May 16 is National Barbecue Day. The purist in the world of barbecue either uses charcoal, wood or gas and slow cooks the meat of choice over indirect heat. While the type of meat and seasonings vary, each part of the country specializes in their own flavors and sauces.

 For example, more tangy BBQ with a vinegar base can be found in North Carolina. South Carolina leans toward a sweeter sauce. The sauce can be applied thick or thin, giving it more of a glaze. Turn up the heat by adding spices and peppers.

 Smoking meat is another way to add flavor and tenderness, too.

 Unique ingredients come from ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire, brown sugar, soy, and molasses. But you never know what combination of spices a barbecue master has in his or her repertoire. They’ve spent years perfecting their trade.

 Pork is the original barbecue meat, but beef, chicken, lamb, and other meats find their way into barbecue.

 If you think it’s just about the meat, you’d be wrong. The sides are just as important when it comes to good barbecue. An ideal coleslaw will pair well with a shredded BBQ pork and make the perfect sandwich.  The macaroni and cheese, potatoes and BBQ baked beans – these are all staples of barbecue flavors.

 If you’re looking for a unique grill or smoker, check out Great Lakes Grills in Fenton Township.

 Carl Jones, 40, of Fenton had some tips he’s learned over his 15 years grilling/smoking.

 He said, “Prepping the meat beforehand is a big deal. I put meat on smokers way more than the grill, so salting (brining/marinading) it overnight and letting the salt break down the proteins some works wonders. What you do with the meat before it ever hits the cooking surface is important.”

 For smokers, Jones said he uses two brands, a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker and Motor City Smokers’ V8 model. As to the spices he likes to use, Jones said when he doesn’t mix his own rub, he likes to use Stubb’s rubs and sauces. “Otherwise, I’m normally mixing garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar, paprika with a splash of something else.

 When asked what meat and side dishes are his favorite to grill or smoke, he said pork shoulder for pulled pork is his favorite. “I also love doing whole chickens.”

 One of his low-key favorites is a fire roasted salsa when he makes pulled pork tacos. He uses tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, cut and charred on a grill. He then throws in cilantro and squeeze of lime over it.

 Phil Canup, owner of Beale Street Smokehouse BBQ in Fenton said they’re pretty traditional and “low and slow.” He makes sure he uses the highest quality meats and sauce ingredients. “We’re always looking for new ideas,” he said. One important thing, as a restaurant, is to be consistent with their offerings.

 Robin Clark, the deli manager at Alpine Marketplace in Linden said Alpine BBQs slabs of ribs the third Thursday of the month. Their next event is May 20. They have a package deal of a slab of ribs, a 2-liter bottle of pop, garlic bread and salad.

 She said customers have told her that they could smell the BBQ a mile down the road. When asked what makes their ribs so good, she said, “The secret is the cook.”

 On a typical Thursday, she said they sell about 800 slabs of ribs. There have been occasions when they sold nearly 1,000. People can preorder their ribs or just show up in person between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. She said they use a blend of Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce and apple juice to season their ribs.

 Holly Foods also does BBQ rib events. They announced their next one on June 10.

 Bill Lowery, a competition BBQ pitmaster and Billy Joes BBQ catering owner with business partner Joe Wood, offers tips. Lowery said ribs are their specialty.

 Lowery said always remove the membrane on the bone side of the ribs. This creates a much more pleasant bite. Do not over season your ribs with rub. When you apply the rub, do so with a slow and steady hand. “You want the pork flavor to be the star and the rub to only compliment the pork, not over power it,” he said.

 When applying sauce do so at the end of the cook and put the ribs back on the grill for 5-10 minutes longer to allow the sauce to set up.

 “This to me is the most important tip, always cook your ribs indirectly,” Lowery said. “Meaning, keep the heat source to the other side of the grill and allow the ambient heat to do the cooking. This takes much longer to cook but is so worth the wait. My preferred method is smoking ribs, using nothing but wood.”

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