You've got to let a low and steady heat build, then take things real slow -- that's the one "love me tender" trick upon which all barbecue lovers agree when it comes to making great brisket, ribs, chicken and more.
But beside that golden rule, there are as many ways to make barbecue as there are to make whoopee. For every barbecue aficionado out there, there is a different philosophy regarding what constitutes great barbecue and how it must be made Â? not to mention how it should be spelled.
Want to baste with the big boys but feel intimidated when bellying-up to a barbecue pit? Have no fear -- we found out what you need to know.
Each summer, barbecue guru and master grilling authority Steven Raichlen, the award-winning author of The Barbecue! Bible, offers a three-day interactive grilling course that teaches the best barbecue techniques to novices and experts alike at the five-star, five-diamond Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs (www.thebroadmoor.com). This year's BBQ University will be held June 11-14 and again June 14-17 (the second session is nearly sold out). Raichlen puts pupils through their paces with lessons on such helpful topics as the history of barbecue, how to make a dry rub, or the anatomy of beef and pork ribs. He also walks them through eight recipes a day to illustrate the five styles of live-fire cooking. Then teams of students take turn working with Raichlen at the grill. Everyone learns about the art and science of grilling, barbecuing and smoking, making rubs and preparing entire meals. Of course, there's also plenty of time for tasting great barbecue and enjoying golf, swimming, hot tubs, the spa, and the 18 fine restaurants, cafes and lounges and many fine shopping venues of The Broadmoor.
"Students gain confidence with hands-on experience using more than 25 wood-burning, charcoal, gas and infrared grills, as well as Kamado cookers and smokers," says Raichlen.
But perhaps you're the kind who can't stand the heat, so you get out of the backyard to go in search for the best barbecue joints. We took an informal poll of several barbecue lovers across the U.S. to tell us about the barbecue places they like best.
Lockhart, Texas: Smitty's Market (208 South Commerce, Lockhart, TX; www.smittysmarket.com)
Post-oak smoked beef brisket, ribs, sausage, and chicken rule in this old-time Texas barbecue joint. Smitty's is so serious about their meats that barbecue sauce isn't allowed on the premises.
Hot Springs, Arkansas: Stubby's BBQ (3024 Central Ave, Hot Springs, AR; www.stubbysbbq.com)
The little pots of baked beans with barbecue brisket shavings on top and sweet barbecue sauce crusting over with a brown sugar kick makes Stubby's sides such a hit. Folks here like to put coleslaw on their chopped beef sandwiches.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Brookwood Farms BBQ (Charlotte Douglas International Airport)
Who would have dreamt that some of the best barbecue in the state could be found in an airport? But travelers swear by the sweet pulled and chopped pork, chicken and beef barbecue specialties at the Brookwood Farms Barbecue counter.
Just a backdoor alley from the Ryman Auditorium (long-time home of the Grand Old Opry) sits Jack's Bar-B-Que, a Nashville standard that has served barbecue to the best country music stars, hungriest locals, and luckiest travelers.
Memphis, Tennessee: Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest (www.memphisinmay.org/bbq)
Barbecue fans flock to the Memphis in May World Champion Barbecue Cooking Contest focusing on pork cooking. Memphis boasts wet ribs basted with a sweet barbecue sauce, dry-rub ribs, and chopped pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw and served on hamburger buns.
Kansas City, KS: Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue (3002 W. 47th Ave., Kansas City, KS; www.oklahomajoesbbq.com)
This gas station-turned-restaurant's claim to fame is "the best barbecue sauce on the planet" ever since it won the 2001 American Royal International Sauce Contest.
Barbecue in Harlem? An unlikely place with an unusual name, it's a "genuine honky tonk rib joint" that only New York could create.
Still can't get enough? Check out the documentary, Barbecue: A Texas Love Story, narrated by the late Texas Governor Ann Richards and featuring notable Texans such as Dan Rather. The film is an entertaining journey through the culture and basics of barbecue and the people who love it. (www.bbqfilm.com).