Friday, July 10, 2009

Mmm, mmm, mmm - Three Hour Ribs!

I don't eat much meat. Pork mainly, beef rarely. I tend to stick with fish and chicken most of the year. Then summer arrives and everything goes straight to hell.

I love to barbeque. I fell off the wagon and wound up with a gas grill until my old CBC buddy (now CTV) Paul Workman gave me a proper dressing down over it, reminding me of our more aesthetic grilling days when we were frequently besotted young reporters. So, out went the gas bottle and in came the Weber kettle.

I'm not a snob but I do know the difference between properly kiln-charred 'lump' charcoal and that processed crap mixed with powdered coal and petroleum by-products that we call briquettes. Fortunately Canadian Tire stocks a generous supply of real charcoal, the type your Dad would have used (if you were a kid in the 50's).

A barbeque is all about spice. I make my own with an old-school mortar and pestle and a variety of herbs including unground mustard seed, fennel, chile seeds, cardomom, and an array of black, red and white pepper corns. A little kosher salt, some brown sugar, real gourmet chile powders, fresh cumin and top grade Hungarian paprika and the universe literally unfolds.

Then it's the fire, the secret ingredient - the magic. You want heat but it has to be indirect heat and very, very low. Under 180 is the key. That requires a lot of trial and error until you get to know how to build that fire and get it to just that right point. That's a perfect storm requiring the right amount of coals at the right point and continually controlled by regulating both the air intake and the upper vents.

A couple of hours before I'm ready to put meat on the grill I begin soaking the wood chips - mesquite or hickory or apple (the latter mainly for fish). When I'm ready to go, the chips go on the coals immediately before the meat reaches the grill. Then I put on the kettle top, adjust the vents and marvel at the smoke that pours out carrying that awesome aroma.

Now to do this right you have to check your fire every 20-30 minutes. You don't want it hot but you have to be careful lest it go out. Once you're through the first round, all that's needed is to add twigs from any one of the fruit trees in the yard. The last ten minutes, when the fire has really died down, it's time to add your homemade barbeque sauce and let it set in under the remaining heat and smoke.

Three hours later and it's time to reap what you have sowed. Ribs that are so moist, so tender that they genuinely do fall off the bone. You could eat that even if you had no teeth. And I can't even begin to describe the texture. The stuff melts.

So, tomorrow's another day. Maybe Beer Can Chicken? Pretty hard to beat that.

As an aside, I have done 5-hour ribs - more smoke, less heat and even 7-hour ribs. Unfortunately I'm not able to appreciate the difference. Three it is for me.


penlan said...

Yum!! Sounds out of this world delicious. :)

Care to share the beer can chicken recipe?

Greg said...

Thanks for this. I love my Weber Smokey Mountain water smoker. It is goof proof (which makes it ideal for me) and the ribs.... Man, do I love summer.

The Mound of Sound said...

Your smoker sounds terrific Greg. I just haven't quite gotten there yet.

Okay - beer can chicken. Really simple so long as the lid of your barbeque is high enough to accommodate the chicken.

Here's what you need. A good quality chicken, kosher salt, your own dry rub of spices, a lemon wedge and one can of beer. Soaked wood chips are optional but I always use them.

Being chicken, there's no low heat method. You need a hot fire but build it only on one side so you can have indirect heat for cooking.

Bird prep. Clean the chicken thoroughly and really rinse out the cavity well. Don't dry it inside or outside. Take a generous amount of kosher salt and rub it everywhere inside the cavity. Then take your spice rub and generously coat the outside of the bird. I then wrap it in foil and let the rub set for about 10-minutes.

When your fire is good and hot, throw on your wood chips to get the smoke coming. Then there's the tricky part. The idea is to open the beer, take a good sip, and then insert the can the only place it will fit in that chicken -its backside. Then you can actually make the chicken 'sit up' by placing the can on the grill and using the tips of the legs to create a 3-point configuration.

I've used a small, thin wire pastry rack atop the barbeque grill to create a small grid surface that has helped keep the bird from falling over. But there are plenty of commercial racks now available too. Again, you can find them at Canadian Tire.

What happens is that you've created a means to steam the chicken from the inside while it roasts from the outside. And that's where the lemon wedge comes in. That has to be used to plug the neck cavity, keeping most of the steam inside.

I usually cook the bird for an hour and fifteen and then bring it in and let it rest another 10-15 tightly wrapped in foil. As it rests, a lot of the moisture from the steaming gets into the breast.

If you do it right, you'll have the most succulent, delicious barbequed chicken you've ever tasted.

Oh yeah, one other thing. When you take the bird off the grill you need to remove and dispose of the can and its remaining contents. I'd suggest getting one of those blue silicon gloves. If you're alone, wrap the bird well in foil, hold it with one hand while you remove the can with the other but be very careful. Best to have a volunteer who will do the extraction while you hold the wrapped bird in two hands. You have to be careful, the liquid is quite hot. I do it over the kitchen sink with the can going straight into the drain.

Anyway, that's it. If you try it, let me know how it worked out.


outdoorgriller said...

I enjoy grilling season every year. My ribs usually take about three and a half hours and they always come out tender if you would like to see how this is done or if you would like to see the collection of tips and recipes I have for grilling you can visit

penlan said...

Thanks for the chicken recipe - again, it sounds absolutely delicious. I'll let you know how it turns out after I've tried it. :)

Yappa said...

I moved from a house to a condo and had to get rid of my barbecues, but your post really brought back memories. I had a gas bbq for everyday (with a rotisserie) and a Weber kettle for special cooking. When I fired up the Weber I made the most of it... usually a capon, and then a variety of vegetables for smoking (which I generally froze): jalapenos, eggplants, and onions especially.

Your dry rub sounds great. Ever think of making pulled pork bbq?

Scruffy Dan said...

Now I am hungry... and I just had dinner.

I desperately want a coal BBQ. The gas grill is great when time is limited, or when it is cold out (I BBQ year round), but the flavour doesn't quite compare.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dan, let the force be with you. You, of all people,will understand the communing with nature that comes from cooking your best over the best the planet provides - pure, unadulterated, low-temperature charcoal.

From what I've come to know of you I'd be willing to bet you won't see the summer out what that souless, tasteless, Philistine gas grill.

The Mound of Sound said...

And Yappa, always good to hear from another True Believer. A Weber isn't for "special" cooking but, instead, for genuine cooking.

To all interested, find a good spice shop and begin collecting - mainly seeds and berries. They last for ever almost and, when ground, they have incredible fragrance and flavour.

Scruffy Dan said...

"From what I've come to know of you I'd be willing to bet you won't see the summer out what that souless, tasteless, Philistine gas grill. "

Thats probably true, if only I had a bigger backyard...

Scruffy Dan said...

I do have to admit, I am salivating at the thought of having my own smoker... it might even be worth the enviable heart attack:)