I recently had a chance to chat with BBQ Chef Adam Perry Lang and George Dickel National Brand Ambassador Doug Kragel. Chef Lang is one of the biggest names in BBQ. Back over the summer he was on Jimmy Kimmel teaching Jimmy how to cook steaks. When I had the chance to talk to him, I thought I’d grill him (Sorry for the horrible pun) on what else: BBQ and whisky.
Adam on his cooking style: My style is one of just an active griller. I like to talk about BBQ as cooking with live fire. I like to let the situation dictate. (I like to) feel the fire, understand how it’s behaving. Often times I’m very active moving meat around or sometimes just leaving it alone. I don’t have any type of set protocol.
Adam on his favorite winter cuts to cook: I like to cook large roasts. I’m typically a person who loves to cook beef, so I love rib roasts. A bone-in or bone-out ribeye roast is a favorite of mine. I love cooking bone-in strip loin as well.
Adam on cooking those tough cuts like brisket: I don’t know what you’re cooking on, but you should cook between a temperature range of between 250 and 300 degrees, and really be patient. As the meat cooks to about 160 degrees internal, let it cook there for a while. A quick tip to tenderize it is to wrap it in butcher’s paper or aluminum foil and put it back on the grill and cook to a temperature of 205 degrees.
Adam on whisky and BBQ: It’s a match made in heaven for two reasons. First, drinking whisky with things that tend to be heavier in fat, it’s a great counter-balance. It’s very palate cleansing in respect to something that’s very deep and rich in fat. Just as important I find that whisky, with it’s smoky overtones, is similar in so many ways – even just the craft of making whisky, specifically George Dickel, how they’re handmade the hard way. The beauty is in all the details. BBQ is the same thing. You really have to be very attentive to all the details.
Doug on George Dickel and BBQ: I think Adam hit it on the head. First and foremost it’s about our connection to the whisky and how that goes so well with the core principles of cooking BBQ. Having 25 guys at the distillery who man every single part of the process, they’re paying attention to it and are constantly aware to what’s happening. We’re not removing ourselves from the process like you are with other types of cooking. The flavor profiles of George Dickel have the right balance of smokiness and whisky bite that everybody loves. The astringency works well with fatty meat. Also because it’s 84% corn, the sweetness that comes in as well provides a great contrast to the spices you add to your BBQ. They really mesh well together. That balance balance between the sweetness in the whisky and what comes out in the meat really meshes well.
Adam on his secret whisky BBQ sauce: The secret is there is no secret. It’s probably one of those fantastic combinations where we’re just using three ingredients. We’re cooking down the whisky until we cook off the alcohol. Then we’re adding honey. At that point either add your own homemade BBQ sauce or your favorite store brand. It’s really tremendous.
Adam on other ways to incorporate whisky into BBQ: Drinking it. (laughs) I’m not really looking for crazy different ways to cook with it. I only want to use it where I think it’s appropriate. For me, it would just be an accent with the BBQ sauce or to just drink it. I don’t feel it would carry through so much that… it would just be lost if I were to baste with it or something else.
Doug on whisky cocktails and food pairings: When it comes to pairing whisky with food in general I think that starting neat, especially when cooking with BBQ, is the way to go. I think Adam would second that there’s something about the process of being involved with your with your cooking and being able to enjoy that whisky neat to start, and being able to sip on it. When we get into cocktails I think it’s more of an accent. Cooking, especially with BBQ, is about entertaining as well. It’s about creating an atmosphere. What I really love to do in that scenario is make some whisky punches. You make a very simple punch (see recipe below) with George Dickel Rye and some citrus. Very simple to make, and it’s about the entertaining and the experience. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, other than making a classic Manhattan at home for that pre-meal cocktail. That’s one of the better places to start pairing is before the actual meal. It starts off the whole experience.