweet and distributed among guests, or made available upon request to each guests’ liking. Dips and sauces also assist with the necessary function of moistening the meat for eating ease and optimal enjoyment. Commonly used dips and sauces at barbecues are as follows:
- Soy sauce
- Olive oil
- Cayenne and other pepper based sauces
- Salt, of course
- White and black pepper
Brief Science of Steaming Meat
Steam or hot water vapour can deliver a very uniform result in cooking, especially with meats. Cooking from room temperature, or frozen is easily done using steam.
Steam as a medium for conveying heat is much gentler than other more direct heat methods and most importantly, when it comes to meats, it locks in the moisture for a more tender and flavour filled finish.
Muscle is made of a compact bunching of protein-based fibres, bundled together into sheaths and filled with many types of enzymes (chemical effectors for the biochemical reactions necessary for maintianing regular muscular functioning). As an animal ages, such muscle fires become tougher and therefore less appetising to eat even when cooked.
At temperatures in and around 40-degrees centigrade, muscle fibre protein begins to denature and unravel, visibly changing it’s appearance. As temperatures increase to the 50-degree mark and beyond for prolonged period, bacteria begin dying and the meat begins increasing density as it coninues cooking.
Between 50-70 degrees centigrade, meaty muscle fibres begin to expand and release juicy water content, further squeesed by interspersed connective tissue collagen which adds to the build up flavoursome juice.
Connective tissue (Collagen and Elastin)
Connective tissue in meat is responsible for aiding muscle with structural integrity. This tissue is not fleshy, like muscle, but rather tough and firm in comparison. The connective tissue which is dispersed throughout the flesh, encasing the muscle bundles, are typically comprised of collagen.
This differs from the connective tissue which is responsible for binding the ends of muscle to bones, an example of this type of tissue is a tendon or ligament. Tendons and ligaments are made from elastin, which has more elastic like qualities than collagen.
At around the mid-70 degrees centigrade temperature, collagens within the meat begin to melt or liquify, resulting in the chemical product gelatin, which is gluey, sticky, sweet tasting substance benefiting greatly the overall flavour and texture of the meat.
Fatty deposits throughout the body of animals, from a cooking point of view can add moisture, flavour and smoother texture all for the enjoyment of guests. Fats under cooking conditions will typically begin to melt in the 50-6o degrees centigrade range. As fats melt, they absorb flavourful compounds which concentrate, carrying a rich tasting liquid throughout.
Air Temperature and Moisture
The air temperature of steam (100-degree centigrade +), as it envelopes it’s meaty substrate is the ideal temperature for the barbecue method famously known as ‘low and slow‘ which stalls the cooking temperature at optimal level for melting connective tissues and rendering fats – giving a far superior flavour by distributing those sweet tones of fat and gelatin.
Smoking Meats for Fuller Flavour
Hardwood BBQ smoking is a favoured application of cooking style utilised by many a cook and outdoor grilling expert worldwide, primarily for the benefit of flavour.
Because of the complex make up of hardwood smoke (giving off a number of gases and solids), the meat, as under exposure to these conditions, attracts a wide range of flavours and aromas. Each flavour or smell is derived from one of the chemical compounds which envelope the meat.
Longer exposure to meats, by replenishing the hardwood as it combusts to ash, will add further flavour according to experts – so don’t give up thinking the meat is saturated with smoke.
Smoking meats only affects the outer surfaces of the meat and not as some might assume the inner most layers of meat. However, once thoroughly smoked, the flavour-filled ‘bark’ or skin of meats although a thin proportion of the overall depth of meat adds enough dimension to the taste for making all the difference.
What The Critics Say About Butcher Paper for BBQ
Butcher paper does have its close rivals for the purpose of smoke roast wrapping, like parchment paper (see our post: Parchment paper vs. Butcher paper – what’s the difference to you?), but according to the experts, there is just something about its results which exceed the competition.
Here are a few soundbites from some online barbecue experts regarding butcher paper for BBQ:
“…wrap the meat in butcher paper rather than foil. It works similarly to foil, capturing moisture and preventing evaporative cooling. But there is a difference. The paper can saturate with fat and water on the bottom and it cooks a bit more slowly.
Not any butcher paper will do. Some are impregnated with melted wax or silicone. If you are tempted to try it, make sure it is plain unadulterated food grade butcher paper.” – quote from www.amazingribs.com
“I’ve tried not wrapping. It doesn’t work. You may get a decent moist end, but the flat will just dry out. It doesn’t matter if it’s one or forty-one briskets in the pit.” – quote from www.texasmonthly.com
“Very good product! The people at Oren International were fantastic. The paper was mailed out the same day I placed the order. I used the paper to wrap and finish cooking 120lbs of brisket for a school function. The paper held the juice and temp nicely while we were waiting to slice. For me, when cooking brisket, paper is in foil is out!
Thanks.” – quote from www.amazon.com (Oren Butcher Paper – Product Review by a User)
Serving Guests' Food on Pink Butcher Paper
Butcher paper has one other important quality which takes its use further than the grill and steam cooking – colour!
Coloured butcher paper, in particular, pink/peach butcher paper is a traditional favourite for BBQ’ers of all level of proficiency as well as butcher shops. The main reasons being it’s colour resembles meat colour and gives a more aesthetically uniform presentation for customers or guests.
Here are a few examples of the types of butcher paper colours available commercially:
For the trivia enthusiasts the following are just a few names by which the barbecue is recognised by people worldwide who affectionately call it one thing or another in their native tongues:
Braaivleis (South Africa), Jerk (Jamaica), Chuanr (China), Char Siu, Yakitori (Japan), Bulgogi (Korea), Tandoor (India/Pakistan), Khorkog (Mongolia), Horno (Mexico), Asado (Argentina)…
Categorised in: Butcher Paper
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