Taking the Time

A few days ago, I wrote an article for the New England Barbecue Society’s newsletter in the National Barbecue News that talks about the time we barbecue competitors put into practicing the craft. It was inspired in part by a comment made by Andy Husbands, the Chef/Owner of Boston’s Tremont 647 (and member of the Wicked Good Barbecue team). Andy said:

“it’s funny, people ask for ‘easy recipes’ especially easy BBQ recipes from Chris [Hart] and I, we have to tell them it’s not easy, things of quality are not easy they take practice and skill, but the practice is fun and rewarding.”

Practice takes time, but when the food comes out tasting fantastic, and you executed your technique perfectly, it’s worth it.

I often find myself thinking about time and food. Like everyone our life is busy, with the demands of work and home leaving little time to relax or to stop and take stock of where we are. It is hard for many of us to find the time to slow down and savor the moments we’re given. I am grateful that by jumping into competition barbecue a decade ago, I embraced a style of cooking that by its very nature takes time. A big brisket or pork butt could take 10 hours to cook. To cook it right, attention must be paid throughout the process. It’s not just about me throwing it in the oven or in the crock-pot and walking away (and don’t get me wrong, sometimes taking that approach is just right). Instead, it’s about giving the craft of barbecue my undivided attention and my valuable time.

Beef brisket, smoked for eight hours.
Beef brisket, smoked for eight hours.

I do this in part because I believe the animal that gave its life for me to eat deserves my respect, but also because I believe that it is worth it for me to take the time to do it right. Fast and easy is not nearly as rewarding as slow and challenging is. By rushing our cooking I think we lose a lot of the goodness in what we share with our families at dinner time (literally and metaphorically speaking). For example, when you par boil a rack of ribs so you can cook it fast, all of the stuff that rises to the surface is goodness – you have literally boiled the flavor out of the meat. And when we feel that cooking for our families is a chore that needs to be “gotten out of the way,” I think we lose sight of why we cook – to feed the ones we love. I believe that there is great good in the act of cooking food. Food is love.

Home made smoked stock.
Home made smoked stock.

One of the best examples I can think of (beyond barbecue) that demonstrates the benefit of slowing down and cooking it right, is found in making stock. Stock (slowly cooked bones, vegetables and other goodness) is useful to the cook in so many ways. The key to making it right, is to cook it very slowly. When Jenn and I make stock, it sits in a pot on our stove at as low a heat as possible (keeping it above 140 degrees for food safety, of course) for days. That’s right, kids – DAYS. I generally cook my stock for a minimum of four days. The key is the low temperature and the occasional replenishment of water. In the end, after a lot of time, I’m left with an amber liquid that holds the very essence of goodness, a perfect reminder of how good it is to slow down and cook for my family. To take the time to do it right. Because it’s worth it for the ones you love.

Thanks for reading.

Chris

PS: I wanted to include a stock recipe with this post, but the cookbook I used as my reference for stock was lost when we moved out of our old house. I promise I’ll get a recipe for ya’ll sometime soon! C.

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