Last weekend (June 2-4) the wives were out of town so we boys were on our own. Jay’s fence needed mending and his brother Jim is an expert carpenter so he volunteered to come down and take care of things. John is a top-notch handyman and helped with the construction. I am not handy. At all. I knew I’d be a hindrance so I helped by making dinner. Jay had bought some St Louis cut ribs and I quaked in my shoes a bit. I have a Weber Performer kettle grill that I hadn’t used as a barbecue smoker yet. Normally I’d like to practice on my own before tackling a project like this. But oh well. I figured they’d work so hard they’d be very hungry and eat whatever was put in front of them.
The night before I constructed a Kansas City barbecue sauce taken from Meathead Goldwyn’s Amazing Ribs website. This is not my all time favorite sauce (a little sweet for me) but people gobble it up when I make it. We start with a plethora of ingredients. We dice the onion, mince the garlic, and combine the spices in a little bowl. Everything else gets mixed together.
To pull it all together, we sauté the onion then add the garlic, then the spices. Then stir in the wet ingredients in and simmer for 15 minutes. Meathead doesn’t include the tamarind paste in the main body of the recipe but mentions it in the narrative. It’s a little expensive but definitely gives the sauce a better-than-your-average-backyard-bbq-sauce quality. You’ll find it in the Asian aisle of you local supermarket.
Meathead knows barbecue so I went all in with his Memphis meat dust rub.
Notice there isn’t any salt in the ingredients. I think back in the day his rubs had salt included but it seems he’s changed his method. His approach now is to dry brine the ribs a few hours before cooking with a dusting of kosher salt. Then apply the rub shortly before you put the ribs on the grill. Okay. It’s easier than what I used to do: include the salt in the rub; apply rub to the ribs the night before and wrap with plastic wrap. That was way messy. The new approach is much easier. I applied the salt to the ribs around breakfast time.
St. Louis cut ribs are bigger than baby backs and can be identified by their distinctive rectangular shape. I figured I wasn’t going to get two racks to lay flat on my grill; much less three. So, I headed out to Orchard Supply Hardware to get a rib rack – it doesn’t take much to have an excuse to buy cooking gadgets. Even with the gadget, I thought three racks of these large ribs would be too much; so I set up a mini-competition with myself. I pulled out my Weber gasser for one of the racks.
I rubbed the ribs and started the grills. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have an ABC Barbecue “Slow ‘n Sear” attachment for my charcoal grill. It is a stainless steel semi-circular device that sits on top of the lower grill leaving space to put the top rack over it. The purpose is to create a two-zone cooking area; the charcoal briquettes go in the device and there is a double wall barrier providing a cooler second zone. For long slow cooks – like this one you can pour a quart of hot water in that double-wall barrier providing a better heat buffer and generating a bit of steam that helps the smoke adhere to the meat. Shoulda taken a picture – you can see it farther down.
Notice those binder clips on the grill? They are there to seal the lid forcing the smoke up and over the meat and out the top grill vent. Without it some smoke tends to leak out, especially where the grill probe cables go under the cover.
Here’s a look at the Slow ‘n Sear. If you look closely you can see the briquettes contained in their space along with the boiling water in the reservoir.
I adhere to the “if you are lookin’ you ain’t cookin” philosophy of barbecue. Taking the lid off to check the meat cause’s the temperature to dive adding time to the cook. I have a probe that sits in the grill next to the meat to give me a good idea of the temperature at meat level. Heat rises – the hood thermometer will register up to 200° higher than the temperature down where the cooking is happening. For larger cuts of meat I also have a probe for the meat. With that information available, there should be little need to open the grill very much.
All the recipes I looked at said these can take up to six hours to cook so I needed to get the most of the 6 hours I had before dinner. The ribs go on the grills. Here they are a few hours later. Um, I should have looked a little earlier after all.
The lower photo is the Weber Summit 670 gas grill. I have a drip pan with water directly underneath with only the rightmost burner going. On the left under the grill you can see a smoke tube I filled with Apple pellets and lit with a blow torch. The gas grill ribs look good; the kettle grill ribs are cooking a bit faster than I thought they would. That’s a nice way of saying they might burn.
After five hours they passed the bend test. Take some long tongs and grab the ribs lengthwise with the end of the tong about 1/3 to 1/2 down the rack. Pick them up; if the ribs start to break as they bend they are done. These were acing the test. At the end, I slathered on some sauce and grilled them on the direct side for about 30 seconds.
The racks were very dark on the outside. In barbecue we call that “having a good bark”. In this photo you can see they passed the bend test on the left side.
I hoped they would taste better than they looked.
Did I mention I made some beans; you have to have side dishes with your barbecue. I made my standard beans, and added a smoked ham hock because I wasn’t going to make refried beans. Follow the first steps of the recipe, stopping at the refried bean part.
I brought the racks over to Jay’s house and cut them up into individual ribs. You can see the nice pink smoke ring on the rib in the rib on the lower right.
Here I’m bringing them out to the picnic table on the back deck.
Dinner was served
Despite my initial worries and my later worries about over-cooking the ribs; they were a hit.
Not the best picture of Jim at all but he’s enjoying dinner. I should have waited until his mouth wasn’t full. Sorry Jim.
Jay and John enjoyed dinner as well.
A good time was had by all. Jim, John, and Jay had a little work on the fence to complete the next day before Jim headed back home.
One thing about low ‘n slow barbecue: you have to have an afternoon free to cook. On a nice summer day, this is a perfect activity. Grab a book and something to drink; sit on the deck and read while the meat cooks. I started the grills at noon and they were ready to eat at 5:30 – probably would have been perfect at 4:30 or 5:00. So, next time I’ll keep a better look at them. If you would like to see the cooking logs so you can get a better idea of the process, check out the Slow ‘n Sear cooking log here and the gas grill cooking log here. Cooking logs are essential to my barbecue. I can see what I did last time; how it went and take heed of the “Next Time” information.