Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rib Scientist

With this cook I wanted to try to establish a few things. First of all, I've used Smithfield baby back ribs before and found them to taste really salty. I'm guessing it's however they're processed or whatever they package them in. So on this cook I wanted to do some fresh from the butcher at Costco and some which were pre-packaged to see if I had a preference.

The other objective was to use foil on some ribs and not wrap the others. So in one afternoon I wound up with four types of ribs.

1. Smithfield foiled
2. Smithfield unfoiled
3. Unprocessed foiled
4. Unprocessed unfoiled.

In an effort to establish as much control across all 4 ribs I rubbed with my own version of Steven Raichlen's "Basic Barbecue Rub" from How to Grill.

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika (all I had was regular paprika)
3 tablespoons black pepper
3 tablespoons coarse salt (I stopped at two)
1 tablespoon hickory-smoked salt or more coarse salt (I skipped this)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons celery seeds (didn't have it)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

I set up the Egg with an indirect cook using my adjustable rig. After the coals were going pretty well I tossed on a handful of apple wood chips which had been soaking in water for an hour or so. The drip pan had a mix of apple juice and apple cider.

From here I was following Car Wash Mike's method to the letter, which gets us to the scene below. Given the adjustable rig was going to put some ribs closer to the fire--and at greater risk for drying out--those lower-level guys were automatically dubbed foil-bound ribs. I wanted to maximize the smoke flavor, so I kept the dome temperature right around 200f.

Every hour I was coating the ribs with a 50/50 combo of apple juice and apple vinegar.

Two hours in I wrapped a rack of Costco ribs and half of the Smithfield rack in foil. I poured in a nice little brew for which I drew inspiration from a number of sources and then added some of my own touches. Foil ribs went downstairs. Naked ribs went upstairs.

The foil bath:

1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Texas Pete sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder

I had to heat it all up a bit to get the honey to blend in.

After an hour of being in the foil, the unprocessed ribs were nearly falling apart. In fact, that rack tore in half as I was removing it from the foil.

At this point I returned them to the grate and slathered some Stubb's spicy BBQ sauce on all ribs in attendance. I'm green enough (and was hungry enough) that I wasn't sure when to pull them. I knew the foiled ribs were pretty much done, but I wanted to give the sauce a chance to caramelize on everything, so 30 minutes later I took everything off.

So you can decide for yourself, which look better. The first ones pictured were foiled. The darker set stayed naked the whole time.

I'll tell you that the Smithfield ribs again tasted really salty to me like they had been brined or whatever in the juices that they package them in. The general consensus was that the unprocessed ribs were superior.

Now there's call for doing a final round at a later date without the Smithfield ribs, because I had a hard time deciding which of the unprocessed ribs I liked better. My wife preferred the foiled ribs. They were really tender, juicy and fall-off-the bone. No doubt they tasted really good as well.

The other ribs had more of a smoky flavor and a generally more pleasing texture in my opinion. They were still very tender, but had a little crust on the outside that gave you something satisfying to gnaw through.

Overall it was a great way to pass the afternoon and a tasty way to spend the evening. This was a really fun cook that lends itself to a little experimentation. You can easily have a couple of variables going on during one cook, so that makes it feel all scientific and stuff. I'm grateful for the support of the During the week I had posed a question about foiling ribs that got a fairly lively response. You can check it out here. It's noteworthy that Car Wash Mike himself weighed in with a comment. Such is the caliber of discourse to be had on the forum. I love it. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gratuitous Rib Shot

I'm working on my post from today's rib cook. Check back soon.

Ill-Conceived Notion

All y'all from climates where you get more frozen stuff can confirm what a bad idea it was for me to put up my tarp the night before the storm. The concept in my head was to protect the cooking area from getting excess "wintry mix"so that I could have unimpeded access to my Egg for ribs today.

Live and Learn.

Good news: the Egg was unharmed and the baby back ribs are doing their thing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A moment of reflection with an eye on the weekend

I have no idea how this stacks up in the grand scheme. Actually I do. This is no major deal, but I'm excited to see that since inception Grill Knuckles has had 1001 "hits" as of this morning. This seems like a good bit of traffic for a dinky blog started in October 2009. Thank you for checking in on my hobby to see what's up. I hope I've made your mouth water once or twice. It's with your help that we have made Grill Knuckles the 12,084,674,139th most popular website in the WORLD!

Now, there's no time to rest on one's laurels.

Saturday's forecast includes a wintry mix with 99% chance of baby back ribs. The goal is to try a few racks in a few styles and recipes. Check back soon!

Thanks again for supporting Grill Knuckles.

I'm fired up.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guest Cooker this week on Grill Knuckles

On Saturday I visited my dad and his brand new Big Green Egg. He's gone headlong into this hobby with some rather ambitious projects right off the bat. Already I'm coveting his cast iron Dutch oven, which he's used to make some incredible bread.

I arrived at my parents' house to find the bbq chicken thighs almost done. My 20 month old son was in my arms. He's already an avid griller and has to see what's going on when I'm out cooking. As my dad opened the lid my son peered into the Egg to see what was going on. Man, it smelled good. I look over and my son has drool coming all the way down his front and onto my arm. Some poker face he has.

Here's the recipe for the chicken. I looked over a printed recipe for the bread while at my folks' house, but don't have it here to post. I'll try to get hold of it. Both the bread and the chicken were outstanding. Way to go dad!

BBQ chicken sauce

Olive oil – salt and pepper

400 degrees

Pull with Internal temp of 170

2 tbsp. onion, chopped
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 tbsp. vinegar

1 tbsp honey
8 chicken breasts

Sauce: saute onions in butter until brown. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Country Ribs & Some Wings

Today's cook was the result of feeling antsy to cook something without the benefit of planning to come up with something all that creative. I ran off to the grocery store while my wife fed the kids lunch.

The beef short ribs caught my eye. So did a big old London broil (foreshadowing for future projects?). However, I settled on getting some wings and some pork loin country ribs. I remember reading about country ribs. I bought them because I was curious to figure out what they were. They had both "bone-in" and "boneless." To me ribs ARE bone, right? So I got the bone-in. Again, since I hadn't put much thought into all this I just rubbed them in brown sugar and salt. After the coals were doing their thing, I threw them on my new adjustable rig from (which I love).

After about 3 hours indirect at a dome temp of 250f I slapped some bbq sauce on them and added the wings to the Egg. I've not done much with wings before so I experimented with several different rubs.

On an impulse today I bought some Asian five spice thing that made the back porch smell really good, but didn't do much for the wings bearing their spice. Both my wife and I liked the wings that had the same treatment as the ribs (salt & brown sugar with some bbq sauce added later).

Perhaps you can see that after the salmon incident I went the other dire
ction and got a very small order of ribs. That plus wings and a baked sweet potato was plenty of food for my wife and me. The ribs came off after about 4 hours. The loin part was a little dry, but came apart very easily. The stuff around the bone was really pretty awesome, I have to say. My wife and I both puzzled as to why you'd go with the boneless variety. Perhaps we'll try that soon for comparison. Fun Saturday spur-of-the-moment kind of cook!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

TRex: Take Two

As luck would have it, when I bought steaks for New Year's Eve I assumed one of our guests was going to have steak, who wound up bringing salmon. This meant that one good-looking steak was sitting in the fridge all by itself as 2010 began.

My folks came into town on Saturday, January 2 for a visit and stayed through Sunday to exchange Christmas gifts and see the Panthers game. Saturday night we did the whole fish thing (see previous post). Sunday my dad and I decided to whip up the last steak on the Big Green Egg for lunch.

The TRex method had worked on New Year's Eve (except for the internal temps) so we decided to try again in hopes of getting a rarer finished product. I should point out that I gave my dad a cast iron grate for his Big Green Egg for Christmas, which he graciously decided to christen on my Egg for this occasion.

A couple nights prior I had not been able to get the dome temp beyond the 625f range. This time we loaded more coals in and placed a fan blowing right up the skirt of my egg, which got us darn close to 700f. That plus the cast iron really gave the steak a lovely sear.

Again the rub was simply fresh-ground pepper and coarse salt sprinkled on after coating the strips with olive oil.

I'm a believer now in letting the meat rest for 20 minutes after you sear each side. We really enjoyed some very tender beef. I think the "rest" had to have helped.
We pulled this guy off when the internal temp was around 125f or just a hair over. We let it rest for 5 minutes and then it was time for lunch! It easily fed us both.
While I've not done any outdoor cooking since this steak came off on January 3rd, it was tasty bit of encouragement. I have great hope for what sorts of tastiness will end up on the table in 2010.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

"It was the smallest one they had."

So with family coming over for dinner last Saturday night I thought I'd try to pull off something that:
1. Was healthy for us all headed into the new year--you know, Omega-3's and all that.
2. Would help showcase the Egg. Some of these folks had never eaten Egg-cooked food before.
3. Would be something new for me that would be exciting.

I thumbed through "How to Grill" by Steven Raichlen and found an entry on how to grill a whole fish. That sounded cool. My wife was shopping for the rest of the meal so I asked her to pick up a salmon. (I had also called the grocery store to confirm they had 'em.) She comes home with this huge box explaining it was the smallest one they had.

Behold: 14 lbs of farm-raised Atlantic salmon.

Now what?

Ok so I cut the head off and a good hunk behind the dorsal fin. I froze the hunk and saved the head for a couple of hours before deciding I had no idea what to do with it.

After a rinse and pat-down he remaining portion got four slits as shown below. I placed lemon slices in the cuts along with fresh cut dill. Lemon slices and dill went inside the fish as well. Everything got a liberal sprinkling of coarse salt and fresh-ground pepper.

I was hoping for some sort of "wow" factor by delivering this huge, beautiful cut of salmon to the dinner table. It didn't work out that way. After cooking this cut for about 90 minutes at a dome temp of 350f the portions on the outer edges were cooked while the interior was still pretty raw. It was time to eat, so I cut off the outer portions to serve, which pretty much eliminated the "wow." Everything ended up tasting great, but it just came off the grill in stages.

There was so much leftover fish that I was eating salmon for breakfast for a few days. After choking down salmon for dinner (again) on Tuesday night I declared to my wife that I was "off salmon" for a while. I wish I was kidding when I report that for lunch the very next day I had a catered business lunch featuring salmon.

Oof. It'll be a while before I drag the rest of that fish out of the freezer.

Again I should say that it tasted great when it first came off the Big Green Egg, but I just bought too much fish. The cook didn't wrap up and serve like I had imagined and I had so much leftovers that it'll be a while before I try this sort of thing again.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Steak Doneness temps

There is no end to useful info at the Egghead Forum. In fact, just a month ago a user inquired about internal temps for steak doneness.

So here you go:

Very Rare Steak – 120°
Rare Steak – 125°
Medium-Rare Steak – 130° – 135°
Medium Steak – 140° – 145°
Medium-Well Steak – 150° – 155°
Well-Done Steak – 160°

Pictures of what your steak will look like at these temps are available by clicking here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010 Resolution #1: Know my internal temps

Of all the things to screw up. . .

We had friends over for New Year's Eve dinner and I over cooked the NY Strip steaks (1 3/4" thick and about 1 1/4 lb per steak!). I used the TRex steak method, which involves searing the steak and then letting it "rest" inside for 20 minutes before cooking it the rest of the way at a lower temp. Somewhere along the way I found a book saying that 145f is medium rare on the inside of a steak. As far as I can tell that's darned medium and close to well done by the time they come off the egg and cook a little more on the platter.

The TRex method suggests an internal temp of 125 for med. rare. That sounded awfully bloody to me, so I consulted another source. But now I know.

Fortunately the steaks had great flavor (the rub was simply coarse salt, fresh-ground pepper and olive oil) and the TRex method really gets them tender. Unfortunately, they were WAY over done for my taste. The guests were gracious and seemed to eat their fair share all the same.

I didn't photograph the finished product. It was just too painful (or at least embarrassing). Goodbye 2009! What a bitter, chewy farewell.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Experience has taught me. . .

Experience has taught me that I could always use a little more experience. First, I'm flattered to have the helpful and encouraging comments from strangers on this site. On my last cook I got some great questions which I'd like to address.

Yes, I have calibrated the dome thermometer and it's quite accurate. The thing here is that I'm following the Elder Ward instructions which I understand to call for a dome temp of around 195 to 200 f and then opening it up to about 275f or so once the internal temp of the pork gets around 160. I've been curious about this, because I've seen others talk about doing butts at 250f on the dome temp. Sounds like you get the same results with less time and fuel. Any thoughts here are appreciated. I'll poll the egghead forum for guidance.

I managed to do a lot of cooking on the Egg this weekend. I'll include posts and photos later in the week, but the recurring theme here is that it's good to stay humble. I still have a lot to learn. Thanks for reading.

Happy New Year!