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Barbecuing and grilling are synonymous for many people although purists will argue that they are not quite the same thing. However, the main distinction is in the “mechanics” of the cooking process, namely the application of heat.

As one grilling blog has pointed out,

“The big difference between grilling and barbecue is the location of the fire. With grilling, your meat sits over the coals for very hot, quick direct cooking. Barbecuing uses an offset or 2-zone fire for indirect heat, that means the food cooks slowly by convection or indirect heat, like an oven.”

And it seems that just about anyone who tries their hand at grilling soon finds themselves in pursuit of the “perfect” barbecue.

So, what is the secret to truly great grilling and is there a such thing as the perfect barbecue?

The Key Elements to Any Great Grilling Masterpiece

Having a barbecue get-together is a popular pastime in Napa Valley, as it is in just about any place in the United States. And it seems that it’s been that way since most of us can remember.

However, grilling may not be as ancient as we tend to believe.

FoodFireFriend.com tells us that,

“The history of grilling begins long before barbecue, when man first tamed fire, about 500,000 years ago. Today, when we think of grilling, we’re talking about the backyard grill, where we make a fire to cook our hot dogs and hamburgers.

This is a recent innovation that began after WWII. As the soldiers returned home and built up the suburbs, picnics and cooking outside took off. From the 50s until now, it seems everyone needs a backyard grill.”

Since then, it’s been a decades-long cavalcade of hotdogs, burgers, steaks, chicken, and the sad but inevitable scorched meat disaster!

But there are certain key elements to producing a great barbecue.

According to an article at the Chicago Tribune,

“During a recent visit to Tribune’s test kitchen, Weber’s master griller and best-selling author Jamie Purviance shared some of his tips for maximizing those five essential elements: rub, mop, meat, smoke and sauce.”

There are variations and exceptions but, simply speaking, a rub goes on a meat before cooking, while a mop sauce is applied during the cooking process, and a BBQ sauce is added towards the end and is primarily for ribs and chicken.

In fact, according to some grilling aficionados, when it comes to true barbecue, most meat is served with barbecue sauce on the side as a condiment and not as an ingredient.

Grilling Options Beyond Beef and Burgers

When All the Elements are In Place, It’s the Sauce That Counts

A great barbecue benefits from premium cuts of meat first and foremost. And then the amount and quality of the smoke your barbecue produces is a major element, as well.

But it is the sauce that can make or break even the best grilled creation!

Great sauce is more than the ingredients and the texture. Part of the expertise is in the application and the timing. As one expert noted, coating food with barbecue sauce and then grilling it is a surefire way to burn everything. However, applying your sauce during the tail end of your grilling process is a much safer way to ensure success.

And one of the really cool things about barbecue sauce is that it works just as well for adding both flavor and moisture after grilling as it does during.

In fact, according to a grilling blog post from a grill maker, if you overcook something, you can rescue it by shredding it and saucing it.

The post goes on to note,

“It’s always worth serving some barbecue sauce on the side, along with a variety of other toppings. Each additional topping, be it sliced onions or crumbled bacon or our hero barbecue sauce, multiplies the options to adjust sauciness, crunchiness, and other aspects of flavor and texture. Thus, a few toppings can turn a few dishes into a feast.  And none works harder for you than barbecue sauce!”

A Simple but Classic Barbecue Sauce is a Great Foundation for Great Grilling

The thing about barbecue sauce is that there are literally thousands of varieties, dozens of styles, and endless opinions about something that is highly subjective.

Every regional barbecue tradition has a version of barbecue sauce, and every barbecue chef and grilling pro has their own secret take on the “perfect” barbecue sauce recipe. While it could be argued that for the average consumer of grilled meats may not have the discriminating palate needed to distinguish between great sauces, we all tend to know what we like.

So, with that in mind, we have turned to that paragon of grilling and barbecue know-how, The New York Times and their Cooking section for a slam-dunk barbecue sauce recipe that will rock your grill.

According to the recipe author, John Willoughby,

“Smoked paprika is the secret weapon in this simple barbecue sauce, which goes beautifully with pork and chicken. If you’re painting the sauce onto cooking meat, thin it out with water to about a one-to-one ratio, which will keep the sugars from burning too quickly over the fire. Serve the full-strength stuff alongside the finished meat.”

Yield: About 1½ cups

  • ⅔ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes.

It’s been determined that most traditional barbecue sauces either use tomato sauce, mustard, or vinegar as a base, and they come in all thicknesses as well as degrees of heat or sweetness – or both. However, you can never go wrong with a tomato sauce-based barbecue sauce concoction.


Napa Valley’s Go-To Grilling Resource for Great Barbecues

One of the key ingredients to a superb grilling recipe is the ingredients!

And at Cal Mart, we have always made it our mission to provide our customers with the finest in fresh ingredients. For specialty foods, premium meats, gourmet cheeses, and other culinary staples such as fine wines and craft beers, Cal Mart is your “go to” local grocery store in Napa Valley.

And it is our long-standing commitment to service and our love for what we do that shows up in the quality of our specialty foods selection, our fine deli meats, and our gourmet cheeses.

In addition to our wide selection of fresh and locally sourced grocery items, we also stock unique and hard-to-find specialty food products. And Cal Mart is host to a superb delicatessen, a vast selection of quality wines, and a wide variety of craft beers.

Are you shopping for those special ingredients to create your sure-to-please secret barbecue sauce for your grilling extravaganzas this summer?

We have a fresh and locally grown produce, herbs, and cheeses as well as spices much, much more. And for the grill, we have an abundance of quality meats and fresh seafood choices. So, make it a point to come by Cal Mart in Calistoga and explore all that we have to offer.

And while you’re here, take a moment to visit our deli and speak with our knowledgeable staff. Maybe even treat yourself to a cup of gourmet coffee or tea from our Coffee Bar while you’re here.

Cal Mart has been a family-owned and independent grocery store for over five decades. We have been providing a unique and enjoyable shopping experience for customers for more than 50 years and we are proud to be a long-standing part of our community in Calistoga and Napa Valley.

Which is one of the reasons why we work hard to be considered “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery.”

Cal Mart: Where you will always find something unexpected, unusual, uncommon, and amazing!