The journey begins.
So how do I start entering the world of BBQ? By cooking it.
Grills: Weber: 22.5" Silver Grill. Weber: Smokey Joe Grill.
Fuel: Kingsford Charcoal. (I know but it's hard to get other brands in Brooklyn)
Cowboy Brand Charcoal. Wood chips and chunks. I buy whatever I can find. Usually it's hickory, mesquite, oak and Jack Daniel's chips. The Jack Daniels chips are oak made from the barrels used to age the Jack. I also use cherry wood that I get from my parents yard. Whenever they trim the trees or whenever a branch falls off, it goes into my grill.
Misc. Equipment: Charcoal Chimney starter. Weber firestarters. Old newspapers. Notice that I don't use charcoal lighter fluid. If you use lighter fluid, you will taste it on the finished BBQ.
My Butcher: Brennan’s Gerritesen Beach, Brooklyn, New York. Please note that I include my butcher as part of the mix to master BBQ. A good butcher is imperative. Get to know your butcher and you'll get the best meats and any "unique" items you may need. Remember it takes time to get a whole hog in Brooklyn!
Today’s BBQ was pork spare ribs. The cut of ribs is important. Buy whole slabs of meaty ribs. Look over the ribs. Try not to buy cuts with shiners. Shiners are sections of ribs where the meat has been cut too close to the bone. Avoid spareribs with big fat pockets or are half covered with fat. A slab of ribs should be 3.8 lbs or less. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. The membrane is the papery substance that covers the bones. When cooked it just gets tough. I didn’t believe this until recently. I cooked one slab with the membrane and one without. The slab without the membrane was much more tender. Don’t believe me? Try it.
To prepare the ribs, I gave them a light wash with vinegar and water. This opened up the pores of the meat to allow the meat to accept the spices better. I always rub the ribs with a mixture of spices. (I’ll talk about rubs and sauces in another installment. In the meantime, take a look at Paul Kirk's Championship Barbeque Sauces; it’s filled with great rub recipes and instructions on creating your own.)
I try to let this sit over night in the refrigerator, but today they sat for an hour on the counter. Overnight is best, but I don’t always have the time or fore thought to do it. The ribs will get nice and sticky. Before putting your ribs on the grill, bring them to room temperature.
Prepare your fire. Always use an indirect fire. On my Weber kettle grill, I use charcoal baskets on each side with a drip pan in the middle. If you want, put some flavored liquid in the drip pan. I’m still out on whether or not it makes a difference if the final flavor. (I’ll talk about the liquid in your grill debate in another installment.)
Get your grill to a temp of approximately 220 degrees. Add some wood. If using chips, soak them first. Get a light smoke going in your grill. Today I used a mixture of hickory and cherry. Place the ribs in the grill and cook for approximately 4 to 6 hours. Let the wood burn out. I’ve found the meat absorbs the smoke flavor only for the first hour or so of cooking. I also add more wood for the last hour to help flavor the sauce.
After the first hour, mop your ribs with some sort of liquid. I use a mixture of apple juice, spices and a few secret ingredients. Let the mop drip into the drip pan. I mop the ribs every half hour or so, whenever I check the fuel. You’ll need to add more charcoal as you cook to keep the temperature even.
About a half hour before your ribs are done, I put on the BBQ sauce. Sometimes I make my own, but more often I use KC Masterpiece. It just depends on how much time I have. Today was KC Masterpiece. Let the sauce firm up. I like my ribs wet and sticky, so I put another layer of sauce on the ribs about 15 minutes before they’re done. For the last application, I move the ribs directly over the fire to caramelize the sauce. Don’t let them burn!!!! Don’t burn the sauce!!! You just spent 5 hours cooking ribs – don’t ruin them at the last minute.
Take the ribs off the grill and let them sit for about 10 to 15 minutes before you cut them. Slice them between the bones; serve with some potato salad, baked beans and corn on the cob. Add a salad of fresh ripe tomatoes, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella and you have a meal!
I’ll get into more detailed instructions on how to cook ribs in another installment, but let’s just say that these ribs are the best. How do I know? My brother called this morning. He said he was in the mood for ribs and brought over 4 slabs for me to cook! What a great compliment!
Today’s BBQ link: The Grill Kings - Long Island Barbeque Contest