Yesterday, we talked to Wade Burch of the recently opened Neely’s Barbecue Parlor about slow-roasted meats and his favorite food TV shows. Today, he divulges his best barbecue tips for the home cook and more.
For home cooks, what is the secret to good barbecue?
Good barbecue at home in a New York apartment is ordering out. Call Neely’s. I can give you the number. No, I’m kidding. Basically, just go to a good, reputable butcher where you’re going to get the right cut of pork. Try to buy fresh ribs, not frozen, because it makes a difference. Do a spice rub and don’t go overboard. It doesn’t take as much as you think. And then, just do your best. If you don’t have a smoker, cook them slow and be patient. That’s the key to barbecue. “Low and slow” is not something that keeps getting repeated because it sounds catchy. That’s the way it’s done. It’s the key to everything.
Is that the biggest mistake people make? Not going slow enough?
People tend to rush it. They don’t really realize how much time you have to set aside. I heard a story when I first got to New York about how it takes so long to make polenta that if you make it right, you don’t need any salt because the sweat from your brow will season the polenta. That’s an old nonna wives’ tale. There’s a similar adage about barbecue that my uncle taught me: Base the time you smoke it by how many beers it takes to drink with it. So, a rack of ribs is six beers; a brisket’s 12 beers. I don’t personally do that now because I wouldn’t be able to walk. We’re smoking a lot of meat. I haven’t turned my smoker off yet. I’m running it 24 hours a day. We’re busy beyond my wildest dreams.
What do you drink with barbecue when you are drinking?
Beer and barbecue, I think, just go together. The lighter the beer, in my opinion, the more meat you can eat. We’ve got Pabst Blue Ribbon on the menu because, to me, it’s a throwback beer. We’ve also got a great India pale ale. We’ve got Full Sail, so if you like the spicier sauce and the spice notes, that’s a great match. We’ve got some beautiful Zinfandels on the menu if you’re more of a wine person. The only reason I don’t like to drink wine when I’m eating barbecue is my hands get too dirty and the glass can slip out of your hand. And bourbon, there’s no way you can go wrong. It’s a great way to finish the meal because it’s got some of the smoky, sweet, and spice characteristics of barbecue.
What are some of your guilty pleasures?
I like my bourbon, don’t get me wrong, which is also another great reason why I’m working here. Not that I’m drinking at work, but it’s nice to be surrounded by all those beautiful bottles. I have a five-thousand-bottle wine cellar, so I enjoy my wine. Even though I restrain a lot, I still love ice cream. I’m a big Ben & Jerry’s or a Häagen-Dazs fan. I keep myself on a short leash now, so I won’t gain my weight back.
When you’re not in your own restaurants, where do you like to eat?
Now that I have three little kids, it’s really not about where I want to eat. If I had a choice, I like all the Danny Meyer restaurants. I haven’t been out in quite a while, except to eat barbecue. Shockingly enough, that’s all I’ve been doing. For the last six to eight months, when we go out, we go check out one of our competitors or colleagues, whichever way you want to look at it. I do like my Mexican food, growing up in Texas. That would be probably my first choice. In New York, there’s so many good restaurants and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t even eaten at all of the top ones. Having 10 restaurants to babysit myself and three daughters, it’s kinda hard.
Slow-cooking over low heat sounds pretty safe. Does that mean you have no kitchen horror stories?
I’ve had my share of stitches. I’ve probably got about 55 to date. Not with this company, but in my whole cooking career. I’ve blown my back out. I wrecked my elbow a couple of years ago. I had back surgery about this time last year.
Are you fully recovered?
Good as new, if not better. I’m 45 and still going, like the Energizer Bunny.