So did you notice that the 4th of July has slid right by now, patron to the swift-ebbing current of time? It has indeed, along with the weeks and months that tally the years. Just like that, they have all slipped into our rear view mirrors. But this is life I’ve noticed; the further you get along in it, the faster it seems to go. Like a good movie, or a bowl of your favorite ice cream. Yup, and suddenly your baby is two. You know how it goes. And maybe this is why I’ve always liked BBQ so much, because of the time it takes to make it. It makes you slow down and take your time. The purposeful sort of time that one must set aside to render succulence from the fires. And therein lies the secret. Because there are faster ways, after all, that you can procure yourself some supper in this world, but none of which so poignantly affix themselves to the scenic path of life, like that of good and abiding BBQ.
So come with us now on a little meat parade and see for yourselves some of the things we’ve cooked up at the pit over this last 4th of July. Starting first with a rack of baby backs.
Here is a pit classic sure to let up on the accelerator pedal of life. Good ribs take 4 to 5 hours to smoke, which most days, is just right to get yourself out of that hurried mode of the city life. It is good therapy in the human condition to smoke ribs at least twice a month we’d wager. Maybe more depending on how fast your life is bouncing by. By golly you hurried soul, what’s your haste made of anyhow? You’re in a hurry and don’t even know why! So get yourself pit-side, and kick up your feet for a few hours and watch the smoke curl there, in your own private meatopia! Just watch how relaxed you get, and let the world spin on with out you by and by. You’ll be just fine, by this fire, where the smoke curls thinly into a blue and yonder sky. We started our extended weekend with just such an event, seasoned with our favorite rib rub from the great folks at Miners Mix. Did the ribs on the kettle grill via the snake method. If you’ve not tried the snake method before, we recommend it. Here’s a link to more of how it works in detail.
On our second day of the BBQ parade, I favored the good company of the Santa Maria Grill Attachment for the Weber kettle. Wings were the order of the hour, and the Santa Maria frankly rocked the pants off of it. Santa Maria style cooking is like a dance, and your partner, the fire, always leads. Fires are moody by nature, and the heat fluctuates, but the Santa Maria grill lets you raise and lower your meats with a commanding control in accordance to fires. It’s dancing with the flames, and a fabulous way to grill. If you’re new to the Santa Maria style, below is a link to a write up we did on it a couple years ago. It’ll tell you everything you need to know. And some probably some stuff you didn’t want to know.
By the third day of continuous grilling, I was getting a little fish hungry, so I picked up some sockeye salmon at the local market, marinaded it for 15 minutes in Miners Mix Salmon marinade, and grilled the fillets skin side down on the freshly oil Craycort grates. Yes, Miners Mix even has salmon marinade. It ended up being more of a paste tho, which really lent a great flavor to the fish. Wasn’t sure if I was supposed to scrap it off or leave it on. Obviously I went with the latter. Burp!
Day 4 Meat Lust
By lunch time on the 4th day of continuous BBQ I had only one thing on my mind – steak! And when steak is your chief quarry of the day, as any man knows, only one species will do. Rib eye! I remember little of this event as meat lust was in high form. There was salt and cracked pepper involved. A baked potato, I remember. And a Minnesota Twins baseball game up on the flat screen. Then there was a nap, belly-up, with steak juices not even dry yet on my chin. It was a good time, people, and we’ll just leave it at that.
Day 4 / Part II
By supper time of the fourth day of continuous BBQ, and after a commodious bit of “quality time ” in the little pit boys room, I was ready to embark on the 5th grilled meal in 4 days. This time it would be a pile of chicken thighs. As an experiment, I seasoned half in just salt and pepper, and the other half with Miners Mix Steak and Veggie rub. Both my wife and I concurred, the Steak and Veggie rub beat out the salt and pepper hands down. I know you must get tired of hearing this from us, but dang it, if you don’t have some Miners Mix in your spice rack, well you’re just missing out.
Thus we see the terminus of the meat parade as it comes sadly to an end. It did it’s job tho. It fed us primarily. Fed us really well in point of fact. But in quiet undertones it also slowed us down, which is the natural by product of any good meal. For when we take time to cook, especially outside, where we must kindle our own fires, we also say to ourselves and to the rest of the world that we’re in no hurry right now. That for a while at least, we will be putting meat to flame, and be doing very little else. No instant gratification here. This will take some time. And the longer it takes the better, because this is what we love to do. And why would we want to rush something that which we love to do. And by slowing down, we may also trick the hands of time for to hold the sun aloft just a few hours more, that which we would have missed out on otherwise being in a rush. That’s the kind of stuff you can pull off when you slow down and cook. That’s what we’re privy to every day, here, patron to the pit. Amen.
From time to time we get asked how can some one get into smoking meat with out the price tag and hassle of a fancy smoker. Well, if you have a humble Weber kettle grill, you can do it just fine. Here’s how.
The Snake Method
Here we have our beloved 22 inch kettle grill set up with what is affectionately referred to in the BBQ circles as “The Fuse Method” or “The Snake Method“. And it really works. You old timers already know all about this, but the basics of it is this – light one end of the “snake”, and gradually the lit coals will light up the unlit coals, and work its way along, like a fuse. Very similar to the Minion Method, of which we go into great depth and detail in our write up from many years ago now, called, The Long Burn: The Method of Jim Minion.
The Snake Method, if you’ve not tried it before, is the common sense answer to the age old question of whether you need to buy a smoker or not. Well, from one pit jockey to another, of course you should buy yourself a new toy if you can have one, that’s half the fun. But if you can’t justify the money or the space for another pit, or just don’t want to deal with it altogether, this technique will hold you over with a degree of class and poetry representative of the big named smokers, with an end game every bit as succulent. All you need is that old Weber kettle sitting out back. It’ll work with other grills too, but here’s how to do it with a 22 inch kettle.
How To Set It Up
In your charcoal chimney plop in 12 briquettes and light them up accordingly. Whilst the dirty dozen are coming of age, line yourself up a snake of unlit briquettes along the inside edge of your grill, as seen in the photo above. We made the snake 2 briquettes wide, by 2 briquettes tall. We wrapped it about half way around the grill. Once the other 12 coals are grayed over, just place them in similar fashion at one end of the snake. Lastly, place your favorite flavor of smoke wood periodically along the snake. And viola, your done! You now have a smoker.
How It Works
As the unlit coals gradually light up, so too do the old coals gradually die off. The cycle of life in your pit. The magic of the snake method resides in this balance. At any given time, you see, the number of coals lit in your grill will produce enough just heat to keep it near to 250 degrees. The perfect temperature for smoking meat. And as the fuse burns it’s course, it will also ignite the smoke wood positioned along the way, providing a nice, continuous source of care free curls. It’s just plain lovely!
Your meat bounty should obviously be placed opposite the hot coals for proper indirect cooking, but in addition to that, with this particular method, you would do well to periodically relocate your meat as well, because the business end of the fuse does indeed, move. How long does it take to burn the snake out, you ask? We find it seems to average around 5 hours for a snake going half way around a 22 inch kettle. Results have of course varied with the weather, but that seems to be the average of things. Plenty long enough for a rack of BlackBerry Baby Backs to come to edible maturity, as you can see, patron to the pit. Let’s plate these babies up!
BlackBerry Glazed Baby Backs courtesy of the snake method. It works people! Give it a try!
Tips for Snake Method Cooking
- Open top and bottom vents wide open to start with, then adjust the bottom one as necessary. The more you close a vent the less air gets in, thus the cooler the grill will run
- Use of a water pan can also help lower pit temperatures if need be, and provide a humid environment within the pit.
- Move your meat once in a while as the fuse moves to keep your spoils indirect
- Patience. It takes the kettle grill a while to get up to 250, but it will get there, and when it does, it will stay there for many hours.
- You can skip the charcoal chimney part if you want, and just light one end of the snake with a weed burner or a mapp gas torch or some other manly lighting device you come up with
- That thermometer you have on your grill lid is probably not accurate. To really monitor your temps right most pit jockeys use a portable digital thermometer doodad, like this one
They strutted across the road like little fuzzy superstars. Like John, Paul, George, and Ringo, with their big body guards fore and aft. Not a care in the world and just glad to be alive on this glorious spring day, doing what ever it is that goose do. This is a common sight this time of year at the Pond-Side Pit. Families of geese or ducks, wobbling about the place with an air of quiet entitlement. They own the place, and we who live here also, well, we just get out of their way. And we’re OK with that. John, he’s the little one in the front of the other little ones. He’s kind of the leader you might say, tho Paul right behind him is too, in his own right, and I suspect will go further in life. George is George, and Ringo, well, he likes to bring up the caboose and set the cadence of their daily walks. They’ll do this every day. Multiple times a day. That is in between their ritual swim in the pond, and rooting through the grass for the odd bug or what ever it is you eat when you’re a goose. Well, they can eat what ever they want, but I myself, I will be feasting proper like, over the pit of plenty today. Let’s head there now, shall we, and I’ll show you what’s cooking. And how it went and came to be. And no, it’s not goose!
It’s chicken and ribs of course. The ribs were liberally seasoned with Miners Mix Memphis Rub, and the chicken was dusted over good with a rub called Poultry Perfection, again from the good folks at Miners Mix. They never ask us to mention them on this blog, but we can’t help it, and we’ll mention them anyways. They’re just that good. Every blend they come up with seems to be a winner. We’ve chatted with the owners on occasion, and my goodness the standards they set for themselves are indeed impressive. They said if they don’t absolutely love it, they just won’t sell it. Simple as that. Such passion resonates clear to the end game too, here at this humble patio, beside a pond, with geese milling through the cool grass. Thank you Miners Mix for setting your bar so lofty. We do appreciate you! Check them out at their website www.minersmix.com
Can you smell it??? No you cannot. This is a computer you goof ball! I promise you tho, it smelled good!
The Texas Crutch
Long about hour three into the smoke, we wrapped the ribs with a few pats of butter and some BBQ sauce. TIP: If your ribs are ever coming out tough and chewy, resembling characteristics like that of proteinaceous Naugahyde, you probably ought to try wrapping them in foil for a couple of hours. Pour in a little apple juice with them, or some sauce, beer, anything that will provide moisture, and just let it steam there in the foil. This is an event for your ribs, and they will love you for it. It’s like taking them to a meat spa to be pampered and indulged there. In Texas they call this technique the crutch. Every where else we call it a good idea!
Fate of a Yard Bird
We let the chicken just go low and slow, bathed in a light hickory smoke for a few hours. Just long enough that it was almost falling apart. Bones would come loose with the slightest twist. This is what we we’re after, for the goal was to make some pulled chicken out of this yard bird! And whilst the ribs were finishing up in the foil, we went ahead and let the bird rest 15 minutes or so, then dug into it barehanded, and pulled it all to pieces for sandwiches later on. We also chopped up bits of skin in there too, because we like that sort of thing. Man!
With chicken and ribs thus procured over a soft hickory fire, and the waning light of another glorious spring day slanting in golden shafts over roof tops and through fluttering cottonwood leaves, I was at once pleased with my efforts at the pit this day. There was a temptation early on to grill only hamburgers or the simple bratwurst, but I’m glad I resisted. Glad I went with the longer smoke instead. For I do not take these moments pit-side for granted. And because it is pert near my favorite thing to do most days, I do find myself in advancing years relishing the journey of BBQ almost more than the BBQ itself. I like that some things in this world take a little time – like pulled chicken and ribs. I like how such endeavors of patience press gently against the hour hand of life, and the pleasurable moments created there for to tarry in, kindred to our soul. That is how good things should come to be. There should be a journey involved. It ought to be earned. Like good BBQ. Raising a family of geese. And perhaps English rock bands. Amen.
Slow hickory smoked pulled chicken smothered in Joe Joes Hogshack BlackBerry Sauce, sided with even more meat! Hickory smoked pork spare ribs seasoned in Miners Mix Maynards Memphis Rub. Man! Pardon me people, but I’m just going to have to eat this right in front of you.
They came trucking up through the green grass as if they owned the place. And maybe they do. For let it be said, they were here long before we ever showed up. When we first moved in, they were the first to greet us. And when if we move from here, they’ll probably be standing there beside the driveway, the last to wave us good-bye. I speak of course, of the resident Mallards of the Pond Side Pit. And boy are they cute these days. Spring is just wrapping up here on the 45th parallel, and all the many ducks are closely followed by a feathery amoeba of miniature ducks, just like them – their little hairy faces, alive, and bright-eyed to a new, and outstanding world. Seems every time I light up the pit out back, they are there, investigating…Or maybe it is they’re just checking in that it is not their kin folk they smell cooking under my lid.
Fear not little ducks, for it is only a wee rack of pork ribs smoking under our lid today. With gentle plumes of pecan and apple wood, seasoned in Kits K.C. BBQ Rub from the good folks at Miners Mix. I’m telling you this, there are a precious few better ways to while away a beautiful afternoon, than to tarry long in your BBQ chair, with a cold beverage in hand, feet propped up as per proper pit master posture, wowwy, and a cool breeze washing fresh over you the day long. Indeed, bringing pork ribs to a succulent, and tasty end game is our heady privilege. A Pit Jockey’s delight.
5 Reasons Why Ribs Are The Perfect Thing To Smoke
Ribs are perhaps the perfect thing to smoke, and I’ll tell you why. First off, ribs are meat candy to a man. Let’s just be clear about that. We lust for them. Next to bacon, I suppose, nothing gets our slobbers running more than the heady prospect of a good rack of ribs.Carnal, but true. We just had to clear the air on that matter.
It’s About Time
Secondly, ribs take just the right amount of time to cook. Look, if you at all enjoy the many facets of the Smokey Arts, and aspire yourself a patron of the pit, then you know in your soul, just as surely as you know anything, just how fun smoking meat is. Burgers and bratwurst are good and all, but the show is over too quick with those. Your coals still burn for something more. You crave a longer campaign pit-side. Something that takes you deep into the game. Pork butts and brisket are fantastic, we’re talking out-of-the-ball park home runs, but you seldom have the available clock for them. In point of fact, you might as well rip a whole day off the calendar for those big meats. That’s how long they tend to take. But ribs, ah ribs, well they saddle up just right. They are the perfect afternoon smoking project. You can fire up the pit at noon, and have your ribs done by supper. That’s just enough time to make you feel like you’ve done something proper-like in the Smokey Arts. Just enough time to rejoice in the ways of the pit master, such as napping pit-side, or watching a ball game with your shoes off. Just enough time to flex your patience a little, and log some quality pit time under blue-bird skies.
In a world ripe with haste, ribs take precisely the right amount of time.
Another reason why ribs are the perfect thing to smoke, is that success is not always a given. There does seem to me anyways, a certain smokey-scented, serendipity, to cooking ribs in charcoal fueled pit. I know this because I always marvel when they turn out good. Now if I knew it was in the bank all along, then why would I marvel? I don’t know. But know this, ribs are satisfying to get right. Not just to your belly, but to your personal growth as an accomplished meat maestro. All your research and experimentation into technique and method, culminating in a few short hours under, long, smokey columns of goodness. In many ways, ribs are a sort of litmus test of your pit skills. You can divine a great deal about a pit keeper’s craft from his ribs.Ribs keep us learning.
Picasso in Pork
Next, ribs are the perfect blank pork canvas in which to paint your BBQ Picasso. You can season them up so many ways, from just salt and pepper to intricately conceived rubs snatched from only your brain pan alone. To sauce or not to sauce, well, leave it to your pit master instincts. Smoke woods, oh where to start! Every rack is a different journey into the smokey realm. Every rack its own entity. It’s own dance with fire and smoke. Ribs are your personal expression in meat art. Your Picasso in Pork. So wield your brush, people, with all due enthusiam.
A Ticket to Relax
And at last, and subtly under-toned along the way, every rack is your ticket to an afternoon off, to loiter pit-side, with a manly beverage in hand, and declare to yourself and those who come upon you, that you are in no hurry today. That you have, by choice, raised your foot clear of the accelerator pedal of life, and for a few short smokey hours, and maybe even longer than that, all your world is right. You’re not grilling hot dogs today. Nay, you’re smoking ribs. And that my friends, is a very a good day indeed. Amen.
Five hours, low and slow, people. Pecan/Apple Amoked BBQ ribs. Son! And my ducks were Okay with this.
I held aloft your mahogany-tinted rack for all the world to see. For you are mine, and I have fairly loved you so. I slaved over you, from membrane to rub, and from foil to dinner plate. You were no small task, let me say. And aside this quaint fire, with embers glowing, and a lovely beverage at hand, I am moved to reminisce but for the heady days of yore. To hearken back to our time together, which goes way back today indeed, about five hours I should say. Nay, maybe six. Oh who am I kidding, I loved you at first sight, you know. When it was I saw you laying there, with all the other pork racks just like you, sprawled in one accord, in the cold, artificially lit compartments of the grocery aisle. Your fat cap was pronounced, and unashamed, illuminated in the soft fluorescent light, and your meatiness struck me just right. And you won me over there, like good ribs do, wrought from the hands of a balding butcher named Sam.
So with a courtship anew,I brought you home, and henceforth, like any pit crooner would, I made you my own. It didn’t go well at first. Nay, you were reluctant if you recall. Stripping thee of your gnarly membrane, which peeled in a fashion like that of industrial adhesive off an old tennis shoe. But we muddled through it alright. We made it there together. And then I trimmed you of your ill-flattering flaps, and squared you up a bit, a la the immortal St Louis cut, fashioning you at once presentable to thee. You looked svelte in the morning light, and eager with purpose. Indeed, you were destined for the smokey fires yet to come.
Now whilst the smoker came up to speed, I bathed thee. Flushing your bone fragments clear under the cool streams of the kitchen sink. I think you kind of liked that, tho I’m not sure. Next I slathered you with a cheap, embarrassing mustard. It was cold, but you didn’t complain. Nary said a word, humbled in that yellow smear. For you and I both knew of the adhesive properties of a mustard base, and we were OK with it, by and far. And then, with delicate hands, I pampered your flanks with a litany of spice and rub, conceived the night prior, just for you. Patting you down, and around, and everywhere else, for to fortify the flavors most becoming of your shapely rack. It was good times, and the outlook was high. Stomachs rumbled on cue.
Ushering you to the smoker, it was my privilege to place you gently upon the oiled grate, bone-side down of course. There but to bathe you now, for three hours in the heady plumes of aromatic hickory and apple wood smoke. Ever stalwart, ever by your side, I tarried long in my reclining man chair, chin upon my chest. You were never far from my sight, beloved. Well sort of. That is until I fell asleep, I suppose, lulled to nap amid the succulent images of your forthcoming, which flirted asunder about the flickering emulsion of my mind. I awoke as if by instinct, eyes snapping open, prompted from above. I scampered pit side, your bones were showing now, and your meat had pulled back just right. And hence I swaddled you tenderly in aluminum foil, in the mild acquaintance of apple juice and a wee shot of honey, for to while away the next hour and a half, at 250 degrees. A sweet steam bath for the unruly likes concerning you. And never since had a set of ribs been so pampered. The swine who grew you would even nod in approval.
Lastly, with foil removed, I saw you there, tender, and falling apart. You wouldn’t win any awards, but for the one which took my stomach straight to church. For a good rack of ribs is much more than just supper in the belly. It is a relationship, you see. A journey. And every rack is a little different trip. Every trip takes time. And oh but to taste that first glorious bite, the venerable pit master privilege. Succulent and savory – the edible opus of spice and smoke and sweet time. And there in the slanting rays of the evening sun, you were declared worthy, and for a moment at least, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. So I held aloft your mahogany-tinted rack for all the world to see. For you are mine, and I have fairly loved you so…
And then of course I ate you. Amen.
I always admired a man who would hang up his jacket only to put on a sweater. Then take off his shoes, just put on some more shoes. Then when he was done with those things, go play with some puppets. I guess we all have our own ilks in this world. Things that draw us a step closer to where we want to be. We’ll be the first to admit, when we were wee lads knee-high to a fire hydrant, my fellow patron and I frequented Mr Roger’s Neighborhood. And it was good. With a grilled cheese sandwich and some chocolate milk, we found solace there, amid the chaotic years of pre-school. We found a friend in the properly kept man in the sweater. One our mothers would finally approve of. And when he ushered us into the Land Of Make Believe, we were at once putty in his formative hands. Oh yes, we had a good thing going with Mr Rogers. So did millions of other kids. And then some how, patron to the years, we turned into meat geeks. Which is odd because Mr. Rogers was also a practicing vegetarian.
What we learned most from the man may have been his catchy slogan – “Won’t you be my neighbor“. A wonderful gesture of good will towards man, and all that sort of thing. And so it was and came to mind, when an old friend moved into our neighborhood recently, that possible good will towards a man seemed the appropriate thing to do. And so the night before, I pulled out two racks of ribs from the freezer depths to thaw. Because to a man, and maybe even some women too, what says welcome to the neighborhood better, or with more sincerity, than a rack of perfectly executed pork ribs.
The next day, amid the afternoon sunbeams which dropped through the Spruce, I put two well-seasoned racks into the smoker. One dusted over with a pit favorite, Suckle Busters Competition Rub, and the other in Famous Dave’s Rib Rub, a spice blend concocted by the local BBQ legend , Dave Anderson, who off-hand and by-the-way, really is famous. Both racks were trimmed some, of extraneous junk, and the membrane on the back of the rack was removed. Why remove the membrane you ask? Well the answer is two-fold. The membrane is not unlike a sheet of plastic almost, in that it inhibits any penetration by seasoning or smoke – the two things we fancy most for our ribs. Secondly, it’s kind of like chewing on a latex glove. Mr. Rogers would not approve. So you will do well to remove said membrane, or at the very least, slice it all up with a series of well-meaning cross-hatches via a sharp knife.
Now the first stage in smoking good ribs lasts about 3 hours. A perfect time to sit back in your patio easy chair, and watch some smoke curl. And by golly, you deserve it. What a privilege it is to let up on the accelerator pedal of life for a bit, and tarry in the good ambiance patron to the pit. Lovely beverage in hand, perhaps some tunes on the pit radio, hark, you will want for nothing else. I loitered for a good while aside the pit, reclaiming the joys there, and the fellowship of the coals. Thin tendrils of apple wood smoke curling from the damper, as if they had nothing else in the world to do. And the chickadees bantered it up in the thick of the Alders, like a gaggle of old men at the barber shop.
After about three hours, of 250 degrees, and bathed in continuous apple wood smoke, the next step is to foil them for a bit. I foiled these racks with a splattering of apple juice each, as a steaming agent for the next hour and half. Foiling your ribs like this is like sending your meat to the health spa, where they will be pampered like no pig ever dreamed. The tough continuity of the collagen is at last loosened up a trifle, and a tender, more gentler world is revealed. The kind of world you can really sink your teeth into, shall we say. Which is precisely what we did after that hour and half in the foil. The ribs were carefully placed back on the grate, clear of the foil, for the benefit of cameras. My friend, who shall remain nameless, Dan, showed up around then too, keen to the heady aromas of BBQ. We both sported grins as wide as a Montana gulch, as I pointed to the smokey plunder which resided there on the grate. No sauces necessary.
“One for you”, I yammered, “and one for me!”
“Now won’t you be my neighbor!?”
Dan may have wept.
Slow-Apple-Smoked Pork Ribs. Man! Nothing says welcome to the neighborhood like a rack or two of perfectly smoked BBQ. Or, I suppose, a well-kept man in a blue sweater who plays with puppets.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt the sun. Or sat comfortably, and contentedly, in its golden rays. Up here in Minnesota, the winter can stretch eternal, spanning half a year if it has a mind to. And this year at least, it has a mind to indeed. But this last Sunday was at once an anomaly, and an idealistic respite from winter’s grip, as the sunlight astutely flooded my patio with warm, life-giving thermal units. It must have been 30 degrees out there, which I know doesn’t sound like much to you Florida people, but trust me, to a Minnesotan in March, that is a veritable heat wave worthy of your very finest swim wear. Of course, and understandably so, I was out there, jacket-less, smoker puffing away, repairing in my Adirondack chair, just soaking up the sun. And it felt wonderful. Besides that, it was my beloved bride’s birthday then, and she wanted ribs. Thus, it was my privilege, as it would be any man’s, to tarry in the sun a trifle, postulate the drifting clouds and the rabbit tracks in the snow, whilst smoking some savory meats over a beautiful bed of coals. It is no hardship at all.
In the big WSM, over a smoldering fire of apple wood, I placed with great care three near perfectly seasoned racks of pork spare ribs. These racks were first sprinkled with a light measure of brown sugar, and rubbed down like a life time member in a fine spa, smearing it all about. Then I let it rest a tad, just until the brown sugar began to liquefy. This created a decently sticky, tactile surface, in which to receive the rub. The rub today, Grill Mates Applewood Rub, is a long time favorite of my fellow patron who co- hosts this blog, of which I dutifully applied in liberal fashion over the entirety of the ribs. To finish off the pork canvas, I sprinkled another light layer of brown sugar over the top of the rub, which when liquefied, would seal in the rub, thus locking into the tighter flavor profile of which I was after. Man!
During the next three hours, I naturally took up periodic residence in a gamut of my favorite easy chairs, whilst watching out of the corner of my eye, the apple wood smoke quietly curl from the cooker. I don’t know what it is exactly, about a smoking pit, and meats quietly cooking there, but it stirs me. It cultivates a great contentment in me, and for a while at least, I am in need of little else. And as I repaired on the couch with my favorite father in-law, our feet propped up, lovely beverages in hand, I declared that this was indeed the high rigors of BBQ, but more over, that we were undoubtedly up to the task at hand. We raised our beverages with the rising smoke, saluting the BBQ arts, and then I think father in-law may have even nodded off a bit. Bless him and his true BBQ posture!
At about hour three, I foiled the ribs with a generous splattering of apple juice. At about hour four, I lit up yet another grill for the chicken leg quarters, of which I have grown fond of in recent years. Nothing is quite so stroking to your pit master ego as running dual cookers out on the patio. Smoke bellowing in stereo from multiple fronts, the smells and aromas surround you. Engulf you, and then enchant you. And for a while at least, you are in your glory. Tongs in hand, you are the supreme governor of your smokey kingdom. Or the conductor of a BBQ symphony. I could have I suppose thrown the chicken legs on the smoker too, and been an efficient person, but I was after a crisper skin than one can get in a smoker. Plus I liked the idea of having two grills going. It made me happy. So I rubbed the chicken down with some Louisiana Grill Sweet Heat, and seared them up over direct heat, then tucked them back in-direct for an hour maybe, bathed in light hickory smoke. At hour 5, I took the ribs out of the foil, and put em back on the smoker, and basted them good with some Sweet Baby Rays elegantly thinned with a splash of apple juice. Oh buddy!
When dinner was served, we had some savory spare ribs where the smoke ring plum near reached the bone. The brown sugar caramelized some, mingling with the slight kick of the Apple Wood Rub and the BBQ sauce, whilst lightly tinted with the aromas of apple wood smoke. It was a symphony in meat alright. An opus of ribs. And the chicken was spot on its juiciest ideal.
Apple wood spare ribs and chicken. You could eat allot worse I suppose, but not have nearly so much fun. Amen.
Dunking your brand new white mop into a fresh batch of homemade sauce goes against everything mother had taught you. OK all rules ascend out the window when you begin to baste a half-done smoky rack of ribs. The aromatic mix of spice, vinegar, and smoke waft into the air, and you can’t help but to apply more.
I’d like to share a recipe I found online and tweaked a little for my taste. It’s a Chocolate Infused BBQ Sauce. I know what you’re thinking, “What is he thinking?” Chocolate and BBQ? Chocolate and Smoke? Don’t get me wrong, it sounds weird, but tastes very good. Here’s how it’s done!
- 2 cups ketchup
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons molasses
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper – See Note Below
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped – See Note Below
- Combine ketchup and next 9 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
I decided to make a few notes for the interested reader.
- If you’re going to use Chocolate, go big! OK, I didn’t look too hard at the grocery store. I went with what cost more than Hershey’s or Nestle. I decided to go with Guittard’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. I felt the flavor stood out more when I have baked with them in the past.
- Also, when a recipe calls for freshly ground pepper, then ground your pepper freshly! I have a mortar and pestle. I love going with a rainbow mix of Peppercorn.
- For those of you who have ever tasted chili infused chocolate, go ahead and throw in some chili powder to taste. The sweet of the chocolate and brown sugar really compliment the kick of pepper and chili powder.
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 heat from the fire felt good on my hands. And the sky was dark, and scattered with stars, shimmering vanward to a blackened infinity. I turned up the collar on my smoking jacket, and noted momentarily how pleasant it was – this fire, this night. The simple pleasures of loitering pit-side, while lovingly doting over a piece of meat. I just love it. But why. Why would a grown man of apt intelligence forsake a perfectly good stove top, and a heated house, to go instead outside, into the cold, and cook his supper in the humbling style of hobos and passing vagrants. I pushed the meat over indirect heat, paused, and thought about it for a while.
The reasons reside I suspect, with the soft-rising tendrils of smoke, and the waving mirages of heat against a pale, crescent moon. With the dancing flames, and the aromas of smoldering wood. It might also be because of all the many campsites beneath whispering pines I am thus reminded of, every time I strike a match, and kindle a fire. Because meat cooked over an open fire is at once a pleasure, and akin to something deeper in our souls than electric skillets or microwave ovens. Because of the freshened air which expands my chest, and the Black Capped Chickadees which flirt yonder, in the stately trees. Because BBQ is a fickle pursuit, and you are not always so sure how it will turn out. And because good BBQ takes time, lots of time, and loitering over a beautiful bed of coals, with my tongs in hand, is at once a stand of small defiance, in a falling world wrought with haste. And that is no small thing.
Because one day I might smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
Indeed, the reasons are many I suppose, of why we do what we do. And I suppose too there are plenty of other ways to cook a cut of meat, that will taste just as good, and surely a might more comfortable than standing out in the cold. But scarce any of them, let it be said, are nearly so much fun as this; with this fire, this night out-of-doors, under magnificent skies, and over fiery beds of glowing coal. Ah yes. The simple pleasures patron to the pit, and to those who tarry there. This I suspect, is why I grill by and by, and why it is we do what we do.
That, and I like to eat! Amen.
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.
Have you ever happened upon a piece of meat that should come with it’s own cardiac unit! A mass of flesh so prominent that folks are slowed by it’s gravitational field. That cameras are drawn, and grown men weep with happiness. Meat so big that it’s effects ripple into the stock market, and Wall Street, and pronounced plunger sales. Such a hunk of meatiness was spotted in the Minneapolis area over Christmas. Photos were snapped. Respects were paid. And then of course, after a moment of silence, it was eaten. Amen.
Every once in a while, we have to do something useful around here, so here is short review of something every pit keeper should have.
If your just getting into the BBQ arts, and are wondering where in the heck point your wallet, here is a worthy place to start. The smoke zone , or “sweet spot” for low and slow BBQ is somewhere between 225 to 250 – the choice temperature to keep your cooker at, and this gadget will help you monitor your smoker for that temperature, and much more.
The Maverick RediChek Wireless Remote Thermometer. There are lots of things similar out there, and some are nicer, but this is the one we use. So we know from vast experience that they work well and because serious BBQ is nothing to goof around with, we can therefore recommended them with impunity.
It’s a two piece affair: One transmitter, and one receiver. It also comes with two thermal probes- one for your meat and one for your cooker.
Tip – When inserting a probe into meat, ensure that it is indeed in meat, and not by mistake, in a fat cap or next to a bone, as such folly will only give you inaccurate readings. The other probe should be positioned in the smoker at grate level obviously, because that’s where the vittles are.
Once you have the probes in place and your smoker up and running, turn on the transmitter and receiver, and they should link up in a couple of seconds. The transmitter stays out at the pit, while the receiver shall accompany you by your recliner, whilst you repair with a lovely beverage and watch the big game. The nifty part of this is you can set various alarms on the receiver to alert you of a gamut of events, should you fall asleep in said recliner, such as: if smoker temps wander too high or too low, or perhaps the most lovely alert of them all, in which it chimes in due accord whence your meat is done. Be prepared for Pavlov-like reactions with this alert.
The Maverick Redi Chek also boasts a 100 foot range, of which I suppose is possible if there is no sheet rock, wood, glass, or furniture between you and your pit. We just have not found this range to be accurate in real world use. It’s more like 25 feet realistically, which tho, as it turns out, is well enough for most people.
All-in-all, a good little unit at a reasonable price to get you started in the smokey arts.
Another tip: Note what happens when you leave your Maverick too close to your pit. Whups. To its credit however, it still works like the day I got it. Hats off to a good product.
People who read this article also read : The Long Burn : The Method of Jim Minion
Editor’s PostScript: Well, it’s been four years since we’ve done this review, and we’re pleased to say that the RediChek ET-73 is still working just fine, save for it’s hemorrhaged plastic case indecent. These things happen. Regardless, it has stood the test of time for our uses, and that says something at least. If there has been any weakness with it, it has been the range. I do wish for a unit that would transmit from the patio all the way up to master bedroom for those all night smokes. That was always asking too much of the ET-73. It is line of sight with that one. That being said, there are still better units on the market these days. If we were buying today, we’d probably go with something like the ThermoPro TP20. It has a little more under the hood, if you will, and well, it’s orange! Plus, it boasts a range of 300 feet. I’ll have to see that to believe it tho.
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Of all the BBQ arts, ribs are perhaps the most ubiquitously loved and feared item on the menu. Nothing is quite so fine as the perfectly smoked rib, patiently pampered, and delicately seasoned. Tender, and complete in it’s flavor profile. While in the same breath, few things that come off a grill are as miserable as a poorly cooked rack of ribs, tougher than shoe leather, and not all that much better in taste. Ribs are a litmus test of your grilling prowess, and for that reason alone, they are a revered subject in the BBQ community. So for those who have not yet attempted a rack of ribs on the smoker, here is how to bring your game to the next level.
Remove the Membrane
Insert a butter knife between a bone and the membrane on the back side, and near the end of the rack of ribs. Pry up the membrane there enough to get a hold of it with your hand. These things are as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath tub, but if you grip it with a paper towel, you can aptly tame the beast. Grab tight and pull, peeling it off down the length of the rack. The membrane is on there tighter than a tick to a hound dog, but if you do it right, it comes off in one, easy, stroke. If you do it wrong, you’ll live I guess. Anyways,the reason you have to peel it off is two fold: firstly, it’s a son of a gun to chew on, and secondly, by removing it, you increase your ribs capacity for smoke absorption and rub penetration, as neither can breach the membrane. So do your very best to remove it. If you just can’t make it happen, the old pit master trick of scoring it in a checker board pattern will loosen things up enough to eat it. It’s not the BBQ ideal, but we can turn our heads if we must.
Next, some pit masters like to wipe it down in vinegar at this point, to open the pores of the meat. While others will slather the rack in mustard, to form sort of an adhesive agent for the rub. Rubs, like most things BBQ, are an art. There is no right or wrong thing here, just go with your grill master gut. I used to do the mustard thing for quite some time, and despite what newbies tend to think, you cannot taste the mustard. It’s job is purely to hold the rub. Lately here tho, I’ve been forgoing the mustard idea altogether, and just slapping on the rub on right away, and that works too. But the main idea here is to get your favorite rub on the ribs. Dash it all over, and don’t skimp. This is the single biggest influence of flavor for your end product. Do it right.
Before we move on to the next step in our ribs, we would be remiss if we did not tell you about the book of books concerning ribs, and everything else for that matter. Aaron Franklin makes some of the best BBQ in the country, and maybe the best brisket period. How do we know? Well just read the reviews on his book. You’ll see. We humbly bow to his expertise. Anyways, back to our story.
Warming Up The Pit
While doing all this prep, the smoker should be warming up and stabilizing. For this instructional, you should dial in your cooker for the smoking ideal, 225 to 250 degrees. This is your magic temperature range for the low and slow gospel approach to true southern BBQ. I believe in it, and sing it’s lofty praises. As for a water pan or not, I have done it both ways, and have come to the conclusion that it matters not for the moisture of the ribs in this application. The water pan may be useful however in acting as a heat sink, to help you lower the temperature in your cooker. Every smoker is different, and it’s your duty as it’s pit master to learn how to run your grill efficiently. At any rate, once you get it up to temp, go head and toss on your smoke wood of choice. Here too it is art, so follow your inklings. We love apple or hickory wood, but since maple trees are abundant around here, we tend to favor their aroma from time to time too.
Off-hand, if you’re looking for a good smoker for the money, you can’t go wrong with the Weber Smokey Mountain. It’s what we’ve been using for years and years now, and we cannot recommend it enough. Great pit! Excellent bang for the buck. If you want to get your man something for his next birthday, by golly, this is it!
Once your smoker has stabilized, or in other words holding your desired temperature, and the bellowing smoke has settled down into something of a thinner affair, it is then time to lay your rubbed up rack gently in the smoker, bone-side down. Put on the cover. The hardest part is done now. Now, and at last, you are liberated to do as you wish. These are the moments BBQ people live for. For the next 2 1/2 hours, you are free to saunter about the house, doing what ever it is you do in your house when meat is cooking quietly. I would suggest taking up residence in your big leather man chair, with a lovely beverage at hand, and a Stallone movie on play. Either that or tranquil nap pit-side, smoke wafting, with the Black Capped Chickadees flirting at your bird feeder, and the warm sunbeams melting over your rose bushes. These are the poetic moments of the smoke, and the binders of your memories whence the food is gone, and the coal is out. This is why, by choice, you go low and slow. Simply to extend the beauty of the moment, for the moment’s sake. What a joy it is to take your foot off the accelerator pedal of life, and coast amid it’s treasured ambiance. This is your time to revel in the cook, and glory in the smoke patron to the scenic path. This is why we do what we do.
A Time To Cheat
After 2 1/2 hours, then begins the Texas cheat. Say what you will about foiling your meat, it works. Yes, it’s more macho I suppose to do it without foil, but the success rate of ribs foiled is too staggering to ignore. So cheat. Then end result is quality BBQ ribs, which after all is what we are after in the first place. Wrap your ribs in foil with a good splash of apple juice for good measure, and place it back on the smoker for another 2 hours. This is where the magic happens, and where the fate of boot leather ribs is thwarted. What happens is a steam bath of sorts. It’s like sending your ribs to the spa for a good pampering. Steaming in apple juice, or what ever drink you have on hand really, will loosen the meat, moisten the meat, and flavor the meat all at once. It is your secret weapon for perfect ribs.
Finally, after a couple hours, go ahead and remove them from the foil, pouring it’s drippings back over the meat. Let them continue their journey to excellence back where they started, on the grate. For the next half hour, liberally baste them in your choice BBQ sauce. Or if your feeling daring, let your rub speak for itself. Let them firm up a little. Let them gain their composure. And then, whence your slobbers can stand no more, plate them up, and take them to your people. And watch their heads turn, and their tongues fall out. The aroma of victory will follow you. And the cheers of your people will wash over you as they sample your spoils. And you will have successfully, with out any doubt, passed your BBQ litmus test. Amen.
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Getting prepared for the rib rack smoke! The coal chimney is an essential tool for smoking. It evenly heats up the coals and does it with crunched up newspaper. No lighter fluid ever needed. Other than the coal, it’s a tool that separates those who use charcoal grills and gas grills. The argument is, gas grills are faster. That may be, but it lacks in the flavor grilling is known for…Smoke. Then again, why grill if you’re in a hurry. Enjoy your time outdoors. Light your pipe, sip your Iced Tea, snooze in your hammock. In reality, charcoal may add about 15 min to your grilling session. Use that time to prep your cut of meat. Once you get used to that flavor, it’s hard to cook without it! If you’re in a hurry, microwave leftovers. – POTP