Cooking barbecue is a fun and rewarding activity that can be enjoyed by people all over the world. However, cooking barbecue at altitude can be a different experience than cooking it at sea level. Altitude can affect the cooking time, temperature, and even the flavor of your barbecue. In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for cooking barbecue at altitude, so you can enjoy delicious barbecue no matter where you are.
Tip #1: Adjust Cooking Time and Temperature
When cooking barbecue at altitude, the reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels can affect the temperature and cooking time. As a general rule of thumb, you may need to increase your cooking time by 25% to 50% to ensure that your meat is fully cooked. You may also need to adjust the temperature of your grill or smoker, as the lower air pressure can cause the temperature to fluctuate more than it would at sea level along with having a much lower boiling point. This lower boiling point causes evaporation at cooler temperatures in turn cooling the meat. This can cause the dreaded stall to happen at lower temperatures and significantly increase cooking time. Wrapping the meat will help push the cut through this stall. Your final done temperature will also be reduced so increased cooking time is necessary. At our elevation, 9,800', the boiling point of water is around 193 degrees. This means you will not get your piece of meat past this temperature without completely drying out the meat. You may need to hold the meat at this temperature for multiple hours to get the desired tenderness.
Tip #2: Monitor the Wind
Wind can be a major factor when cooking barbecue at altitude. Strong winds can cause your grill or smoker to lose heat quickly, making it difficult to maintain a consistent temperature. To combat this, consider using a windbreak to shield your grill or smoker. This can be as simple as positioning your grill or smoker near a wall or building, or using a portable windbreak. An insulated smoker is also a great choice to keep the heat even when windy or raining.
Tip #3: Use a Meat Thermometer
When cooking barbecue at altitude, it’s important to ensure that your meat is fully cooked. To do this, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your meat. The USDA recommends cooking beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 145°F, and poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F. This is not the temperature most barbeque will need. Brisket, ribs and pork shoulder all need to be cooked to 190 degrees at elevation and held their until tender. Sausage and chicken need to be cooked to 165 degrees.
Tip #4: Use Dry Rubs and Marinades
To enhance the flavor of your barbecue, consider using dry rubs, dry brining, and marinades. Dry rubs are a blend of herbs and spices that can be rubbed onto the meat before cooking, while marinades are a liquid mixture that can be used to soak the meat before cooking. Dry brining is using salt to enhance the moisture content and flavor of your meat. Any of these methods can help to enhance the flavor of your barbecue and make it more enjoyable.