Monday, May 26, 2014

The Great American Smoked BBQ Experiment - Phase 1

This lovely Memorial Day weekend saw our very first attempt at smoking ribs the way they do down there. Or over there. Or up here. Wherever it is that adventurous souls are using tender smoke to make tender ribs. That was the challenge. And the challenge was accepted, met, hurdled and smashed to pieces, if I do say so myself.

There was a threat of rain showers all day long, but it wasn't going to deter us from our quest. I stopped at a local butcher to pick up two racks each of babyback ribs and St. Louis ribs. The babybacks have been our go-to rib when we go out for yummies, but I think we are turning the corner on the St. Louis ribs. More on that later.

A generous rub made from brown sugar, sea salt, cumin, red cayenne, garlic, chili powder and whatever else I had in the spice rack was applied to the bare ribs to make them oh-so pretty and ready for the smoker.

Aren't they pretty?
Now it was time to get the smoker into high gear. I'd never used an offset smoker before, nor any smoker for that matter. So I was hoping I could pull this off without fucking up, if you know what I mean. The charcoal goes in the small, lower box on the smoker and when they are nice and ready, you can add your wood or wood chips, however you roll. From the advice of a friend, I picked up a cast-iron smoke box that I put the water-soaked applewood and hickory chips in for smoking. That worked divine.

Here's a quick video of our offset smoker in action. Check it.

UPDATE: Well, uploading the video didn't work. Here's a screenshot instead.

Not a video...sadly

Using open vents on the side of the smaller box on the right and vents from that box into the bigger box, the smoke and heat moves through the larger area where you smoke your ribs. A water pan (I used apple juice, water and cider vinegar) is placed at the bottom of the larger area to maintain moisture along with the smoke. I was supposed to get the temp in the big box up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but I could only coax it up to 165-170 or so. So I was supposed to smoke the ribs for 3 hours in that environment, but I added an extra hour due to the lower temp.

After the four hours, I wrapped them in heavy-duty foil with a bit of Srirachi sauce and a quick baste of apple juice and cider vinegar. Then I added some coals to the big box on the smoker and cooked them in the foil using indirect heat at around 275-300 for about an hour. The ribs were sooo juicy and tender at that point, I almost wanted to skip the final step. That final step was a quick 10 minutes on direct heat whilst I slabbed on some BBQ sauce. I used a store-bought sweet sauce as a base and added Srirachi and some Red Hot BBQ for a kick. Came out wonderful. Equally sweet and spicy.

St. Louis on the left, Babybacks on the right. Zoom in for BBQ porn.

Second helping. Babybacks, homemade slaw and mac & cheese.

The entire day was a huge success. The ribs were smoky, tender and juicy. Some of the best ribs I've ever had in my life, if I can brag for a moment. Maybe the day spent with my buddy drinking beers and bourbon and tending the smoker had something to do with it. Great company always is the best accompaniment to great food, I always say. I also made some homemade cole slaw and mac & cheese with cauliflower as side dishes. PBR and Bulleit bourbon were also on hand to get us through the meal.

This was our first foray into the art of smoking, but it certainly won't be our last. There smoked brisket, pork shoulder or butt, more ribs and just about anything else we can think of smoking coming our way in the near future.

After all, it is our Summer of BBQ.


The view from our patio - post BBQ.

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