A Graphic Evaluation Scheme
As far as we are concerned, as long as our desire is to burn the stages, we must accept the idea that Barbecue is only at the very beginning of an evolutionary path that is still very long if we intend it in its broader sense, the one that accompanies cooking expressions with a more consolidated history. Unfortunately, barbecue is often evaluated behind a cultural heritage that leads to conceiving it roughly as if it do not deserve more than enough effort to be fully appreciated.
It happens then that on Facebook I casually tap into a post by Jay Beaumont on the page of the Australasian Barbecue Alliance which graphically shows a spectrum of evaluation of the sensory profile of the pure barbecue. I find it extremely interesting and it is the first time I see approaching the BBQ tasting so analytically. Obviously recognizing all the credits, I decided to translate it and make it available to you.
Here it came to my mind to try to continue this elevation of barbecue tasting to another “evolved” theme: that of balancing in the combination. I do not know how much you love wine but in that case, you probably know a graphics chart used in AIS training, which turns out to be useful in breaking down perceptions experienced in tasting wine and food and making it extremely clear which of these should be counterbalanced and to what extent to make the matching balanced.
The board provides two overlapping schemes, devoted respectively to the sensory evaluation of food and wine. Each scheme consists of three trees arranged to form a triangle, each of which contains evaluation criteria and values. The two triangles are arranged so that their respective vertices are opposite. By evaluating along the aces the values of food and wine in the respective triangles and combining values with rows, two areas result. To simplify the concept, the perfect match is when:
- The two areas have two opposite shapes, so the values contrast and form a balance
- The two areas have the same surface, so the so-called “wideness” of flavor is similar. To understand, a truffle braised meat has an important wideness that would “kill” a shy Erbaluce wine. The opposite would happen to a Caprese with a Barbaresco.
I wanted to try to reuse this setting to evaluate the possible combination of foods in the barbecue area. By leaving unchanged the three-axis scheme devoted to food, which would specifically be intended for the evaluation of generic food or seasoning to be combined with, I would like to replace the wine one with a similar scheme, always in three axes, but centered on the characteristics of the pure barbecue. Barbecue is also a food, of course, but it has some characteristics that commonly share all its dishes. I therefore wanted to take it for granted and concentrate more on the peculiarities that make a barbecue dish different from the other, focusing on them the matching criteria. More specifically, the three axes of the scheme would be the following:
- Smoking, Cauterization, Intensity and Persistence – That is, how much the role of smoking is prevarious in the balance of the barbecue dish, what level of external cauterization or the Bark characterizes it, how intense the flavor is and how much it persists in the mouth. The idea is that these aspects should be opposed to the level of spice, aroma, persistence, bitterness, acidity and saltness of accompaniment. Sweetness in this context is insignificant (I said sweetness, means sugary and no simple tendency to sweetness made by elements such as butter)
- Sapidity, sour and acidity that I think do not need any explanation. The idea is to contrast them in a very classic and common way to all sorts of pairing with the sweet tendency and the greed of accompaniment.
- Conservation of Moisture and Gelatinization, two concepts in part linked but distinct. The presence of gelatinization certainly implies a higher preservation of moisture (remember when we talked about the importance of the Rest Step, right?) but not necessarily the two concepts follow the same trail. Some meats are more naturally worn to retain its moisture, although they does not produce a high degree of gelatinization. The contrast with accompaniment would be with its greediness and succulence, or its tendency to produce salivation. It is clear that a low moisture on the barbecue must be balanced by a good succulence and the greediness of its accompaniment.
The resulting scheme would be the following:
We try a possible application, considering some pre-established classic matching. We could start for example with the famous and celebrated encounter between Chicken and Alabama White Sauce, which has made famous joints such as Big Bob Gibson.
Let’s start from the Chicken: it is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult meats to smoke, always binding little. to the smoke while the bark as far as it is marked, only characterizes the skin that at the end of the overall bite tends not to affect too much, then I would consider the left side of the first axis as a 4/10. In terms of intensity and persistence, it is certainly not among the most intense barbecue dishes but I would say that a 6/10 rating on the right side we could give it. The sapidity is often fairly present and we can attenuate it to 7/10 while we do not notice almost the acidic or acre tones, so a 3/10. Chicken is the classic example of meat with a good ability to conserve its moisture (7/10) while producing a poorly gelatinization (3/10).
Alabama White Sauce, due to its freshness, tends to have good succulence (8/10) while its greasiness is tied only to the mayonnaise (6/10) oil, it has high acidity and sapidity (8/10) and a fairly delicate spicing and aromaticity (4/10). The sweet tendency is always limited to only Mayonnaise (4/10) as well as the greediness which, however, is felt much more (7/10). The result is a balance coherent for sure and a proper matching, with the Alabama White Sauce that sometimes tends to stand over the chicken by wideness.
Another example might be the classic match between Pulled Pork and Coleslaw. Pork has a more smoked profile than chicken but considering the mass it is still not particularly impressive (6/10) compared to other barbecue dishes such as ribs. Instead it is much more intense and persistent (8/10) with good sapidity and acre and acid tones (7/10) for the traditional presence of vinegar in the sauce. The tendency to preserve the moisture depends very much on the cut but we start from the assumption of having a Boston Butt (8/10) which is also associated with a decent gelatinization (6/10).
Coleslaw has perceived some elements in common with Alabama White Sauce, such as succulence (8/10), grease (6/10), sour tendency (8/10), aromaticity / spice (4/10 ) and fatness (7/10) while the sweet tendency is more marked (6/10). The matching is certainly more guessed than the previous one, by contrast, but above all by the wideness of the areas.
This scheme, in addition to being useful in revaluing the gastronomic role of barbecue dishes on tables more noble than the rustic joint wood boards, can provide a basis for further interpretation schemes along this path. And what criteria do you use to balance your barbecue dish?