Over New Year’s Eve dinner, the subject came up, as it is wont to do: What is your resolution for the coming year?
Among the usual declarations — get in better shape, lose weight — I proclaimed that I will learn to make pastrami.
It is the same resolution I made last year. Except for eating some pastrami sandwiches, I never came close to fulfilling my vow.
This year will be different. Honest. I mean it this time.
Actually, I do. I love pastrami, and I find that it is next to impossible to find a truly sublime version. Rosy pink. Juicy, but not overly fatty. (Notice I said, overly.) Sliced thin. On rye. With just the right mustard.
In the same way that a princess has to kiss a lot of frogs to find her prince, so I figure I will make a lot of terrible briskets before I perfect my pastrami. But this is the year. As resolutions go, it’s gotta be more achievable than getting in shape.
I wondered what other barbecue-meisters had on their resolution plate. So I asked a few. Here are their answers:
Ray Lampe, a.k.a. Dr. BBQ , champion competitor and author of seven cookbooks. “For 2013, I resolve to use genuine low-and-slow barbecue techniques in my cooking. No more of this hot-and-fast braising shortcutting. This faux barbecue lacks the attributes that make the real thing so special, like the crispy bark, the smoky twang and that texture that can only be achieved by long-and-slow cooking.”
Michael Fay, chief cook and pitmaster of Aporkalypse Now competition team and president of the Mid Atlantic Barbecue Association. “Just win, baby! Develop new flavor profiles and competition techniques to improve on 2012’s record; to win our way back to the Jack Daniel’s Invitational competition in October.”
John Markus, creator and executive producer of “BBQ Pitmasters.” “I am resolved this year to buy no more barbecue pits. And that’s because I designed and built a rotisserie cooker myself, one that can turn out true, old school-tasting barbecue in big numbers with big flavor. I call it my ‘done right’ smoker. I think my hobby is in need of an intervention.”
Craig “Meathead” Goldwyn, creator of the Web site, AmazingRibs.com. “In 2013, I resolve to continue my quest to test all the accepted wisdom and bust myths. Read ‘Meat Science’ magazine cover to cover even if I can’t understand half the words in it. Be more creative with seasoning and saucing. Create more recipes for veggies. Cook outside the box.”
Stan Hays, competitor and co-founder of Operation BBQ Relief. “My resolution is to improve our [team’s] consistency with pork. With OBR, our resolution is to improve our response process.”
Myron Mixon, three-time world champion, “BBQ Pitmasters” judge, cookbook author, restaurateur. “To bring great barbecue to more cities with the expansion of my Pride & Joy restaurants. Develop new techniques and flavors that will keep my barbecue classes on the cutting edge. Make every barbecue show entertaining and informative. Above all else, keep family and friends involved in my life. Without them, the rest doesn’t matter.”
‘Cue Meat Week. The national “holiday time forgot” known as Meat Week is set for Jan. 27-Feb. 3. Celebrated, if that is the right word, in 22 cities across the country, the orgy of barbecue-eating is in its fourth year in Washington, where there will be a Barbecue Food Truck Face-Off this year. Among the seven sites, Epic Smokehouse in Arlington and Kangaroo Boxing Club in the District are new to the itinerary. Details are here.
Golden Rib Award. In an online vote, readers of the Web site, GrillingWithRich.com, awarded Operation BBQ Relief the site’s “BBQ Person of the Year.” The site’s founder, Richard Wachtel, acknowledges the organization isn’t a person but argues its rapid-response feeding operations in areas devastated by Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac, among other locales, make the group deserving. I concur. And so, for service and activity of special distinction, I follow suit. The winner of the 2012 Smoke Signals Golden Rib Award goes to Operation BBQ Relief.