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.