Monthly Archives: February 2012

Drink This Beer: Black Butte Porter

Though ales and IPAs are dear to me, my favorite dark beer has to be a porter. I like stouts, but in my experience porters have less creamy, richness to them. My impulse beer cooler beer of the day is Black Butte Porter.

I like Black Butte and I cannot lie, you other brothers can't deny! When a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist, puts that cold beer in your face!

After taking off the bottle cap, you get a rich, malty smell. It’s not overpowering at all. Some porters beat you over the nose with the fact that they are a dark beer – not so when opening this one. Very inviting.

It pours well with a good head that lingers, and how can you argue with the nice dark color.

I'm really sorry about the terrible caption in the last photo

My first impression after taking a drink is the chocolate malts. But I have to say that this is actually a very crisp, refreshing beer. I’m not sure I have ever said this about a porter beer before. Some porter beers reflect the heavy hand of the brewer with spices, but this is very even-keeled.

Black Butte comes from the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon. Someone needs to update their website, because it lists Missouri as a “coming soon” territory. I bought this bad boy a few days ago in suburban St. Louis.

However, they participated in a Missouri beer tour a few weeks ago. Dammit, how did I miss that one?

Anyway, this beer is delicious. I will be on the lookout for more from Deschutes as their distribution gets its act together here. In the meantime, my recommendation for Black Butte Porter: Drink This Beer

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Big Blue In Action: Birthday Party Brisket

Yesterday, after a week of cleaning, painting, bolting, etc., Big Blue was born.

Today, Big Blue gets its first test: A 7.8 lb brisket for a family birthday party (as opposed to the kid birthday party, which was yesterday). Our attendance list dropped due to a few sick cousins and a cancellation, so the extra brisket, a 4.5 pounder, can wait until another day.

I will use a paste similar to that used on the Super Bowl Brisket.

Beef!

Since this is a much larger brisket, though, I will make a larger batch: one and a half 12 oz. bottles of brown mustard, 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup paprika, a few generous spoonfuls of garlic powder & cayenne pepper. It gets wrapped up in foil and dropped in the fridge over night.

Dinner is at or soon after 3pm, so that means I had to get up bright and early to start Big Blue. My original plan was 7am, but a long evening of sampling a variety of beers made it closer to 8:30am.

Before I've even had any coffee

Today’s smoking wood is a change of pace – cherry wood chunks. Most grocery or large hardware stores have a mildly amusing selection of wood chunks. I prefer chunks because they last a little longer, sit on the coals easier, etc. Usually all you can find in chunk is Hickory or Mesquite. Not bad, but diversity is good. I found a surprisingly good selection of BBQ wood at my local Ace Hardware store.

After a little while, the thermometer read a steady 200 degrees. I checked on Blue a few times and it has stayed at 200.

With all the time I have to kill, why not work on some other projects around the house? How about taking an old, useless, bound-for-the-trash spice rack and turn it into a Lego shelf? My son is a Lego zealot and relatives / Santa have gifted him accordingly in the past few months, leaving us with many, many minifigures. He picked blue for the paint, similar to the smoker, and we glued on a few Lego boards that we cut to size. It turned out pretty cool.

From the scrap heap to your home

Back to the brisket. After 2.5 hours, the temperature gauge says 190 degrees. The brisket looks good, and the coal basket could use a few more coals and some wood.

Brisket after lots of cherry wood smoke

The thickest part of the brisket has an internal temperature of 160 degrees, so it is technically “done” in the food borne illness sense, but of course it needs plenty of additional slow cooking to tenderize. I flipped it over, put on the lid, and left it alone for another hour or so.

In the course of adding coals and wood, the temperature dropped to 150 degrees in the smoker, but no worries – it was back up to 175 in ten minutes and 200 in thirty minutes. In fact, an hour later it got really hot, up to about 300 degrees. Some of the wood chunks started burning. I pulled some of the extra wood and dropped it into a water bucket. It’s clearly going to take lots of practice to master temperature control on this contraption.

Eventually, after 3.5 hours of smoking, I wrapped it up in some heavy duty foil. As massive as this thing is, it needed a foil boat made out of two large sheets in an X. After adding a cup or so of apple juice, I tightly crimped it and put it back on the smoker. The internal smoker temperature is 250 degrees. I’ll be back in a few hours.

Time for a few hours of steaming

An hour into the foil wrapping, the temperature is still at 200 degrees. I tossed in some more coals, as the ones in the base had really died down. I caution against opening the smoker, though. Quite a bit of heat escaped and the temp dropped to 150 quickly. The great thing about the steel drum with the Weber lid is that, to steal a line from Case Stengel, it “sure holds the heat well.” I anticipated getting back up to 200 or so soon, which happened within the half hour.

When you get your ear close to the wrap, you can hear the apple / meat juices bubbling inside the foil. This is tenderizing in action.

Time to crack open a variety pack of beer.

G'day, Mate! Ok, not really Australian... horrible attempt at a joke.

The people at Dundee Brewery, the people who brought you Honey Brown Beer, came out with this nifty mix pack. I have to say that these are all very enjoyable beers. None is overpowering, each has a distinct taste. For some odd reason, this is a very affordable 12 pack of craft beer, to the tune of $10.99 at Schnuck’s. That’s fine by me!

Finally, at about 3:30 or so, about 7 hours after going on the grill, Mr. Brisket is ready to pull. Remember to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes to the muscle tissue can relax. This allows easy slicing. Sharpen that knife.

Uber-tender

It sliced really well and we made sandwiches. I thought it was really good, just not quite as great as on the Super Bowl. I did not trim the fat from one side of the brisket prior to cooking, which may have prevented some of the paste / smoke flavor to penetrate that side of the meat. In hindsight, I will do that in the future.

I thought it was delicious, but I also felt compelled to add some seasoning at the end in the form of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and a little provolone cheese on my kaiser roll.

Mighty tender, mighty tasty

Everyone was impressed by the capabilities of the smoker and the quality of the BBQ. In the end, as long as all attendees fill their respective bellies and enjoy themselves, that’s all that matters. This was a solid effort and I was happy to have seconds, then pick at the platter of leftovers. An intimate family party of three kids and eight adults wiped out the nearly 8 lb. brisket. Needless to say, I am up to the brisket challenge going forward.

There was one family member who was happy that I did not trim the fat before smoking:

BBQ beef fat? OMG! NOM NOM NOM NOM!!

NB: The dog ate the paper plate. Idiot.

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Making a 55 Gallon Steel Drum into a BBQ Smoker

So, you’ve been blessed with a big 55 gallon steel drum? You happen to be somewhat handy? You like BBQ? Me, too! Here’s what I did to turn this unsightly industrial refuse into a BBQ smoker, cheerfully named Big Blue.

UPDATE (May 21, 2013) – I discuss using and did use RustOleum High Heat paint on the inside of the drum. A Commenter very helpfully pointed out today that the paint is not intended for use inside BBQ pits, per the RustOleum website’s FAQ section. The technical data sheet says it has a heat resistance of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and mine has never gotten half that hot, but they still say that’s not the product’s intended purpose.  So, obviously don’t do that with your smoker. I’m considering making a new one and literally discarding the old hull after removing the hardware. I will post another update as needed. For now, perhaps just cleaning the heck out of the inside and curing it with food-grade oil and smoke is the best route for you.

UPDATE #2 (August 29, 2013) – I made another one.

Quick disclaimer: If your drum contained anything hazardous or you even remotely think it may have contained anything hazardous, DON’T USE IT TO COOK FOOD. Flat out, if you get some barrel that says Chernobyl or Three Mile Island on it or it mentions any type of remote health hazard and you turn it into a smoker and get sick as hell / grow a few more ears, you are at fault. Not me. Read my general Disclaimer. Don’t be stupid.

On to Big Blue:

Unsightly industrial refuse

I made some loose plans for turning this thing into a functional smoker. Plenty of online research into what other people have done went into my planning. No sense re-inventing the wheel, or smoker.

Detailed smoker plans

In essence, the drum needs to be cleaned out, have some strategically-placed holes drilled into it, be painted, and have some stuff bolted/screwed on.

To get started, I constructed the coal basket. I took two pieces of 12″ x 24″ perforated sheet metal and bolted it into a cylinder. This will rest on a Weber grill grate with four 3″ bolts to act as legs.

Coal basket (left) and base (right)

The coal base will allow two important things: the burnt ashes to fall from the active coals, and the air to surround the burning coals. This gives the fire enough oxygen fuel to burn efficiently without being snuffed out. One simply rests on the other in the center of the base of the smoker.

Ready to smoke some meat!

Now that the guts are assembled, time to get to work on the steel drum. You need a special drill bit that can cut through steel. I did some pricing and these things are incredibly expensive, to the tune of $30-$40 and up. I’m told you can get one for less than $20 at Harbor Freight Tools, but they may only withstand a few holes. Luckily, there is a handy guy in the parish who happened to have one for me to borrow.

Specialty tools cost $$$!

The cool thing about this bit is that you can drill any hole between 1/4″ and 3/4″ in increments of 1/16″.

The drum has a 6′ circumference and I want four baffles around the base, meaning the holes will be about 1.5′ apart. With the coal cage being 4″ off the ground, my baffles will be 6″ off the ground. The baffles will be ball valves with 1/2″ holes.

To make my life easy, I am using all 1/4″, full thread, hex screws. With some consistency, drilling holes, using washers & nuts, etc. is straightforward.

In addition to the baffle holes, I want four similarly equidistant 1/4″ holes near the top of the barrel so that I can run some 2″ hex screws into the barrel. These will hold my 22.5″ Weber kettle food grate. I will put these about 6″ down from the lid. This will give me a good amount of vertical space for making bigger food (like a dressed turkey!).

Finally, the 9th hole will be a 1/2″ hole below the 6″ depth of the food grate holes for my thermometer. I am putting it right below the food grate so that I can tell the temperature within the chamber right near the food.

Once all the holes are drilled, I washed the inside with some diluted CRL. Then I added some vegetable oil and lighter fluid. Fire cleans all.

FIRE BURN!!!

At this point, I’d like to take a moment to add a lawyerly disclaimer. Don’t do this, particularly after drinking beer all day. This is dangerous and the cops / fire department will not be amused.

On the plus side, the fire burned off some arm hair the pesky labels that I could not remove.

After this fiasco cools down, wipe down the inside and outside again. It’s ready to paint.

Clean, but still needs to be sealed

I am painting the inside with a quart of Rustoleum High Heat specialty paint. (Edited May 21, 2013: See UPDATE above… don’t do this!)

Ah, that’s better. First coat of fire paint applied.

The outside will get some regular Rustoleum – my son picked out Royal Blue. In an effort to avoid any Cubs loyalty confusion, I will make a Cardinals stencil out of posterboard and spray paint that design over the blue in another color.

One coat isn’t going to do it…

A second coat of paint is needed to hide the original black undercoat.

Ah, that looks better

I am planning to spray paint on some Cardinal logo decorations from my homemade stencils, or maybe some Billiken stuff in honor of an alma mater.

Once this puppy dries on the outside, it’s time to screw on all of the hardware. Having consistently bought 1/4″ hardware, this is a simple process that takes mere minutes.

Smoker guts inserted…

Thermometer bolted on… needed a washer on the inside to make it snug

Four ball valves to serve as air baffles near the base… each also needed a washer for snugness

Can’t go wrong with a Weber kettle BBQ tool rack

Drop in a hinged 22.5″ grill grate, and put on an old 22.5″ Weber kettle lid, and you’re done!

Voila! Smoker is complete; Big Blue is born. Time to get some rub paste on 11 lbs of brisket for the family gathering tomorrow. Dinner is at 3pm, so I need to get up at 7am. (Pics to follow)

I’m inspired by Ernie Hudson in Ghostbusters: “We have the tools; We have the talent!”

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Where Are You Eating Dinner This Friday?

May I suggest here:

Now, who doesn't like fried fish?

That’s right, a good old Lenten Fish Fry. Come visit me, the Dessert Czar, and eat some fried fish. I’ll be the guy drinking volunteer-only beers and making sure that everyone gets a piece of cake, brownie, pie, or some nut-free stuff.

I may be a pork zealot, but I can abstain a few Fridays a year. Besides, the Pope didn’t say anything about drinking quality beers on Fridays in Lent, so I will manage just fine.

What? Fried fish isn’t your thing? Well, we will also be serving frog legs, shrimp, jack salmon, catfish, hush puppies, mac & cheese, cheese pizza, green beans, meatless spaghetti, etc. This is no normal parish fish fry. We have a wide variety of aquatic meats.

Directions are simple. For example, if you take I-44 home from work, just get off at Elm and head south, across Watson, then veer right onto Pardee. OLP is on the left. Here’s a map:

Map to delicious philanthropic fish

Hope to see you there. All proceeds go to the OLP Men’s Club, which primarily uses the funds for parish and school philanthropic purposes.

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BBQ Spare Ribs

As a pork fan, I cook and eat a lot of ribs. Baby back ribs are family favorites because of the high meat content per rib.

The baby back ribs are at the top of the pig, near the spine. After the baby back ribs have been removed, you have, literally, the spare ribs. These are the St. Louis style ribs, which are those in the middle of the ribcage down the pig’s side, and the rib tips, which are below the St. Louis cut ribs down to the sternum.

Spare ribs explained

As you can see in the picture above, the red polygon is where the baby back ribs used to be. My sister took those before I could get to the meat freezer (dammit). The blue line shows, approximately, the delineation between the St. Louis ribs (below) and the rib tips (above). Note how the inner membrane only covers about the right 2/3 of the ribs.

The yellow polygon shows where the ribs attached to the sternum of the pig. Based on the orientation of the ribcage, these spare ribs are from his or her right side. Rest peacefully, little pig.

The meat on spare ribs is not quite as consistent throughout as in baby back ribs, and there are a couple ribbons of fat, but these can be delicious if made properly. As is often the case, I will prep the meat with seasoning in the fridge for a few hours, followed by indirect cooking with wet wood chip smoking.

I made a mustard-based paste for the ribs. In a large mixing bowl, I added a 12 oz. bottle of ground mustard, 1 cup of brown sugar, and some generous spoonfuls of garlic powder, Lawry’s seasoned salt, Italian seasoning, and cayenne pepper. After removing the membrane from the concave portion of the ribs, I smeared on the paste and wrapped the ribs in foil. It sat in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.

Spare ribs ready for smoke!

The grill was set up for indirect cooking with hickory wood chips. I set it and walked away for a while.

Two hours of smoking

After a couple hours, I rotated the ribs and added more wood chips.

It was a great day. We were making corn, ribs, bratwurst, stuffed chicken, beans, and flank steak. Family was coming over, so it was a BBQ-heavy day. This is the sign your day is going well:

What? You don't see this outside your house all the time?

After about three hours, the ribs were ready to go.

Oink.

Each rib is long and meaty. There’s a ribbon of fat between the meat and the bones, and there are some small bone bits up near the rib tip portions, so they’re not quite as kid-friendly as baby back. They are still darn tasty. I mean, it’s BBQed pork.

Ribs. Eat 'em.

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BBQ Braised Ox Tail

It’s Adventure Time!

I shop at Sam’s Club often enough that the package of ox tail has intrigued me several times. I finally bought some.

What to do with this?

I did quite a bit of online research into cooking ox tail, and my only criteria for the purposes of this blog is that it be done on a BBQ grill. Lots of people braise ox tail, which means cooking it in a pot with liquid after a sear. I am going in reverse: Start in a pot on the BBQ, then finish with a series of sears on the BBQ grill surface, alternated with dunks in the reduced braising liquid.

I notice two things right away. First, this meat seems really tough, similar to some pork spare rib meat. Second, there is a ton of fat on the big pieces. I trimmed what I could.

Ox tail fat... not particularly appetizing

On the fly, I’m making a sauce for these things to simmer in. How about a… oh, let’s say a 12 oz bottle of Schlafly Pale Ale, about 1/4 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce, 1/4 chopped white onion, and half a peeled garlic bulb. As it evaporates, I may pour in some more beer, or hot sauce, or water… whatever.

Let's see what happens

On to the grill it goes over semi-direct heat, with lots of coals. I’ll leave it be for a little over an hour and see how things have gone.

Good luck, tail

90 minutes or so later, the liquid had reduced quite a bit. I added 2 cups of water, stirred it up, and put the grill cover back on. This looks and smells appetizing, though in mixing them with a spoon it seems clear that the ox tail pieces are still fairly tough. More cooking is needed.

Cooking up nicely

Three hours after going on the grill, I pull the ox tail segments and give them some direct grilling. I let each side sear for a little bit, followed by some dunks in the sauce, then back to the grill. This is a common chicken wing technique. I got lots of nice blackened grill marks on the tail bits.

These look much better than I expected

I wound up adding another cup of water an hour after the first water add. In total, these things cooked on the grill for about 3 1/2 hours. I pulled them and scraped all of the sauce / meaty bits / garlic & onions onto the plate. They look and smell amazing.

NB: I had to cook these in secret. I quietly plated them and set the platter on the table next to the grilled chicken. My wife is pretty much the opposite of an adventurous eater. She begrudgingly took a bite in front of the kids at the table, which prompted them to try it. My son, the oldest, devoured them. The moral of the story is to try new things. I doubt, though, that she tries beef tongue when I get around to experimenting with that protein.

These look great

The meat is sticky-fatty, and there isn’t too much meat on each segment. The seasoning and braising methods left them incredibly tender with a nice, spicy finish. Get some kind of ale / lager for this. I am using a Belgian White Ale to accompany my ox tail.

You need to eat quite a few tail segments to get what I would consider a full serving of meat. This may be more of an appetizer than entree. Still, we served it with box mashed potatoes and canned lima beans.

I have to say that this was a worthwhile experiment. It was rich & flavorful, something I would make again with no hesitation.

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Venison Cornbread Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I was blessed with a pound of venison in a camouflage bag. Many thanks to my uncle and aunt, Robert and Candace Rice.

Some meat comes in camo bags

This is rural Missouri deer meat, probably Bambi’s mother. Just thinking about that orphaned baby deer gets my mouth watering.

I decided to make a cornbread stuffing with the venison, then stuff some chicken breasts with it and wrap the whole thing in bacon. Sounds good, right?

First, I got some Pepperidge Farm cornbread stuffing from the store. I put a tablespoon of butter in a medium sauce pan with three chopped garlic pieces and a quarter of a white onion for about five minutes. I added about 1 1/2 cup of the dry stuffing and 3/4 cup water. After mixing it up, I put in about three ounces of chopped Shiitake mushrooms.

Pre-venison stuffing

After making the stuffing, I mixed in the pound of ground venison. It’s messy work. Use your bare hands.

Finger licking good! (Seriously, though, don't lick your fingers.)

I am using three huge boneless chicken breasts, each pounded flat with a robust soup ladle while resting between some plastic wrap. Pound that chicken like it owes you money.

Time to beat your meat! What? What do you think I was talking about?

Each flattened chicken breast sat on a few strips of bacon, followed by about 1/3 of the venison stuffing.

One meat wrapped in another wrapped in another.

Wrap it up snugly. I am prepping in advance of BBQing, so I covered them in plastic wrap for some time in the fridge.

Ironic that they about the size and shape of your heart, considering how super awesome all that bacon is for your heart.

These things are huge, so they will take some time to grill. Low and slow. With the pork and poultry, make sure your meat thermometer is handy. Get ’em on the grill for some long, indirect heat. I am adding hickory smoke.

As you can see, these things are massive.

About 30-40 minutes into the grilling, each was rotated 180 degrees, keeping them on indirect heat. More wood chunks were added.

Almost ready for the platter

A total of 90 minutes was required to get the thickest part of the entree up to 160 degrees. This will obviously vary, depending on the size and conditions of your grill.

As huge as these are, I would say that half of one is a serving. I had some salad, asparagus, and two spare ribs on my plate with a half of a stuffed breast and was nearly uncomfortably full.

Looks good; Smells good

I could really taste the Shiitake mushroom, though a few guests did not pick up on them. The bacon does not add much flavor to the dish – it really does a great job, though, of holding everything together and keeping moisture locked in. You will get a lot of flavorful chicken with hearty bites of stuffing and venison.

This turned out really well, and there’s plenty of leftovers for lunch. I paired it with a Schlafly Dry-Hopped APA from a mix pack.

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Parboiled BBQ Pork Ribs

PLEASE READ THIS FIRST:

Parboiling ribs isn’t really recommended. The meat loses flavor and texture, but sometimes you get desperate and have very little time or experience.

I entered a BBQ rib contest on a lark and had never really cooked pork ribs successfully, but somewhere heard about parboiling ribs. So that’s what I did. Only a few people entered, and it was not judged professionally. I wound up winning and thought I was hot shit. This was a mistake based on ignorance, and a website called BBQ Bretheren somehow found the original post below and obliterated me. I’ve learned since that low and slow smoking is the best way to cook ribs.

I keep this post up because deleting it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and because lots of people come here looking for parboiling information.

Some people really like ribs like this, many don’t. Proceed at your own peril.

BBQ Bretheren visitors: Click here for your more formal welcome.

Original Post:

I once entered a local parish BBQ competition, having never cooked ribs competitively. This was “competitive” in that other people were there, but certainly not a KCBS event. I parboiled some St. Louis style ribs, coated them with a brown sugar rub, then BBQed them indirectly. True, the judges were common parishioners with amateur palates who had been drinking beer all day, and maybe I only beat 8 other competitors, but I still won. (Yes, I know… shake your head in shame.) Here is the recipe.

In a stock pot, put about 3/4 of a gallon of apple juice, 3/4 of a gallon of water, one quartered onion, one quartered apple, and a handful of whole peppercorns.

Ready to parboil some ribs

Get this concoction to a rolling boil. You can do it on the grill, as I did in the competition, but it makes a big mess of the stock pot and you use a ton of coals.

Parboiling ribs

I am using two slabs of baby back ribs, each cut in half to give me four large rib portions. They will cook for maybe 15-20 minutes. After adding the ribs, the boil will die down. Once it gets rolling again, turn the heat down to medium. A parboil is partially cooking something through a boil, though a half hour in this boil will cook the ribs sufficiently.

The rub, being sugary, clumps on like plaster. The ribs are going to get pretty tender during the boil. If overdone, they will basically fall off and out of the slab. Be careful not to overlook them.

What the rub does is form a sugary, peppery coating that holds the slab together while it sits on the BBQ and absorbs some smokey flavors. Each slab of ribs gets a generous coating of rub. (By the way, if you are a diabetic these ribs will cause you some serious problems. I’m not joking. This is based on real feedback that I received from a diabetic person.)

Rub: 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup paprika, “a few” tablespoons each of onion powder & garlic powder, a tablespoon of cayenne pepper

Pull the ribs and lay them on a cookie sheet in preparation for the rub.

Thinly coat the ribs in the rub on both sides. (By the way, this recipe makes a massive mess in the grill.) The loose sugary mixture will fall into the bottom of the grill kettle and turn into sticky burnt plaster. Good luck with that.

Hot, wet, rubbed down.

Two tips here: First, get the ribs out with long tongs such that you can get the whole half rack supported. If you try to pick up the rack by the end, it could fall apart. Second, put on the rub right after taking the ribs out. Hot, wet ribs + sugary dry rub = instant plaster.

I use a nifty rib rack contraption that I found at Lowe’s a couple years ago. After putting the rubbed ribs into the rack, I sprinkled some additional rub over the top. (Cleaning the rib rack sucks, by the way.)

Nice rack

I put the rack on the Weber 22.5″ over semi-indirect heat and covered. After about 30-45 minutes, the rub will have melted onto the ribs and the smoke will have added significant extra flavor. Be sure to use a sharp knife.

Very unconventional ribs.

If you like competition quality ribs, or ribs with bite, then these aren’t for you. They fall off the bone and then some.

They’re super-tender, and fairly sweet. Kids devour them.

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Smoked Pork Ribs

You know what’s awesome? Pork ribs.

Smoking pork ribs on the BBQ requires patience to properly tenderize the meat. If you season them well and have give them time for smoking, you won’t need any sauce. None.

The first step is to make the overnight rub. What follows is the rub recipe for a single slab. Duplicate as necessary, but I am making one slab here.

Rub: 1/4 cup paprika, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2-3 tbsp Lawry’s seasoned salt. Add one tbsp each of Italian seasoning, cayenne pepper, onion powder, & garlic powder.

Rib rub ingredients

The brown sugar will want to lump together as you whisk it together with a fork.

Spicy, sweet, salty... great on oatmeal

A key to smoking ribs is removing the membrane from the concave side of the ribs. This is important for two reasons. First, the membrane will act as a smoke barrier if not removed, which would diminish tenderness and flavor. Second, the smoked membrane would become dried out and flaky, like a thin film of plastic – really gross. This is a common rookie mistake.

Get a hold of one end of the ribs and use a knife to get in under the membrane along the end rib, then tug the membrane straight off. It will take a little effort but should come off as one piece. Throw it out.

Useless pig stuff removal

Put down some heavy duty foil and generously rub each side with the dry rub mixture.

Post-rubdown ribs

These are the baby back ribs, which are literally the ribs near the pig’s back – at the uppermost part of the pig near the spine. The next cut down the pig are the St. Louis ribs, which are the center part of the ribs. St. Louis ribs are typical competition ribs and have consistent amounts of meat down the slab, though the membrane only covers about 2/3 of the ribs. The spare ribs are the St. Louis ribs and the rest of the ribs down to the belly, literally the “spare” ribs after taking off the baby back ribs..

Wrap this up and leave it in the fridge over night. The next day, set up the grill for indirect cooking with plenty of soaked wood. Today I am using half hickory chunks and half cherry wood chips.

Indirect cooking on a Weber 22.5" kettle

After an hour and a half, add some more chips and turn the ribs.

Too bad you can't smell these!

All this grilling is exhausting. Time for a beer… or few. I found this variety pack at Friar Tuck’s in Crestwood. Southern Tier makes good beer with wide appeal. Look them up.

Southern Tier varietal... hard to go wrong

Finally, after about three hours on the grill, pull the ribs. I like to cut each rib flush against the bone so that each piece of rib is just rib on one side and meat on the other.

The paprika gives it a nice smokey & spicy flavor. The brown sugar caramelizes the rub to the ribs and negates the need for any sauce, which is just packed with sugar and all the same spices anyway.

If you look closely, you can see the some smoke lines (pink) against the otherwise super-tender rib meat (gray). Time to eat some ribs and knock back a few more of the Southern Tier beers.

YUM!

By the way, when you take a single small bite and the entire rib disintegrates into your mouth, it’s probably been cooked to proper tenderness. The bone should be completely clean after a bite.

Maximum meat in belly; Minimal effort

Have some additional cold brew with your ribs. Let me recommend this stuff:

Who doesn't love hot acrobats?

North Coast Brewing knows what they are doing. Good luck on the ribs; don’t let them get overdone.

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Drink This Beer: Arrogant Bastard Ale

At some point you’ve told someone: You know, I’ve been meaning to try that. For me, one of my I’ve-been-meaning-to-try-that beers is Arrogant Bastard Ale. Not only because I am an occasionally-arrogant bastard who likes ales, but because I’ve seen it so many times in so many places but just never ordered or bought it. I’m glad I finally did.

I may not be worthy, but I'm drinking it nonetheless.

At a respectable 7.2% ABV, I’m excited to crack this big boy open. First, you have to acknowledge the badass artwork on the bottle. I particularly like the two tone printing right on the bottle – no labels. There’s a detailed narrative on the backside of the bottle aimed at belittling the drinker into passing up on the beer, followed by a colorful history of the Stone Brewing Company. Even the website has moxie. I like this brewer’s style.

Let’s see if the beer holds up all it’s talk once it goes from bottle to glass to mouth to belly.

Arrogance... bottled

I love how this looks in a glass. Note the rich brownish-amber color. None of this Bud Light clear-as-a-window translucency crap. This is a real beer. Here’s a better look:

You magnificent bastard!

When did we as a society begin to settle for thin watery clear beers? When your beer looks like Zima with a 1/2 drop of yellow food dye in it, you made a poor beer decision.

Back to the Bastard. Lots of head when you pour, but it’s not particularly effervescent. These are common among English-style ales.

After all of the IPAs that I have been crushing lately, this is a refreshing change of pace. This beer has a nice note of hops, not a hops beatdown. Great, rich ale flavor. I’m not picking up on any side fruit flavors or anything goofy. Straight non-IPA hoppy ale, but they do it so well. It’s a very smooth beer with a robust aftertaste. I would buy this again in a heartbeat.

You may not be worthy, but my recommendation for Stone Brewing Company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale: Drink This Beer

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