There is probably nothing better in the world than enjoying a sunny evening in the backyard with friends and grilled meat. That is of course if we are blessed with good weather. But what if it’s bloody raining and you are in the mood for a meaty-licious steak for your dinner in Dublin? You’re obviously not going to wait for the clouds to pass by, but rather, if you are a really determined bear, you would visit one of the BBQ restaurants in Dublin and get what you want, now, wouldn’t you?
However, before you drop everything and go hunt for your meat, there are a few things you should know- mainly how to spot a fake BBQ joint. Yup, there are fakers among us. And for every BBQ restaurant there are always bad ones plying customers with meat that has been baked, boiled and cloaked in a sickly sweet sauce. This is not barbecue, and to avoid the phonies, walk away from the restaurant if…
1. You see, taste or smell liquid smoke
Liquid smoke is made from torching wood chips and funneling the smoke into the condenser, where it then cools and drips. This results in more water being added to bulk up the smoky brew. It has a highly-condensed smoky flavour, and when thrown into sauces, marinates, the liquid smoke produces an unholy and unmistakable chemical note. Any restaurant that uses smoke flavour poured from a bottle is covering up the fact that their “barbecue” is cooked in a gas or electric oven. Boom. The waft of a line cook’s Camel unfiltered is the closest your meat ever got to smoke.
2. The barbecue is sauced before it reaches your table
What you really want to taste is the deliciously prepared meat.A dark, sticky, liquid smoky sauce can cover up flavors, or meat lacking the flavor of real smoke. It also masks the gray appearance of meat that has been wrapped in foil, reheated, and/or steamed flaccid. The same goes for any restaurant that frolics in the kind of “our sauce is the best” or something you watch cooking competitions on Food channels. If the sauce gets more attention than the meat, then something ain’t right.
3. They really advertise the “fall off the bone” ribs
If eating the barbecue doesn’t require your central and lateral incisors (and the meat could be sucked, with just a little effort, through a straw), the restaurant is boiling and/or steaming the meat first and grilling or broiling it to finish, which gives brisket, ribs, and pulled pork the appearance of being cooked over flames. Properly cooked ribs may pull or tear clean off the bone, but they should never slide off. Amateurs might call it tender, but barbecue traditionalists know a fake by the telltale mushy, flavorless, and overcooked meat Jell-O they serve.
4. It’s in a shopping centre (sorry!)
If you see a BBQ restaurant next to an art store or better yet, a Discount Store, it’s safe to assume that local fire codes prohibit live wood and charcoal cooking on the premises… unless there’s a massive, expensive exhaust-ventilation system- but you would really need to invest in it. And if the restaurant can afford such a system, you can bet they’re not setting up shop next to Bershka.
5. There is a 2-ton cooker sitting in the window display
And that’s all it does. It just sits there in the window display. The owner of the restaurant might fire up a few logs to trick your senses into thinking “Hi there, here is where real BBQ is happening.” But mostly it’s a big €20,000 neon sign for the restaurant, and the meat you’re eating never saw the inside of that (or any other) smoker. These rigs are often purchased by overzealous winners of barbecue competitions who quit their day jobs to open barbecue restaurants. When the owners realize the time and labor involved in operating a smoker to feed the masses and the dicey ROI in authentic barbecue, they forget the wood-fired rig and go gas. True story.
Surprised? Now you know how to choose the best BBQ restaurant and most importantly, how to tell a good meat from a bad one. Now, you can go an check these ones out and tell which one is fake. You’re welcome.