BBQ FAQ: Mops

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[What is the difference between a mop, a sop and a basting sauce?]

Editor--

A mop, a sop and a basting sauce are all basically the same. A liquid that you put on the meat while it cooks. A basting sauce may be somewhat thicker than a mop or a sop.


[Can someone discuss the effects that oil-based mops have on moisture retention while barbecuing?]

Danny Gaulden--

I didn't figure this out by being a genius, but by doing and observing what was going on every time I smoked something. I don't know anything about the science behind what I am about to say but I just know that it works for me and makes a much better product. My store pit, being a carousel-type, helps me produce the best ribs, brisket, etc. that I've ever eaten. Yet when I would barbecue the same cuts of meat at home on my Klose horizontal off-set firebox pit, they were always drier and not as tender. "Why is this?" I thought. So I started looking at my several pits and how they cooked differently. The store pit always has a good load of meat in it and especially many fat briskets. I noticed that when I pulled my ribs off of this pit, they always had a shine on them, and were just plain wet with drippings from the briskets, butts, and other fatter cuts of meat on the rotisserie. Didn't take me long to figure out what was the problem at home on my horizontal pits--they do not have the ability to have the "meat drippings" from the other meats drip down to the next rack, and self baste themselves. Bingo! The result of this not happening in my Klose pit is drier ribs, briskets, etc. So I started making up an oil-based mop. I put in a small shot of zesty spices, plus a little Worcestershire sauce. I love that stuff and what it does to beef and pork. Don't put on too much to overpower the meat, just enough to give a nice flavor that one would say "Ummm, that's good, what am I tasting here?" Remember, the key to good seasoning is to produce a great flavor, but not to make it so strong that one can pick out the ingredients.

So every hour or so (maybe a little less), I will brush on my oil mixture on everything I cook in my horizontal pits. I try to duplicate what happens in the rotisserie pits. To answer your question on "oil based mops, and moisture retention": Oil hangs around a lot longer on the meat than water, vinegar, etc. I assume it's because of its chemical make-up, and the fact that oil has a much higher heat tolerance and evaporation point vs. water or vinegar-based mops. It is like a little guard around you meat--it takes the beating from the heat (to a point), and protects the meat under it and helps keep in the moisture. All I know is that it works, and I will continue doing it. But remember that you still have to keep your temperature up high enough to cook the meat, not dry it out. The oil or fat can only go so far. Pit temperatures of 240-250F are the key to a great piece of barbecue. Also, in a horizontal pit, like the Klose, remember to turn and rotate the meat to even out the heating.

If you like the flavor that olive oil imparts, then by all means use it. If you don't, then use a blander tasting vegetable oil. Ribs aren't exactly what a health conscious one would call a healthy food. I just don't think the oil, if considered in the whole picture, makes that much difference to ones health when eating the things we all like to barbecue. Plus a lot of the oil cooks away. I have been using Crisco salad oil, for I like to bake with it. So rather than have different oils around, I use that and it works fine for me.

Try this. Get a 2 or 3 inch pastry brush, and brush on a little oil on the top and bottom of your ribs, then apply your rub. Don't use a rub that you have to "pile" on, for it will burn a bit during the smoking process and make your ribs "ugly". Use a rub that is fairly stout in flavor and doesn't require a heavy coating to attain its goal. Don't rub it in after you apply the oil, for that will make the rub bunch up in places. Just press it in with your hand, and let it be. [Editor--try David Klose's dry rib rub found in the Rib section.]

Keep your pit in the 240-250F range. After 45 minutes or so, check the ribs, and see if they are starting to look dry. If they are, brush on a little more oil. Continue this for about 3 hours, or until the fat from the ribs starts to come up and baste the meat on its own. At that point, you can stop worrying about mopping with the oil. Give this a try, and I know you will be a happy barbecuer.



[I was thinking about using the oil basting technique to keep the meat in the smoker more moist. My only question now is: How does it effect smoke penetration and bark?]

Danny Gaulden--

I wondered the same thing before I tried this at home. I keep three kinds of wood here at the house most of the time--green, half green, and well-seasoned. That way, I can control my fire to a fine art, and eliminate most of the problems that a lot of people have using just one kind of wood. I get smoke when I want it, and I get a good clean heat when I want it. Plus I get great temperature control. Anyway, the answer to your questions are: You will still get great smoke penetration and you will also get a great bark. If you keep the temperature up around 240 to 250F in your pit, you will get a great bark and good things will happen.



[Can you give me some more recipes for mops?]

Carey Starzinger--

General-Purpose Mop for all Barbeque Meats

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (like Texas Pete or Tabasco)
  • 1/2 quart Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 pint vinegar
  • 2 quarts beef bone stock
  • 1/2 pint vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons MSG (optional)

To make bone stock, buy stout beef bones and bake them in a medium oven for about 2 hours then boil them in water. Add all the other ingredients to the bone stock and let mixture stand overnight in the refrigerator before using. You can use canned beef stock, but it's not as good.

Use this mop to baste meats while cooking. Keep leftover mop refrigerated.

Source: Walter Jetton's LBJ Barbeque Cook Book



Diddy-Wa-Diddy Mop and Dipping Sauce

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (like Texas Pete or Tabasco)
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 2 cups grape juice

Combine all ingredients in a jar. Tighten lid and shake until blended. This sauce may be served at room temperature or heated.

"This is a simple flavor enhancer", Remus tells me. "It's thin enough to read today's headlines through--but not so thin that a politician can." Remus assures me that this authentic sauce can be used as a mop during cooking and as a dip after your meat has been taken off the grill. For beef and pork. [Editor—This mop will be improved by the addition of 1 cup of vegetable oil.]

Source: The Great Barbecue Companion, Mops, Sops, Sauces, and Rubs by Bruce Bjorkman.



Mel's Moppin' Sauce

  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 whole lemon thinly sliced, with peel on
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger grated
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until flavors are nicely blended, about 15 minutes. After it cools, strain the lemon slices out.

Source: The Great Barbeque Companion, mops, sops, sauces and rubs by Bruce Bjorkman.



Danny Gaulden--

Try this on your chicken for a butter baste mop the next time you barbecue.

Danny's Lemon-Butter Basting Sauce

  • 1 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Just put the ingredients into a sauce pan and heat it up. Put the chicken halves in the smoker and keep that temperature at 240-250F. Mop the chicken every 30 minutes or so until it's done, 170F internal temperature.


[When I make an oil-based mop, the oil and fruit juice always separates, making mopping difficult. Any tips?]

Editor--

Make up an oil-based mop, allow it to cool and put it into an empty 1 quart Mason jar. Put on the lid and shake the mop vigorously and then pour the mixture into a bowl. The oil and water mixture will now stay in suspension for several minutes. Mop the meat immediately. Then pour the mop liquid back into the Mason jar and cap it and then repeat the procedure the next time you need to mop.

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