The culture of cooking meat over fire, is a practice exuded all over the world. After looking at the Netflix documentary Barbecue, I was awe struck by the philosophies of different people from across the globe who cook meat over wood and fire. The philosophies shared by many of the participants on the Netflix documentary, definitely are shared and understood around the world.
In the US, I hear a lot of “new school” pitmasters say they are no secrets to barbecue and they are open book. I disagree because there are some secrets. If a pitmaster who has distinguishable features in the barbecue, say they don’t have any secrets, they are lying.
If they are truly open book would they give employees or people their recipes without nondisclosure agreements. No, because these trade secrets are their competitive advantage in execution of a recipe outside of the hand who prepares it. The recipe is intellectual property that creates a certain flavor profile. One interviewer on the documentary, said it best, “ The secret is in your hand. Even if the recipe is the same, Everybody’s hand has its own taste and as such, you get different results. It’s the hand of the one who makes it that matters in the end.” I do agree with this particular cook and my cousin reiterated this message during my family reunion in 2017. In making my family’s barbecue sauce, my cousin whom know the sauce well said that the sauce that I make is different from my father’s. At first, I was like how is that so as my sauce recipe comes from his and his approach to making it. I have made improvements in the process to get the same sauce results consistently. Then a few years ago, I had one of the ultimate honors bestowed upon me, my father asked me to shipped him some bbq sauce as he liked mine. I was like really because you know how to make the sauce. I guess the subtle things I do is what makes it different and of course I believe the “The secret is in your hand.”
The final reassurance of the “The secret is in your hand” is when I heard my brother from another mother Cultural Chef BJ Dennis say something about the hand in the pot makes the difference in the pot, even if I give you a recipe. I’ll share recipes on occasions but not all occasions because for many years African American recipes were stolen and not given any credit. However, when I give you a recipe I am give it to you like I would prepare it but there are a few ingredients that can’t be duplicated, my hand and love. Those two ingredients provide a lot of flavor. The secret to barbecue lies in the cook’s hand and even if a new pitmaster says he is an open book, he/she is not telling the entire truth. The final confirmation of idea of the hand also explains how people can identify if there is a major change in the kitchen or pithouse of a- restaurant. The hand greatly influences the food and final dish.