Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Best Ribs Ever

It’s been a while since I wrote about one of my great passions, BBQ. This weekend I made the best ribs I’ve ever made with a few minor little experimental adjustments. I tend not to follow the same rules every time, I like to try different things and see how they work out. A great source for such ideas is any book by Steven Raichlen, three of which I ordered a couple months ago. Anyway, for any BBQ afficianados out there, here’s what I did that turned out so perfect.

First, I soaked the wood chips (hickory) in red wine instead of water. This changed the flavor in subtle ways. Second, I added just a bit of cayenne pepper to the rub. I’d always stayed away from that because I’m not big on really spicy BBQ, but I figured that a small amount in the rub might be sufficently subtle that it wouldn’t overwhelm the flavor. It turned out perfect. That bit of heat left a very pleasant tingling on the lips and heat down the back of the throat as an afterthought. It really added something.

Comments

  1. #1 Marine Geologist
    June 19, 2006

    Links Ed – http://www.bbqu.net

  2. #2 K Klein
    June 19, 2006

    I made ribs on the grill for the first time ever this past weekend. I also used Raichlen’s book for the rub recipe and for smoking and grilling tips. They were fabulous (although I may be biased). But most of all I was surprised how easy it turned out to be.

    I’ll be sure to try your suggestions next time.

  3. #3 chezjake
    June 19, 2006

    I do ribs fairly often and experiment widely with rubs, bastes, and sops. I’ll have to try soaking the wood chips in wine (or maybe stout).

    If you liked the zip from a bit of cayenne, but want to avoid excessive heat, you might try adding some ground chipotle chile to your rub. A chipotle is a dried, smoked jalapeno, so nowhere as hot as cayenne (so you can use more) and also adds more of a smoky note.

  4. #4 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 19, 2006

    Sounds good Ed. I spend a fair amount of time hunched over my smoker adding chunks of hickey to the firebox every summer (and a number of times in the winter). I tend to use the chunks rather than the chips (or whole logs of hickory if I can get my hands on them). I ‘ll have to try the red wine soak next time I do ribs. Usually its boston butt on the smoker that ready for some Lexington style sauce but I do vary.

    Cooked a couple of whole hogs on a propane cooker a couple weekends ago for a get together we have every year (Pork and Whiskey festival). I was surprised how well they turned out even without smoke. However, I’ll allways take the smoker over a gas fired cooker if logisitcs allow.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    June 19, 2006

    I actually have a gas-powered smoker, which I know is sacreligious in some circles. I find it’s much easier to control the temperature than with charcoal or wood, and I use wood chips or chunks to produce the smoke. It’s much less labor-intensive than smoking with whole wood or charcoal and I don’t think there’s a noticable difference in the taste. My goal this summer is to perfect brisket. The brisket that Jeff Hebert sent me last year from Cooper’s in Texas was the best I’ve ever had and I wanna make it that good.

  6. #6 chrisberez
    June 19, 2006

    I love BBQ, and one of my goals is to get my own smoker some day. I love it when you write about BBQ even though it makes me really hungry. The next time they have one of those big BBQ cook-offs here in D.C. I’m definitely going down. Otherwise, for good BBQ I have to rely on Red, Hot and Blue. Their meat has a really nice smokey flavor, and their hot sauce is my favorite. Unlike you, Ed, I like really spicey BBQ. I guess I should have been born in the South.

  7. #7 flatlander100
    June 19, 2006

    You wrote: “This weekend I made the best ribs I’ve ever made.”

    Ed, you have got to do something about your lack of self-esteem.

  8. #8 Jim Satterfield
    June 19, 2006

    My family prefers it when I do brisket. I have a smoker/cooker similar to the Oklahoma Joe style system. A small fire chamber to the side of the larger cooking chamber, both made of iron. I have a place where I can get the small logs that are just right for the fire chamber in either oak, hickory, cherry or apple wood. Years ago we were involved in a bid to bring the World Science Fiction Convention to Kansas City. Our theme was Blues, Beer and BBQ. In some locations it was almost impossible to bring our own food but when we could I’d make up briskets and turkey breasts, slice them and put them into freezer bags and take them with us. In Kansas City there are companies that bottle BBQ sauces (especially ones from prize-winning BBQ teams) and distribute them to local grocery stores. There are of course also the sauces from the more famous local BBQ joints like Arthur Bryant’s and Gates & Sons. We would bring the meat that I’d prepared, four or five different KC sauces (including some KC Masterpiece for the cautious eaters), beer from a local microbrew called Boulevard Brewery and blues and jazz CDs.

    To get technical what I found worked just as well as slow smoking was to use the oak logs to bring the temperature up to about 400 degrees. I would prepare the brisket by using a marinade that consisted mostly of Italian salad dressing with additions such as Worcestershire sauce, red cooking wine and a shot of soy sauce. Then I put the brisket in close to the fire chamber to sear the outside (flipping it four times to expose each “quarter” of the brisket to the fire) so the juices were held in. Then I lower the temperature to 250 degrees and move the brisket to the other side of the cooking chamber for about 5 hours. God, it’s been too long since I’ve done that. Maybe in a couple of weekends.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    June 19, 2006

    flatlander-

    Hey, I didn’t say they were the best ribs anyone has ever made, just the best I’ve ever made. :)

  10. #10 Jim Satterfield
    June 19, 2006

    Ooops. Yeah, the whole process for the conventions also used hot dog buns torn in half. We started out making the little sandwiches, fearing for how far the supplies would last. That didn’t last long until it switched to platters full of buns and meat with the bottles of BBQ sauce lined up for people to choose from. We actually did a party like that up in Winnpeg one year. I wonder how many times the small grocery store we went shopping at has had one customer come in and leave with every package of hot dog buns they had? A consistent favorite that we can no longer find was Jazzy’s, a sauce that took the “standard” KC style sauce and added a touch of Cajun influence to it.

  11. #11 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 20, 2006

    I find it’s much easier to control the temperature than with charcoal or wood

    No argument here, but I just have some sort of strange traditional aversion to them. It’s probably pretty ridiculous but whatever. They do work well.

    I’m partial to pork my self (I’m originally from near Lexington, NC) and I’ve never actually smoked a brisket. I think I’m going to have to give it a try this summer. I may hit you up for a few brisket tips.

    I just finished a year long project hand building myself a house and I have a strong desire to build a brick smoker out in the back. We’ll see. I’m a little tired of building.

  12. #12 Pieter B
    June 20, 2006

    I second the motion on chipotle; I don’t like heat without flavor, or as we say in Southern California, calor sin sabor.

    My brisket technique is probably heresy, but I got it from Lyndon Johnson’s favorite outdoor chef — braise the S.O.B. for a few hours before it goes to the smoke.

  13. #13 Rich
    June 20, 2006

    I didn’t get my BBQ invite Ed.

    *lip trembles*

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