After a week or so of rainy, cool weather, summer returned to us. Yesterday was downright warm and pleasant. It was just the kind of day that screams “BARBECUE SOMETHING” at me. Cody, Scott and Wyatt were in Idaho at a family reunion so the single rack of baby back ribs I found in the freezer would be just right for Lulu and I. Of course, the ribs were frozen solid but, fortunately, I thought of them early enough to do a ‘quick-thaw’ on them. My method for quickly thawing stuff is something I learned from our dear old (now departed) friend, Jean Christie Patterson. She would place frozen meat on an aluminum cookie sheet. The high conductivity of the aluminum transfers the cold away from the meat faster than if it were just sitting there on the counter. Cody has a thick aluminum griddle that is perfect for the job. Don’t get the idea that this thaws as fast as a microwave, obviously it doesn’t. But it probably thaws meat about twice as fast as it would thaw without the aluminum. At any rate, the rack was completely thawed within a couple of hours, maybe a little less.
I peeled the membrane off the backside and then applied a dry rub to the meaty side. Can’t remember for sure where I got the rub recipe but it made enough rub that there was still plenty left from when I made it for a BBQ earlier this summer. I know it’s mostly sugar with a few other things and is in no way remarkable. But it gives the ribs just a little something extra to enhance, rather than overpower the ‘porkiness’ of the meat.
About 4 hours before chow time, I got the fire started in the Brinkman offset smoker:
I’m using chunks of alder harvested right here at home a number of years ago. I’ve had a stack of this sitting behind the laundry room forever and, since Scott grills with propane, I have the wood supply pretty much to myself.
Now Meathead over at Amazing Ribs doesn’t have much nice to say about offset smokers unless they cost an arm and a leg. I usually agree with much of what he says and he had me doubting my trusty Brinkman at first. But, on examination, none of the things he denigrated the “cheap offset smokers” about were true of my pit, other than the smoke path is less than perfect. I might just have to put in a baffle someday to remedy that. Granted, this is no Yoder Smoker charcoal grill, but then again, it didn’t cost $599 + shipping (and at 255 lbs, that shipping from Kansas is going to be substantial), but it’s also not even comparable to the new Brinkmans that are sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Mine is heavy gauge metal that forms a very tight seal when the doors are closed. I checked out the new ones and can see what Meathead is talking about. They are definitely flimsy. And, I’ve had such good luck with mine and turned out many, many pounds of brisket, pork shoulder and ribs as well as sausages, steaks and burgers. Guess I’d better take care of this one because, if I ever have to replace it, probably nothing but a Yoder would do.
After an hour or so, the wood had burned down to nice hot coals. Time to add some more wood, close the intake air vent way down and heat up the cooking chamber.
Last batch of ribs I made were tasty and tender and Lulu was impressed but, to my palate they were maybe a tad too smoky tasting. So this time I decided to just smoke them during the last hour or so of cooking time. I wrapped the ribs in foil and put them on the fire. Well, not on the fire but rather in the smoking section away from the fire. According to the cheapo thermometer on the pit, the interior temperature of the cooking chamber was just a skosh over 300 degrees F. I’d like to keep it between 250 and 300 and, judging from how the meat turns out, I suspect that’s pretty much where I was in spite of the thermometer reading.
Once the ribs were in the cooker, I walked away and did other things. I checked an replenished the wood supply every hour and, at the end of hour two, I removed the foil from the ribs. I believe having them in the foil, steaming in their own juices, helped keep them moist and tender. I closed the lid and set the timer for another hour. At the end of the hour, I checked the internal temperature. The ribs were reading 180+ everywhere I poked so they were done. I brushed a fairly light coating of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce on them and closed the lid to let it glaze. I don’t have any great affinity for Sweet Baby Ray’s but it’s what was in the fridge. Should have probably made my own but, since the sauce is just an incidental flavor here, pretty much anything would do. About 15 minutes later, I declared them done.
They sliced up nice. The meat was moist and tender and pulled off the bone with only a very slight tug. They were not nearly as smoky as the last batch but still plenty smoky enough.
To go along with, we had steamed, buttered carrots and Baked Potato Casserole. The casserole came from a BBQ chat group I used to follow years ago. It’s one of the most cardiac-arresting recipes you’ll ever try and consequently, DELICIOUS! Everything you’d have on a baked potato plus cheese. What’s not to like?
Baked Potato Casserole:
- 5 or 6 baked potatoes cut into bite-size chunks (skin on and cooled completely)
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/4 cup butter
Mix everything except butter together in a large bowl. Transfer to greased 2 qt. casserole. Cut butter into 6 slices and distribute on top. Bake at 350 degrees, covered, for 30 minutes and then uncovered for 15 minutes more.