The cold rain tapped across the window pane as I sipped hot tea from an old, blue-enameled cup, whilst the fingers of my other hand tenderly worked the analog dial of my old time short wave radio. It’s been hurricane season as you know, and I was hoping to find some hams out there discoursing on the weather. I know with the inter connected world of the internet, and a few swift keystrokes, I can find out the weather any where in the world much easier than listening to the radio, but I don’t care. I just like the poetry of a good analog radio. The challenge of trying to wring out a signal from across the country, with what by today’s standards is inferior equipment. Like BBQ, I was more into the journey here than anything. The process. The poetry of good things on cold, wet nights. So I was dredging the side-bands if you will, looking for amateur radio operators talking about the weather. But mostly I guess, I was enjoying just being here, listening to the radio and the rain. And thinking off and on about BBQ. And no, my name is not Jim Reitz. He apparently was the previous owner of the radio before I got a hold of it.
Turns out the last BBQ here at the Pond Side Pit was in the rain. There’s been a lot of that lately, which is of no matter to a patron of the pit. We will grill in sheer tropical force monsoons if need be. Lo, it would be a dark day indeed the moment we actually cook on a stove. Anyways, my wife gets in the mood for fish these days, which is new to me. She’s never been particularly fond of the finned foods. But they tell us when you’re raising a newborn to eat more fish, as it is supposed to help your child grow nice and smart. Well, being a proponent of smart children, I did what any proud and new Papa would do, and went out into the wilds and procured a fish for my family. OK, I really went down to the local grocer and plucked a salmon from the ice, but the other way sounds better don’t you reckon?
What You’ll Need
- Brown Sugar
- Miners Mix Wholly Chipotle
We slathered the salmon first in mustard, then packed on some brown sugar, a little salt, a little pepper, and for our secret ingredient, a dash or two of this blend from our friends at Miners Mix. Wholly Chipotle. It is considered one of their hot rubs, so if you’re not a pepper head, just use it sparingly. A little of this stuff goes quite a ways indeed, but adds that sought after kick of heat that some of us occasionally crave. Anyways, after seasoning this fillet up, we brought it out to the pit where the cedar plank was oiled and pre-heated.
The Art of the Plank
If you’ve never had occasion to try planking on your grill yet, you’re definitely missing something out of your life. It’s about as easy as grilling gets, people. Simply put the plank over direct heat. Remember to soak it for an hour or so beforehand. Lightly oil it if you wish, an pre-heat it like you would a frying pan. Then lay your intended protein gently on top. All you gotta do from here is just get out of the way and let the plank do it’s magic. And it will. This form of cooking is so effective you need not even flip the meat. The plank acts as a heat shield which in turn protects your plunder, whilst at the same time creating an even heat environment, not to mention releasing oils and smoke into your food, giving it a flavor reminiscent of the finest restaurants. It’s just good, people. Trust us!
Planks come in many flavors and thickness, from 1/4 inch cedar, to 1/2 inch maple. Thicker ones last longer of course, but tend to run a little more expensive. You can find them in most any big box store these days. Or you can be lazy and grab some off Amazon I suppose. The best planks we ever tested at PotP were Superior Planks, grown and harvested up north of here, on a small island in lake superior. Check out our write up of that here . Anyways, a really fun and tasty way to grill if you haven’t tried it yet. You can cook anything on them too, from burgers to steaks to vegetables. But the best thing to plank, in our opinion, is fish. Ever have your fish fall apart on the grill grate? Problem solved with the good and ever abiding virtues of the plank. Gotta try this people!
There you go. Spicy cedar planked salmon from the pit. Sided with a lovely bouquet of vegetables for to please the lady folk. And a baked potato smothered in butter. Man! Good eating! And maybe even someday a smart baby, if you’re into that kind of thing. Amen.
She came upon a balmy eve just a few days prior than when the doctors said she would. Just a day before the 4th of July fireworks illuminated the night skies across this mighty country. She looked purple at first, and covered in cheese, but after a while the Lord put breath into her little lungs and she became cute. And still is cute. And somewhere around there I also fell in love.
Our readership may have noted it’s been a bit quiet around this blog lately, and now you know why. Welcome to the world, little Emma Jean, all of 7 pounds and 2 ounces. You are brand new to us, yet in this short time you have already wiggled down into the tender most parts of our hearts, nuzzling the skin of our souls there, and now we are forever smitten for thee. And I don’t think I am being biased either, when I say, you are the sweetest little package of cuteness mine eyes have ever seen. That’s right. And I’ve seen a full packer brisket once.
I guess when pit jockey has a baby he ought to cook something. So I headed out to the pit and whipped up some chicken thighs, just because. Truth is, I couldn’t much keep my mind on the cooking for mine heart was back inside with this little one. But here are a few shots of the cook, even so. Just because.
Nothing quite so fine as some fatty chicken thighs seasoned in Miners Mix. We usually just do the Poultry Perfection for our chicken, but this time decided to turn up the heat a little with some Wholly Chipotle, which if you’ve never had occasion yet is one of the finer hot rubs you will find on the market today. A lovely balance of flavor and heat, by the good folks at Miners Mix. A little goes a long ways too, unless you’re a devout pepper head. But I’m Swedish, and that’s all you probably need to know on that.
Anyways, supper came off the grill without a hitch. Stuff we’ve done a thousand times. Spoils wrought from sheer muscle memory. And in the golden slants of an evening sun, I plated it up with out much for way of fan fare or small talk, and sidled in through the back patio door for to feed the family. The aromas of chicken hot off the grill wafted through the house as my eyes dropped gaze on to our new family member. Our new patron to the pit. Boy is she cute. She smiled and promptly fill her drawers in a long, gurgling sort of fashion, which was at once arrested by a silent room. Classic. I smiled back. She could do no wrong. A quaint stage of life where everything you do is somehow adorable. But then, I was in love, you see. And well, you know how it goes.
Welcome to the family little Emma Jean. You are a beautiful gift straight from God. The bearer of much joy, much happiness, and much wonder. You melt our hearts with but a single glance, and turn any manliness I once had straight to goo. We love you. We will do our best to take care of you. To show you a few good things in this life, and someday, when you’re able to chew things, feed you some very acceptable BBQ. I think you’re going to like it here. In point of fact, it’s already a better place because you are. Amen.
The mesquite smoke curled with a certain impunity on this balmy summer’s eve. The South wind wormed it’s way through the residential hamlets and marshlands like a warm bath, bringing a sort of sticky contentment to the pit jockey who tarries near to his craft. Oh yes, summer has arrived here on the 45th Parallel, finally, and I suppose one ought to grill something. I mean, it is “grilling season” after all. That hallowed sliver of the calendar where the once captive masses return to their barbies in one accord and offer forth pillars of enriched smoke to the BBQ gods. I dunno, I guess when you refrain from grilling for a tally of three seasons running, you would rather tend to miss it. I know I would. But to us folk who run a year around BBQ blog, summer grilling is just another chapter in a year’s worth of grilling endeavors, except I suppose, sweatier.
Yes, nothing is quite so charming as wandering out to the mail box on a muggy summer evening, only to return to the house cloaked in sheen of your own juices, and sporting a rankness not even desirable to the neighbor’s bull dog, whose standards are suitable low anyways. But that’s summer in the Midwest. You sweat. And the sooner you come to grips with this inherent reality, the sooner you can move on and have fun with this most pleasurable of seasons. You just smell like a stink bomb is all. What can you do. Anyways, on to something that smells a whole lot better than I do. It’s burger night at the pit, and here’s how it went and came to be.
Summer time grilling don’t get too much better, folks! Check out them grass fed burgers and onions on the new Craycort grate. Yum! As usual, we think you all know how to grill a hamburger already, but we will mention the seasoning was just a packet of Lipton Onion soup mix, dispersed amid two pounds of ground beef. Easy cooking, and even better eating.
Toast Thy Buns
Of course we toasted the buns. You are toasting your buns aren’t you? Nothing quite so adds that touch of gourmet to your burgers quite like a crisp, toasted bun. The texture is a pleasure, as well as the satisfaction of knowing you went the extra mile in your burger craft.
Going The Distance
We do rather get into burger night over here at the pit. Note the cool little red baskets, and homemade fries. Not to mention the ultra chocolate shake all served up 50’s diner style. All ideas of my lovely wife who loves burger night as much as anybody, I’d wager. Good times, patron to the pit. And Amen.
Look at that grub! Man! I won’t even mention the joy of feeling your belly wrapped around this greasy handful. I think you get it! Mercy! And with that we bid you a toodaloo from the pit, as the summer sun traverses a blue, Minnesota sky. Blessings to the readership and happy 4th of July in advance.
It was a pretty good evening at the pit, I don’t mind saying. One of those patented, gorgeous, Minnesota evenings that when they happen are the finest evenings anywhere in the world. You see, when you wait around for 6 months swaddled in Bill Cosby sweaters and long underwear waiting for the perfect weather in which to grill supper, then, when it actually does happen, you are positively the most grateful person on the planet. You just are.
Thus it was at the Pond Side Pit, under softly ebbing salmon skies, that we reveled in weather most extraordinary, and favored a continuing burger kick partial to a beautiful bed of coals. I do not know why, nor do I seek to analyze it much, but burgers, in particular, big burgers with lots of bacon, cheese, and onions have been my most favorite thing to eat lately. And man did these meat monoliths do the trick. There was no messing around at the pit tonight. We aimed to fill our bellies, and we meant to do it right.
Whilst the beautiful hand-formed patties sizzled over the hot cast iron grate, I got to work on the onions. Also, I found this gem of a black iron pan out in the garage, a smaller 6 inch skillet that was perfect for the job. I suppose we could have used one of our cast iron griddle inserts like we did a couple of weeks back, but we like to spread the love to our other cast iron entities as well. We’re big fans of cast iron around here, if you haven’t noticed, and will bandy with that world often if we can. There is nothing better for cooking over the fire, and maybe even cooking period, than cast iron. Love it. So if you have grandma’s old black iron pan just sitting in your basement holding down a stack of old photos, we highly recommend sticking one of these pans in your grilling kit. Great for the sort of stuff that always slips through the grate, like these here onions. Yum!
And then there was bacon. Yes, I started a paragraph with the word “and” , and all the grammar police now surely hath cringed. Eyeballs rolling. But hark, it’s bacon people, and bacon should be allowed to bend the grammatical rules. Bacon is special. Countries may topple and rise with bacon. Our very destiny with alien life forms may hinge on whether or not we offered them bacon at that first meeting. Boy, I think I’ve digressed. The point is bacon is good, and nobody can deny it. Anyways, we set the bacon indirect for a while to absorb some of the hickory smoke that which wafted by. Man. The smell of sizzling bacon and fried onions over a bed of hickory coals. Buckle up people!
Hickory. We were running a trifle low on charcoal this cook and augmented the briquettes with a nice pile of hickory chunks. A lovely means in which to cook outdoors. A poetry closer to the open fire cooking of the cowboys in days past. Speaking of, we will be delving more into wood fired cooking arts this summer, sans charcoal altogether. Just straight up wood, such as man was perhaps always intended to cook his spoils all along. Be looking for more posts on that.
And so the sun ebbed over the house tops and budding cottonwood trees, it’s long salmon rays spilling across the freshly hewn grasses where long shadows were cast. The sounds of the neighborhood unwinding accompanied thee as I placed slices of smoked Gouda over the savory flanks of charred beef. I smiled as any pit jockey would, as I lowered a big tong full of fried onions atop the cheese. Then of course, the bacon. How are you not drooling on your screens right now! Mercy. Then, like a flag on the summit of Mount Everest it’s self, we topped each burger with a gently toasted bun. Burgers just don’t get no better, folks.
I don’t know if you believe in love at first sight, but I say it so, leastwise with these hickory tinted bacon cheeseburgers it is. Spoils of the flame. And patron to the pit. Amen.
Pecan smoke spiraled from the old pit damper whilst the lone drake floated serenely on the pond. The cool spring breeze caressed the cottonwood buds, and the sun, man, how divine it felt to sprawl at the terminus of one of it’s golden shafts. In a word, decadent! I was what you might say, “settled in” and pit-side, with a lovely beverage in hand and the game playing softly through the little speaker of the pit radio. The day was point blank glorious. Another vintage spring day in Minnesota. One to savor fondly from the vantage of a pit keeper.
I love to cook out-of-doors. It’s largely what I do. There are times when I actually wonder if my stove in the kitchen even works, for I use it so seldom. At certain times of the year, not unlike most grill jockeys hard into their game, a passerby of my open garage door may spy a pallet’s worth of charcoal stacked in there. Hundred of pounds of beautiful black briquettes awaiting my call. My bidding for the smoke. A pit keeper must be prepared don’t you know. Same unto the freezer adequately stocked with all matter of bits and bobs, from turf to surf. It’s all because I love to cook outside, and I for one do not wish to miss the opportunity should the impulse arise. Or, if by chance, guests come over keen with hunger pangs.
They did the other day, and I was ready. They all had cheeseburger shaped hollows in their stomachs, and the Pond Side Pit was the remedy! So I preheated the old Craycort cast iron grate, and freshly oiled it. ( See our review of this modular grate system here) I also deployed the cast iron griddle insert for this cook to assist in frying up a little bacon there. This was going to be fun!
Slow it Down Partner!
I stayed calm however. This is the hallmark of good pit keepers. The ability to exercise patience in the face of slobber-slopping expectation. You want with all your might to dive in and get after it, but then you know if you do, the fun will be only shortly lived at best. The trick then is to stretch it out. To make the moment linger if but only for the moment’s sake. It’s a game we pit jockeys play with ourselves. And those who do not love to cook outside just won’t get it. And that’s OK.
So I paused momentarily, like deep thinkers do, relieved myself of a certain pending gas, and I lit another fire in the chiminea. A blaze just for show, really, and patron I believe to higher levels of pit ambiance. Nothing is quite so fine as dual fires in a spring time cook out. The aromas surround. The crackle and pop do too, port and starboard. It works. It also slowed me down to better savor the day, which was the whole point. Then, whence a heady blaze was kindled there, I finally put meat to flame and grunted semi-appropriately in that golden light.
You don’t need to be told how to grill a cheeseburger. We’ve discoursed on that art enough in a hundred other posts. I will say, however, and if possible, do your best to refrain from pressing the burger patty with your spatula or tong, like you see so many people do. The only thing this does is squirt flavor clear of your supper. I will also say, glory be to the pit jock who does up his bacon and onions also on the grill. These two ingredients truly made the feast. Bacon and onions done over the stove are good and all, but doing them over the grill, allowing the wood smoke to adhere to the greasy bacon and the fried onions, well, it’s enough to make a grown body weep. And top these comestibles on your pecan smoked cheddar cheese burger and toasted pretzel bun, and well, I don’t have to tell you that you have officially arrived. And all your supper guests will smile and burp aloud, with grease dripping off their chins, as they tarry there, plumply, from the vantage of a pit keeper. Amen.
It was a morning of slow-curling pillars of pecan smoke which tapered and twirled in the golden shafts of a rising sun. The tweety birds also were in full symphony, flirting in the naked dogwoods at the pond’s edge. And the breeze which sifted through the patio furniture was cool, but soft to the touch, with a tint of mildness lingering in the eddies; a heady sensation not privy to these parts in many moons. And the winter’s snow bounties are receding now, like an old man’s hairline. And there is grass. It’s not the best grass, but alas it’s grass no how, and say what you will, but in February in Minnesota, that is no small thing. I delight also in the way the snow courts the spruce trees yonder. Filling in between the needles. The contrast of green with pockets of white. It’s just a lovely time of year. A first hint of longer days.
Pulled Pork in Less Time With More Bark
On the pit this morning, awash in the early morning light, we have what might appear to be two handsome pork butts. But in point of fact, they are only one. One petite butt, actually, sliced in half. And the reasoning for this is something we’ve been experimenting with here at PotP Headquarters for some time.
You see, I’ve had to eat a few sandwiches for you people to figure this out, but alas, it’s a price for knowledge that I am willing to pay. I’m good with it. But it turns out you do not need to smoke a pork butt for 12 hours to accomplish effective BBQ. That is, I suppose, if you don’t want to. Because there are plenty of days I would just as soon take the scenic route like that, if for no other reason than I rather fancy the journey. But there is a secret bypass on the road to succulence. A route in detour slightly swifter, but just as edible. One that flirtatiously courts the ever-ebbing passage of time with the affable affinity and gentle premise of the tooth fairy. Lets go there, shall we. Lets do this!
The Power of Halves
By slicing your pork butt in half, what you have done, we figure, is reduced the cooking time by maybe a third. My calculations are crude, I admit, but it’s something like that. Smaller butts cook faster than bigger ones. It just stands to reason. What you have also done is increase the surface area. This opens up more acreage for more spice rub and further, more smoke penetration. And what all that means is, you’ll get more bark.And every pit jockey fancies more bark. All of this just from slicing your butt in half. So we sliced it.
The night before, in a zippered plastic bag, we marinated the pork in Kits KC BBQ Rub, from our friends over at Miners Mix. Meat and spice. It’s like hooking two lovely souls up on a highly engineered blind date. It just can’t help but to go swimmingly. We just let the flavors mingle the night long, and let nature take its course. To “get happy“, as they say, in the romantic, yet estranged confines of the refrigerator. And by golly, they did!
Or if you want to whip something up yourself, here is a basic rub recipe pretty amazing on pork.
Basic Pork Rub
- 1/4 cup Paprika
- 1/8 cup Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 2 tablespoons Onion Powder
- 1 tablespoon or more Cayenne Pepper
- 1/4 cup Coarse Salt
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
In the morning the meat was ready, already smelling amazing, and was plopped accordingly on the old kettle grill. Now, I would usually use the Weber Smokey Mountain for pulled pork, but again, I was in the experimenting mood. There isn’t much, after all, you can’t accomplish with a good kettle grill. The smoker is designed to hold a lower temperature, but you can do it on the Weber too. The trick with the kettle grill, at least the 18.5 that I used, is to build a smaller fire than usual. We’re talking just ten to fifteen briquettes, if that. Maybe a few unlit briquettes to sport a little Minion Method if desired. All this to keep the temperatures low, say around 250 degrees.
We tossed on a couple chunks of pecan wood, mostly because it’s the only wood we have in stock right now. Just so happens tho, pecan wood seems to go well with any meat you might wish to smoke. A fine all-around smoke wood. Anyways, we plunked on the old enameled lid, and went about our business. Namely that of tucking a periodical under the arm and sauntering into the little pit boy’s room for a spell. You know how it goes.
On an aside, we often get asked about our cast iron grates. They are from a company called Craycort, and might very well be the nicest thing you ever do for your Weber. Check them out on our Amazon affiliate link below. It helps keep a good company in business, gives us a wee kickback, and pretty much pimps out your kettle grill to the highest order. Sincerely, they are great grates!
*Rotate the butts 180 degrees every now and then for even cooking.
After the coals had nearly gone out, we checked under the lid and I noted I had gotten the color I was after. And that’s good enough. You don’t even need to take it’s temperature. That’s how easy this pulled pork is. And that’s all the further time the butt needs to spend on the pit. The next step is to plate them up temporarily, and ferry them inside and put them into…I can’t believe I’m saying this…but yes, put them into a….crock pot.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What would a patron of the pit be doing with a crock pot! Well, to answer that, I know what else you’re thinking. You’re thinking crock pots are awesome! Brilliant pieces of culinary technology worthy of enshrinement in various halls of fame and grandmotherly kitchens. Why wouldn’t a patron use one! And I agree. But let’s digress, shall we, to the day you were born.
Babies and Pork Butts
You see, those first couple of hours on the pit are not unlike a baby’s first two hours out of the womb. It is the golden period of maternal bonding and modern meat smoking alike. Not only are the first two hours after birth where a mother bonds intensely with her spore, but likewise, it is also where a man imprints with his meat! Okay, I got carried away there. What I’m really try to say is, your meat gets all the smoke it needs after the first two hours. In point of fact, I’ve read from multiple sources that a smoke ring is done forming around 140 degrees internal temp. Or about two hours. It just works that way. Any smoke after that point, technically, is wasted in kind. You can read more about such things, here, if you’re interested.
So the pork has all the smoke it needs after two hours on the pit. That’s the thing to remember here. It’s not done cooking. It has just received the high blessings of the pit, is all. It has been anointed in smoke. We then transferred it to the crock pot, with a few squirts of BBQ sauce, where upon and with the aid of modern crock pot wizardry, you simply leave it to it’s own devices. Bequeath it to the BBQ fates to fall apart as it will. And it will indeed at around 195 – 200 internal. And you do not need to take its temperature here either. Pulled pork in a crock pot is easy like that. Just let the meat speak to you. Use your pit master instincts. It will tell you when its done by its tender flanks submitting to the masterful glide of your fork, as succulent pieces of butt topple over itself into whetted pools of its own glorious juices. The crock pot really does take the guess work out of it. The babysitting. And when its done, it will even keep itself warm until supper. Golly! What utter decadence! It is like a Boeing 747 landing its self on autopilot, and the pit jockey need not raise a finger. And in the end, after you pull it into savory shreds, and stuff it into a good roll, you’ll have yourself some authentic, smoke house quality, BBQ pulled pork, succulent enough for the kings, fit for the pit master, and the crown jewel of your crock potting career. And it was easy too. Real easy, patron to the pit. Amen.
Savory pecan smoked pulled pork, with plenty of delicious bark. Patron to the Pit. Courtesy of the Kettle Grill/Crock Pot Hybrid System. Works real good. But tastes even better.
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*Another experiment, resurrecting a post from the archives. One of our lesser read pieces, that explains in part, I think, why it is we do what we do. Enjoy.
Blessings – PotP
I went out to the grill the other night, in routine fashion to tend the meat, and found myself for a time just standing there, staring into the hot, glowing coals. It was a crisp night, and the hea…
Source: Testament of a Grilling Geek
Well, it’s February. And it’s still winter in Minnesota. Tho the sun may tarry in the sky now a few minutes longer than it once did, signifying, perhaps, that the summer processes have begun, I’m here to say, you can’t really tell. It’s just plain cold out. Snow still courts our yard, it’s still dark when I come home from work, and there is a patch of ice on the driveway that I think has been there since Thanksgiving. But that’s Minnesota. And after a while you simply come to accept your deep freeze situation in life, and just make the best of it. Indeed, there comes a point in every Minnesotan’s winter campaign where they acknowledge to themselves and the rest of the free world, that it’s not going to get any warmer for a while, and that they for one are done complaining about it. Mostly.
A good example of what I mean was found on my routine food sortie to the local Cub grocery store. There outside the motion activated sliding doors perched this lovely ice sculpture. I guess I can’t tell you what it is tho. Looks something like a duck and a man merged together, and carrying a purse. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. What matters, like all good gifts, is the thought behind it. The poetic triumph of it all. For here stands a sculpture really of what it means to be Minnesotan. To be stuck in the cold for half the year. Nay, half of your life, when you think about it. It is at once an icy monolith to the power of positive thinking! It says that life in the ice box has not gotten this soul down. That they will make the best of it, regardless. Lemonade, if you will, wrought from winter’s harshest fruit. Yup, that ice sculpture was much more than the tangible work of a talented person. It is a symbol of sanity when everyone around you is losing theirs. Odd that you can gleam so much just going to the store for some chicken wings, but it is so.
Later that evening, speaking of chicken wings, I fired up the old Weber kettle grill for supper. One of the things I like to do, when the charcoal chimney is under fire, is give it a little whack on it’s side with the tongs, and watch how the sparks scatter into the night. Sometimes it makes for interesting photos. Sometimes not. But even so, I enjoy the artistic spray of sparks flashing against a dark, wintry sky. It soothes me.
There is also a certain comradeship amid the coals. They give off two things a winter bound pit keeper craves: light and heat. And oh what a joy it is on these frosty winter evenings to bandy close to a hemorrhaging bed of orange coals. To feel the heat rolling out of the pit. It takes the sting out of the cold night, and loosens a stiffened soul. And for a while at least, you are content in your dark little corner of the globe, managing your meat over this beautiful bed of briquettes. Even in the middle of a Minnesota winter, out on the patio in the cold, there is joy to be found, patron to the pit. Like so many hardy folk around here, you just have to make the best of it.
These wings were seasoned first in one of our favorite blends, Poultry Perfection, from the great folks at Miners Mix. They’ve been awful good to us, and it’s our privilege to thank them yet again for sharing their wares with us. True spice wizards if ever we’ve seen any. Anyways, at the end of the cook, we glazed over the wings with some Sweet Baby Rays as per custom in BBQ fare, whilst back inside, some banter of the bodacious sort was at hand.
My bride whipped up a hearty batch of Miners Mix Bodacious Bean Dip. Mercy, it’s good stuff, people, very tasty, and one box seems more than plentiful, I might add. A plentiful bean dipping Nirvana. Plentiful also in the after effects come bed time, for thy cotton sheets may billow as if hit by a soft summer breeze. I almost slept on the couch that night if not for the mercy of my lovely wife. But like most good Minnesotans, she too made the best of it. We all did. Mostly. And Amen.
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I thought I was a humble fellow, but I guess it turns out I’m not. It was just your run of the mill slab of pork ribs. Your basic kettle cook at 20 below. Truly, I thought nothing of it when my wife requested ribs for supper during a polar vortex. This is just what I do. Its who I am. And she knew it. However, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to McDonald’s for a Big Mac instead. Let me digress.
Indeed, the recent polar vortex to come through town put the kibosh on a great many outdoor activities. What with 20 below wind chills, it was a day obviously better suited for other endeavors besides the art of BBQ. But I had never gone sally with the elements before, leastwise where BBQ is concerned, and by golly, today wasn’t the day I would start. And the winds hurtled through the icy township with a divine authority that demanded respect. The good people of the world were huddled indoors, suckling hot cocoas and watching Netflix marathons. And then there was me. Fortunately, the Pond Side Pit was tucked into the gracious eddies of the house that which broke the keen and penetrating December wind. Well, for the most part it did. And there, amid my armory of Webers, I was able to make my stand.
I chose the Weber kettle as my tool of choice this smoke, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s small, and would require less fuel on this cold day to keep it hot. And two, I just didn’t feel like dumping ten pounds of charcoal into the Weber Smokey Mountain for one rack of ribs. As much as I love the WSM, it is rather the gas guzzling SUV of the meat smoking world. No matter, I was a Patron of the Pit. I had smoked ribs in the Weber kettle many times. This was old hat! Child’s play…
“Henceforth, I destroyed thy pork ribs with a vigor usually reserved for a nuclear detonation.”
They were hard, brittle, and crusty to the touch. Looked like the skeletal remains of a pet which did not make it clear of the house fire. It was bad. A chunk in hand could have maybe sufficed as a good charcoal pencil for the cave walls, that which I felt like I have just emerged from. Hark, it looked as if my elder brother had even come by and assisted me with my BBQ whilst I was not looking. Where did I go wrong?
What we learned
Well, for starters, I learned not to under-estimate the narcoleptic value of a good grandma blanket. Because that’s where I was for much of the smoke. Under a grandma in the living room, snoring like a brown bear whilst listening to football on the TV. It was an agreeable lifestyle. The kettle grill was left to its own devices out on the patio. I thought I had set it up for success. Turns out I had not. I had built the fires too hot inside it’s steely bosom. In an ill-guided miscalculation on my part, I figured somewhat logically, that because it was so cold out, I would counter the elements with a slightly larger fire. All this did however, was raise the pit temperature from pretty hot, to split-your-own-atoms, kind of hot. And thus incinerated my beloved ribs with all due effectiveness. Aw well. Live and learn, as they say. There’s always tuna fish sandwiches for supper.
A week has passed. Maybe a bit more than that. The new weekend was upon thee, and I had a span of clock available to smoke another rack of ribs if I wanted. Well, with my last efforts still dawdling on my mind like cigar smoke in the drapes, I wanted nothing more than to rectify my blunder, and set my status right again in the smokey community. To get this rancid flavor of defeat off my tongue. The temperature had risen now to a balmy zero degrees or something like that. The wind was low, in-effectively low, and the tweety birds were even active again, darting about the yellow block of suet I had set out for them. This is as good as it was going to get in a Minnesota winter. Like an aplinist siezing a window of proper weather in which to summit Everest, I knew I must act soon. And I knew this time I would do it right, and fire up the Weber Smokey Mountain.
Tho it uses moocho much fuel, one thing is for sure about the Weber Smokey Mountain. It works. And it works in the cold too. One heaping chimney full of orange glowing coals dumped into the center of a ring of unlit coals, as seen in the photo, is all it takes for a rack or three of ribs on any given day. The minion method is your friend here. That’s where the lit coals slowly light up the unlit coals, and those coals in turn light up other unlit coals, kind of like a chain re-action, thus employing a steady, even burn, to last many hours with out baby sitting. The WSM was soon established at 225 degrees, and it did not budge from this temperature the rest of the cook. I should have just done it right the first time, but you know how it goes.
To learn more about the minion method, we did a write-up years ago on that. It’s probably our most read article. Consume at your leisure is so inclined.
Meanwhile, we seasoned up the ribs with a splattering of Worcestershire sauce, and then liberally dusted it Kit’s K.C. BBQ rub from our friends over at Miner’s Mix. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again; if we had to be monogomous to one spice rub company, I do believe the Miners Mix crew would be our choice. Just love their flavors. Here’s a link to their stuff if you guys haven’t yet had the occasion.
Anyways, we put the ribs on the pit, bone-side down, and let them do their thing for two and a half hours at 225 degrees in a gentle cloud of pecan smoke. Then we foiled them with a little smearing of butter and BBQ sauce for one more hour. And I napped only cautiously this time, under my grandma blanket, hockey game on the TV, and listened to the calling of my pit master instincts, as the culinary end game drew nearer to thee. And like it does in winter, the night fell early over the land, as the old bullet smoker puffed stoically out on the patio. The aromas of a Carolina BBQ shack wafted over the crusty fields of blue-tinted snow, for which a slender moon hung silently above. I slipped into my shoes, and waddled out the patio door to check the tenderness of my spoils, jacket zipped tight, and there under the scant starlight of a cold winter’s eve, amid the sounds of sizzling pork and aluminum foil unwrapping, I knew as surely I had known anything before, that these ribs would at once be amazing. And furthermore, that I had been quitely redeemed. Amen.
Succulent pecan-smoked pork ribs redeemed from the jaws of a polar vortex. Very satisfying, both to the stomach and soul. Grill on! -PotP
*Found this essay hiding out in the PotP archives, covered in 2 inches of digital cyber dust. Never published. A story about a little cook-out from last spring, some good food, and some people there we met along the way. Enjoy.
It was a soft spring afternoon, under quiet gray skies, with a light drizzle dappling over the land and over the pond. I was out manning the pit of course, doing what pit keepers do, sizzling up a pan of bacon over the old patio stove. The tweety birds were out too, in full chorus I noted, despite the drizzle. And the Mallards milled poignantly in the pond, as always, indifferent to the inclement of weather. Anyways, we were having a bandy of people over today, to fellowship and commune over several pounds of perfectly grilled ground beef. Hamburgers that is. Burgers large enough to warrant their own zip code Okay, maybe not that big, but even so.
The ground beef was seasoned with a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix, which was thoroughly worked through all the protein. Massage it in there, people, and get your hands dirty! Divvy out into patties accordingly. I thought about stuffing a couple globs of pepper jack cheese into the center of the patties, for to sport a Juicy Lucy, but I felt lazy at the pit today. So I didn’t. A pit jockey’s freedom.
You all know how to grill a hamburger. Leastwise I hope you do. So we shall not indulge in the how-to’s of the game. I will mention to you however, the glories of a gently curling pillar of hickory smoke, wafting up out of the pit damper. Likewise, the wonderful, earthen aromas of grass and dirt on a wet day, and how it mingles so saintly with the pungency of lightly charred beef. And the Canadian geese yonder, afloat on placid waters, honking it up like the brass section of the high school band. Can’t say it sounds good, but I’m glad it’s there, I guess.
Among the guests to show up this eve, was a little lady I hadn’t had occasion to meet before. She was quiet most of time, keeping to herself, yet drawing mass attention like all babies do. I felt compelled to build her a hamburger. You know, to welcome her to the planet and all. It was a good one too. And I noticed after a fashion, that it was almost, but not quite, as big as her head. Relatively speaking, that’s a burger! Glory be the day that I meet up with such a plunder, as I have a rather larger than normal cranium as it is, or so I’ve been told. But this here baby, in truth, she was not all that impressed with my bountiful offering. She was no more amused with the hamburger than she was with the 42 inch mounted musky on the wall in the living room. Ah, ignorance is such a blinder.
And so we settled in for food, fellowship, and really big hamburgers patron to the pit. Burgers are at once easy to make, declicious to eat, and always seem to go over well feeding a crowd. They can assemble their own, and thus it becomes personal to them. That’s the magic of burgers. Add a chunk of mesquite wood or hickory to your coals during the cook to really up your game. It will propel your hamburger to the next level of smoky goodness, and all your people will rejoice in turn. Well, all that is except for those who don’t have any teeth yet. But what can you do? Amen.