Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ribsmas day!!

Well, here we are! Ribsmas day!! The goal of this glorious day is to achieve a righteous smoke ring. What, pray tell, is a smoke ring? Well, dear reader, it's the goal of this whole smoking enterprise. A smoke ring is a glorious layer of pink that extends from the outside to the inside of whatever you're smoking, and it contains all the wonderous smoke flavour that we all know and love! The depth of smoke ring is the measure of your skills as a pit boss -- the deeper the better. So, here we go. We're going to smoke a couple of racks of ribs, strive for the best smoke ring we can achieve, and have some fun along the way. Oh yeah.

On a rib smoking day, you have til about noon to get everyting done for the whole day, since from noon til dinner you can't let yourself be distracted (much). So get a good night's sleep, and have a big breakfast -- preferably oatmeal. Then do laundry, gardening, house cleaning, shopping, or whatever else might be on your agenda, and do it quick! You have a date. A deadline. A destiny of ribs ahead of you!

Ok, it's noon. Now we are focused. We are a pit boss. Ribs are us.

Choose your hardwood chunks. Here is a mix of mesquite and hickory.

Next, we need some charcoal. Get some good stuff -- hardwood lump is best. I like this maple charcoal, but Royal Oak lump charcoal is good too. The warning signs on some products really make you wonder sometimes....

Fill the firebox on your smoker about 2/3 full of charcoal.

Install your thermometer probe.

Then set up and light your chimney starter. (For those of you who haven't seen a chimney starter before, it's the most ingenious device ever. There is a little space for newspaper in the bottom. You put paper in there, and charcoal on top. When you light the paper, the fire travels up the chimney, and lights your coals perfectly -- no need for any lighter fluid or anything!). It's a good idea to check the wind direction first, just to make sure you or your neighbours don't have a clean load of laundry on the line in the flight path of all your smoke.

Once the coals are done, dump them in the firebox (I hope you have your bbq gloves on).

Make sure the vents and the chimney are open. Close the barrel and the fire box, and let the whole thing heat up to about 300 degrees F.

It's hot in there!

When the temp hits about 200, get your ribs out of the fridge and onto your rib rack. Slosh the Chinese ribs around in the roasting pan so that they are covered in marinade. You want the ribs to go into the smoker fairly cool, since their ability to absorb smoke will diminish as they heat up.

Here you can see why it's a good idea to go digital for the thermometer. The guage on the smoker is a little out, and you'll cook your ribs too hot if you rely on it.

When you hit 300, bring the ribs outside. There will be a lot of smoke that comes off the charcoal while the fire is getting established. This is NOT the smoke you want in your ribs -- it's just all the moisture blasting out of your charcoal. This gunk should be gone by the time you hit 300. Then toss your hardwood chunks into the fire box -- this will make the good smoke that you DO want in your ribs. If your wood chunks are small, put about half of them in now, and the other half in in an hour or so.

Close your vents (the smoker is leaky enough to keep the fire going).

Put your ribs in the barrel. Dump any extra marinade from the pan on your Chinese ribs. Then close the barrel and don't open it for the next two hours. All this monkeying around with the smoker will drop the temperature, but it will establish an equilibrium at around 200. If it seems to low or high, you can open the vents a little or lift the barrel lid a little depending. As they say in Hitchiker's Guide though, don't panic...wait a while first and see what happens before you make any adjustments.

Now you can have a beer!

The next two hours are critical. This is when the smoke ring will form. Once the meat heats up, the smoke will stop penetrating, so you want to keep the smoker temp in the 180-220 range for maximum smoke ring potential. Essentially, you just sit around now.

Set up a Captain's Chair so you can keep an eye on the temperature (with the awesome remote monitor that comes with your thermometer!), drink a beer,  and make gentle adjustments to the vents to ensure that the temperature of the smoker is in the right range. Never close the smoker chimney, by the way -- make all your adjustments at the firebox.

Here is the first adjustment to the firebox. See? Not much! Just a little bit here and there.

Ok. Now we need to make a mop. This is for basting the dry rub ribs. At the two hour mark, you need to start basting since the smoke penetration is done. (You can still pop in the odd chunk of mesquite just for the smell, but it won't do anything for your ribs.) You'll baste every half our or so for the next two hours.

The mop for the dry ribs comes from Smoke and Spice (another one of those books that I only use one recipe from).

You'll need a bottle of beer, 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of oil, 1/2 an onion (I don't like recipes that call for half an onion, so I used a whole one. What are you supposed to do with the other half?!), 2 minced cloves of garlic (I ran out, so I used Egyptian Onions instead), 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon of your dry rub. The recipe also calls for 1/2 a cup of water, but that doesn't fit in my saucepan, so I skip it.

(Incidentally, the Flying Monkeys brewery has cool bottle caps...

...they have sage advice under them: like this one..."If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.")

Put your Chinese glaze and your mop on the firebox to keep them warm.

Then mop your mop...

...and pour on your glaze as required.

Rotate the ribs 180 degrees whenever you baste, and after another two hours, you're all set!

Slice your ribs, and check out your awesome smoke ring. See how it's pink from the outside in? (As opposed to the pink from the inside out, which would mean things didn't get cooked enough.)

I've heard recently that you should not eat carbs with meat, but should have it with greens instead.

I think this is a great idea.

Especially if this is your idea of a "green"!

Get lots of napkins, and dig in! (It is just me, or is this the longest post ever? I'm exhausted!!)

Peace, love, and barbecue.


  1. I admire your dedication and the results look supurb. This is definitely in my future.