The Tastes of USA BBQ: Maryland/Baltimore style BBQ
Barbecuing is a delicious treat for all your friends and family, with plenty of meat to go around and all sorts of spices and sauces to experiment with. But even the most ardent barbecue fans tend not to look outside the southern United States when trying new flavors. This is a shame, as one of the tastiest and most unique barbecued treats comes from Baltimore, Maryland.
Baltimore's style of barbecue is different from almost anywhere else in the country. What makes it so different? How can you replicate it at home? Today in our Tastes of USA BBQ series we'll answer both these questions and many more as we take a look at how to make Baltimore-style barbecue.
Baltimore's style of barbecuing is extremely different from almost anywhere else in the country, both in its technique and the meat used. Rather than smoking, Baltimore-style barbecue is grilled over an extra smokey fire, making cooking a much quicker job than with other styles. As for the meat used, the most popular kind to barbecue in the city is beef, with Baltimore's signature dish being the barbecue pit beef sandwich.
What You'll Need For This Recipe
In order to make an authentic recreation of Baltimore's famous beef sandwich, you'll need a few supplies. Luckily, they're all fairly easy to get your hands on.
Just like with any barbecue, a key component to getting the best and most robust flavor in your meat is selecting the right kind of wood. Baltimore-style barbecue has less focus on the smoke than others, but this still holds true all the same. Hickory and apple are two common woods, as are red oak and cherry. The key is to pair a heavier wood with a sweater wood so that neither overpowers the other.
Cooking the Beef
Once you've assembled all your supplies, it's time to start cooking.
Step 1: Seasoning the Meat
In comparison to other barbecue recipes, Baltimore-style barbecue beef has a relatively simple spice rub. To compensate for that, the amount of time the rub is applied to the meat is increased from overnight to at least a full day, if not three.
To make the spice rub, just combine two tablespoons of seasoned salt with a tablespoon of sweet paprika, plus a teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, and dried oregano. Finally, add half a teaspoon of freshly ground pepper and mix well to combine.
Once that's completed, thoroughly coat the surface of your meat and press the spices into the flesh, wrapping in plastic wrap and letting it rest in the refrigerator for the previously mentioned length of time.
Step 2: Lighting the Grill
After your meat has fully developed its flavors, it's time to light the grill (it's also a good idea to let your meat sit out as you do this so it can warm to room temperature before you cook). Fill the grill halfway with charcoal and light it. Once it begins to smolder, place chunks of wood near the center of the charcoal, covering with more charcoal followed by the grill grate. Close the lid and let the heat and smoke build up inside until you're ready to grill.
Step 3: Grilling the Beef
Once your grill has reached a high temperature (around 450 degrees Fahrenheit or more at the beginning of cooking), lay the meat onto the grates. Unlike with most things you grill, it's a good idea to turn the meat often (every five minutes or so) to ensure even searing and to prevent any one spot from overcooking. Add more charcoal or wood as needed to ensure a hot, smokey fire.
In total, the cooking time for the beef should only be about 30 to 40 minutes in total. You'll be able to tell the meat is cooked when the outside is a deep, crusty brown. For rare meat (how this dish is traditionally served), you'll look for an internal temperature of about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, though you can of course adjust to the level of done-ness of your choice.
Step 4: Resting the Meat and Preparing the Buns
When the meat has reached the temperature of your choice, remove it from the heat and take it inside to rest. Tint the beef loosely with aluminum foil and allow it to sit undisturbed for at least five minutes, though longer resting times are better.
As your meat rests, take the opportunity to toast your rolls or bread using the grill. Wait for the fire's temperature to drop some, then lay out your rolls or bread onto the grates. It won't take long to toast, so be vigilant. Toast both sides for roughly ten seconds each, adjusting the toasting time as needed for darker bread while avoiding burning.
Step 5: Prepare the Toppings
This step is optional, but for the true Baltimore-style barbecue experience, your beef sandwich won't be complete without toppings. Smear one side of your bun or bread with mayonnaise, then do the same to the other with horseradish sauce (you could combine both into a single sauce and use it for both pieces if you wish). Thinly slice a while onion and a tomato, placing them on the top bun or slice of bread in preparation for the meat.
Step 6: Assemble the Sandwich
After you've prepped the buns or bread with the toppings, you can finally cut the meat. Slice the beef as thinly as you can with the grain. The goal is slices thin enough that they could be cut with a deli slicer. Place a healthy handful of beef slices onto the bottom bun or slice of bread and top with the complimenting piece, plating your sandwiches and preparing to eat.
Baltimore-style barbecue is a unique experience among barbecued meat, with an unusual blend of spices and a very different method of cooking than most are used to. Despite this, those who try this delectable beef sandwich will tell you it more than stands beside the likes of beef ribs or chicken legs when it comes to the all time great barbecued foods.
Did you like this recipe? Have any tips on how to improve a Baltimore beef sandwich? Tell us in the comments, and don't forget to share this with a roast beef sandwich lover in your life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Barbecue Pit Beef?
Barbecue pit beef is the type of beef used in the famous Baltimore pit beef sandwich. It is rarely found outside of Maryland. Instead of using brisket, Baltimore pit bosses use top round, a flavorful and less expensive cut of beef. It is then cooked over a very hot, smokey fire, so it cooks faster than traditional barbecue.
What is the Best Cut of Meat for Pit Beef?
Top round is traditionally used in Baltimore style barbecue, but you could use rump roast, bottom round, or sirloin roast. It crucial that it is a large cut of beef, preferably around three pounds.
How Long Does it Take to Cook Pit Beef?
Pit beef cooks very quickly as compared to other barbecue styles. The pit beef is cooked over a very hot grill, around 450 degrees F or higher. It should only take about 30 to 40 minutes for your beef to reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees F.
Does Baltimore Style BBQ Have a Classic Barbecue Sauce?
Unlike other types of barbecue sauce, Baltimore style barbecue is not served with ketchup-based sauces, vinegar-based sauces, or liquid smoke. Baltimore style barbecue is often served with horseradish. It is generally agreed upon that the spicier the sauce, the better the pit beef sandwich.
Is Baltimore Style Pit Beef Shredded or Sliced?
The Baltimore style of cooking pit beef cooks it so it is crusty and smoky on the outside but medium rare on the inside. This makes it more akin to roast beef than smoked brisket. It will not fall apart enough to be shredded, so it is always sliced.