Monday, February 19, 2018

Ribs Glorious Ribs!

Pork ribs are the kind of thing that brings out opinions in everybody who makes them, and eats them--especially if they don't know anything about what went into them. Some people like them falling off the bone. Some like them to have a little tooth--the need to work for the meat a little more. Some pre boil or cook them in an oven, then finish them on a grill. Some go low and slow for a loooooong time. Some go for rubs, some brine, some marinate. Some spritz every hour with water or apple juice. Some want a vinegary finish. Some want a sauce glaze finish. Here's what I'm getting too--everybody brings their own expectations to the table when it comes to ribs, and in the end it mostly doesn't matter--ribs are not hard to cook, and not easy to mess up, but undercooked ribs are never pleasant in my book.

I come from the school that puts a rub on the ribs a day in advance. My rib rub usually has brown sugar, kosher salt, hot pepper flakes, cayenne, Old Bay, and oregano. I don't want to overwhelm the natural sweetness of the meat, so no garlic or onion in this one. Also, I'm not as fond of the vinegar heavy spritzes--just not to my taste.

I start by drying my ribs and removing the silver skin from the back of the rack. Then I pour on a pile of rub and work it into the meat. Wrap the ribs tightly and put them back in the fridge for a day.

If I'm doing only one or two racks, I'll use a Weber kettle and cook the ribs indirectly. When I have 3 or more racks, I break out my UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) made for me by a friend out of an old vegetable oil 55 gallon drum.

In the bottom of the drum, I've piled a number of things to give the coal some space off the bottom of the barrel. At the bottom, I have a square vented grill basket with about 1-1/2 inch sloped walls and foil in the bottom to catch the ash. On top of that is a cast iron grate, and the weber charcoal baskets are on top of that. When I first started using the barrel, I just poured charcoal onto the floor of the barrel, but I couldn't get good sustained even heat until I lifted the charcoal out of its ash.

Pour a layer of unlit coal in the bottom of the charcoal baskets, then dump a canister of lit coal on top.

Place your smoking wood on top of the coal. This barrel can accomodate hanging the meat or placing the meat on a grill suspended on two bolts and the BBQ thermometer protruding into the barrel.

In this case, I'm using a grill and rib rack.

This is 6 slabs of ribs--4 St. Louis cut and 2 full slabs. Every hour I come out and spritz the meat with water and move the ribs around so they cook evenly. This cook has the ribs on for about 4 hours at about 250-275 degrees.

After 4 hours I wrap the ribs in foil and set them on grill (or oven) for another hours. I feel that an hour in foil finishes cooking the ribs to my desired tenderness--not completely falling off the bone, but not making me work for it either. It's a Goldilocks thing I guess.

After unwrapping, the bones are protruding some, but not completely. Cut up the ribs and serve. I serve them with my sauce warmed on the side for those that like to dip, but they are just as good on their own.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Grilled Chicken

This is my go to, regular, boring old method for grilling chicken that I use nearly every Friday. It requires constant periodic attention to the grill--every 5 or 6 minutes--but the results are consistent and delicious.

I like to season the chicken about 8 hours prior to cooking it. This allows flavors to penetrate into the meat, and a slight dry brining effect with the salt in the seasoning. If you are using kosher birds, DO NOT use a seasoning mix with salt in it. One other note about how I prepare the chicken breasts. My mother always removed the ribs and sterna from the breasts for ease of eating, however this requires more delicate cooking. I also remove the skin from the breasts along with the ribs, so the seasoning is directly on the meat.

One hour and 15 minutes light a full canister of charcoal and when ready, spread it over a large front 2/3 of the floor of grill. Leave the back 1/3 of the grill free of charcoal to give yourself a space to put large pieces to indirectly cook after direct cooking.

Place the cooking grate over the coals, and cover (with vents wide open) for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the grate, then coat with vegetable oil using a paper towel and some tongs. In the picture above, I have the meat from 2 whole chickens plus 2 extra breasts. The backs, necks, hearts, gizzards, and livers were used for soup this time. I place all the breasts together on the left, then the wings, then the legs and thighs on the right. I try to nest the pieces together to optimize space on the grill, and it helps with flare ups. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Turn the chicken. I like to not only turn the breasts over, but also rotate them to evenly grill the exterior. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

At this point, I move the breasts to the cool side of the grill to cook indirectly, and move the thighs to the spot vacated by the breasts. If the wings skin is crackly brown, move them to the indirect side as well.

I stand the breasts on the sternum side, with the scapula bone pointing upwards. Cover and continue turning the dark meat every 5 or 6 minutes until done. This will take about 20 to 25 minutes. The breasts are fully cooked when you see clear juices pooling in the indentation next to the upturned scapula. However, don't let your eyes be the only judge--use a meat thermometer. Breast meat is fully cooked with an internal temperature of 165 degrees. I cook the Thighs and legs to 175 degrees. DO NOT SERVE UNDERCOOKED CHICKEN! The dangers of Campylobacter and salmonella are not to be underestimated.

Plate your chicken and serve. I like to serve it with a bowl of my spicy sweet BBQ sauce for dipping.