Over the seven years we cooked competition BBQ, people would often ask us, “What’s your secret?”…as though there was one magic bullet that could put them cooking out on the circuit. I have always answered that making great “Q” is equivalent to a making a great piece of music…where the flutes, the trombones, the clarinets, etc. all come together to make one beautiful piece of music. The same is true with making great BBQ…coordinating the meat, the rub, the cooking time, the temperatures, and the sauce.
If there is a secret, I would say that it would be using a digital meat thermometer throughout the cooking process. This allows consistency…and you can cook your meat the same way every time. If you’ve ever hit a home run one week with your meat and then the next week when you think that you are doing it the same way and you strike out, chances are you were not using a meat thermometer.
There are many digital thermometers on the market, but generally the
Polder is the one we use the most.
Another question that we frequently hear is “How long do I cook it?” There is no correct answer for that because there is an assumption that every oven in the world is calibrated just exactly the same. Meat in Denver cooks differently than meat in San Diego. This again stresses the importance of the digital thermometer. So the correct answer would be that you cook it until you reach the correct internal temperature. Temperature always prevails over time.
These are the internal temperatures that we have always used in competition…and always check in the center of the meat and away from a bone.
Pork Butt – 190*
Pork Tenderloin – 140-160*
Pork Loin – 160-170*
**Most all cuts of pork should be over 160*
Pork Ribs – Unfortunately ribs are not subject to temperature rules and can be judged done when you lift them up in the center and they begin to break.
Chicken – 170*
Beef Brisket – 190*
Other cuts of Beef
- Rare- 125-133*
- Medium Rare- 133-140*
- Medium- 140-145*
- Medium Well- 145-150*
- Well- (Anything over 150*)
**However, industry standards say that we should cook all of our beef to 160* for food safety! We would urge you to keep a small notebook in your pocket and keep careful notes as you cook for the temperatures that best suit your individual tastes.