Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Let there be ribs

First of all, behold the contents of my mystery package, a slab of baby back ribs.

And here it is covered in a rub.

As a basic guideline I followed this recipe from the recently published book, Peace, Love & Barbecue. Here's how I modified it: I added some spices left over from my tuna steaks as part of my constant effort to waste nothing. I also rounded up from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp because I couldn't find a 1/4 tsp measure and I subbed celery salt for celery seed. This was last night. I went to bed happy but a bit nervous. I had never tried this before.

Now a Jewish kid from Canada might have no business barbecuing ribs, but then I should also have no business making risotto or pad thai. We're all part of a global hodgepodge now. My attitude is that I should be able to cook anything as long as I understand the culinary principles involved. The culinary principles of barbecue are actually very straightforward: you cook with hardwood smoke (I used hickory because it's easy to find at the hardware store) and keep the temperature below 275 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows the collagen in tough cuts of meat like ribs to be transformed into gelatin, which spells delicious flavor and succulent texture. But it takes time. A big cut like a shoulder takes all day. Ribs take half that.

(Many bloggers are more expert than I in smokey, low and slow cooking and I take my hat off to them all, including White Trash BBQ, The BBQ Report, and the splendid Weber Cam. I'm also quite impressed by the Virtual Weber Bullet, a repository of DIY 'cue advice though not a blog.)

Back to the cooking. I fired up my chimney starter half full of charcoal briquets. Notice my reflection in the kettle grill?

The basic setup of the grill is more or less what you see here. The fire is on one side with an open vent below it. The meat is on the other side with an open vent above it. The smoke blows past the meat on its way skyward and turns it into tasty. The only challenge is to maintain a barbecuey temperature.

Here you see the raw slabs going on the grill at 2 pm. This rib rack would be handy when cooking for a crowd. I didn't really need it today but it's new and I've been dying to use it.

I tossed a few handfuls of woodchips, soaked in water for half an hour, over the hot coals and closed the lid. What happened next is a lot of waiting, a lot of fretting over temperature. First it went up to 300. I closed the bottom vent. It plummeted below 200 and wouldn't come back up after I opened bottom vent. I added a few briquets to bring the temperature back. Eventually it was at around 240 and held that temperature for a couple of hours. Then it was at around 175 for a while. It takes a while to get more charcoal lit so you have to be relaxed about temperature. I tried to be relaxed.

At 6:00 it looked like this. I mopped on a little bit of Sweet Baby Ray's sauce and then pulled them off at 6:30.

And here is half a slab on my plate with some great American cole slaw and great American potato salad. No fancy herbs, no Asian sauces, no unusual veggies, no exotic spices. Just regular food.

And the baby back ribs: spicy, smokey, meaty, not saucey. Pretty good for the first try.


Blogger Dave said...

Nice job, I'm hungry!

6:29 PM  
Blogger Jason Haas said...

This reminds me, last night, I took apart a chicken for the first time. it was an organic chicken from a farm in Dane County, yielding about four pounds of meat. I'll be using it in my slow cooker with a little bag of spices assembled by Stacie. Can't wait to get on it!

2:46 PM  
Blogger WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Damn - them's good looking ribs! Makes me want to fire up the WSM in the rain today!

Thanks for the nod to my blog. I appreciate it.

1:02 PM  

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