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Saturday, July 2, 2011


Happy almost 4th of July to all Americans, where ever you are! In case you've been living in Koozbane and have no idea what the 4th of July is, it's America's Independence Day. Similar to Australia Day and Waitangi Day...for the Aussie's and Kiwi's among us.

Anyway, the traditional thing to do is have a "cookout" - bbq to the rest of us. I like to cook ribs during the sunny months. But I don't just boil and grill them (ugh!) or bake them in the oven (I used to do them this way but have since learnt the error of my ways! LOL

I have come to the conclusion that the best and only way of doing ribs right, is to barbeque them. Barbequing is done between 190F (877C) and 350F (176C) with indirect heat, mostly with an offset smoker like my one below. They are called a barbeque pit, I guess because barbeque originally was done like a campfire. And the cook is called the Pit may now refer to me as Pit Master Matt! :-)

I've yet to really modify this barbeque to make it perfect, but I've got my eye on another one a bit bigger than this one that will comfortably do 4 racks of ribs laying flat and lends itself to modification very, very well. (If you want to donate to the cause, email me and I'll give you my Paypal details!! ROFL)
There are several types of ribs. Here is a very good description of the different types from Wikipedia. I use baby back ribs as SWMBO* doesn't like any other kind. 

* She Who Must Be Obeyed

I did ribs, baked beans and coleslaw for Chanin, Connor and the outlaws, as they came back from Ocean City, Maryland this afternoon. They spent the last week there at the beach, the lucky buggers!

The first thing you need to do is prepare the ribs and make your dry rub.

To prepare your ribs, you need to cut away any excess meat that hangs off the ribs and remove the membrane that's attached to the back of the ribs. To do that, make a slit in the back, get your fingers under the membrane and peel a bit off. Then take some paper towel to grip the membrane and peel it off the rest of the way. This will make the ribs easier to eat when they're done. Do be bothered with this, you'll thank me for the effort.

The rub that I use is from Mr. Myron Mixon, who's won so many barbequing competitions it's amazing that he's still allowed to compete. Chanin gave me his new book for Father's Day and his rub is great and simple.

Here's the ingredients:

1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 tbsp dry mustard
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp cayenne pepper (I just used one cause "they" can't take the heat)
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl thoroughly. This mixture will keep indefinitely in an airtight container.

I put some of the mixture into a shaker and use that to put it on the ribs, both front, back and sides.

Alrighty, the first thing you need to do is get your charcoal going. Yes, I said charcoal, not briquettes. Nasty things with who knows what's in them. I buy "lump" charcoal. Which really just looks like whats left from an open fire, but a bit bigger. I get it from Wal-Mart for the same price as briquettes. The advantage to using "real" charcoal is that you know basically what it is and that it's very low ash.

I stole this description from a very good website called the Lump Charcoal Database. Here is what Kingsford says is in their briquettes and what each ingredient is used for:

 wood char (heat source), mineral char (heat source), mineral carbon (heat source), limestone (uniform visual ashing), starch (binder), borax (press release), sodium nitrate (ignition aid), sawdust (ignition aid).

So, you need to start your charcoal. My big tip here is to get a charcoal chimney. They are easy to use and you don't need lighter fluid, which will often give the meat a funny taste. Here is mine heating up the charcoal. This takes at least 20 minutes for all the charcoal to be ready. You'll also have to replenish the coals about 3 or so times over the cooking period...don't wait until you notice the temperature drop because it will just take longer to cook the ribs. I always wait for the chimney to cool down, then set it up ready to light and get them going. I probably get away with topping the charcoal up every 2 hours. So, once at the beginning, then at hour 2 or so and again at hour 4 to 5.

It's on bricks because the high heat that the coal put out can actually react with the concrete and make it crack and/or explode!

All you do is fill your chimney with charcoal, loosely wad up some newspaper and stick it up and under the chimney, light it and wait. You wait for the charcoal on the top to become ashed over, then your ready to put them in the firebox.

Next, set your air dampers correctly (I won't go into this, as all barbeques are different, even the same models won't work exactly the same way - if you have a "pit" like this one, you should have it figured out by now...if you don't, let me know and I can point the way for you.)

Once you've got the temperature where you want it and it's stabilised, this looks about right

throw some chunks of mesquite, hickory, apple or whatever wood you're using onto the coals and put your ribs on and walk away for about a half hour. I usually start mine meat side down.

After half an hour you'll want to turn your ribs over and spritz them. You spritz them to keep the outside (or "bark") of the ribs moist during cooking. I use a mixture of 2 cups 100% apple juice and 1/2 cup white wine vinegar. Put this in a spray bottle and spritz the ribs every half hour.

While the ribs are doing their thing, it's time to make the finishing sauce. Depending on which part of the US you are from, you might like a thin vinegar sauce, a sweet tangy sauce or no sauce at all. We like our ribs Kansas City style, thickish sweet, tangy sauce. Here is the recipe I use:

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped - best done in a food processor
1/2 green capsicum (bell pepper), finely chopped - again, best done in a food processor
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups ketchup (not tomato sauce if your an Aussie etc, it must be ketchup)
1/2 cup molassses
2 tsp hot sauce
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Put oil in a large non-aluminium pan, then saute onion, capsicum and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer slowly for 20-30 minutes. Stir frequently to stop sauce burning. Let it rest for at least 1 hour after cooking to allow flavours to develop.

This makes 4 cups. More than enough for 2 racks of ribs. The rest can be frozen to use later on more ribs, different cuts of pork, beef or chicken.

You'll want to continue cooking and spritzing your ribs until the meat starts to retract from the ends of the bone. I cook mine for 6 hours, so use that as a guide. Yes it is a long time, but it is well worth the time and effort. Especially if the best you've got is a steak house restaurant that cooks them in the oven and fires them on a gas grill!

With about a half hour to go, now is the time to baste your ribs with your sauce. I use a silicone basting brush because it's easy to clean, unlike a basting mop. Make sure before you start, that your sauce is warm. You shouldn't put cold sauce on hot just cools the food down. At this time, I turn my ribs back onto the meat side and baste the bone side. Close the lid and get the heat cranked up in the "pit" by opening all the air dampers. After 15 minutes, I turn the ribs back over and baste the meat side, close the lid and wait some more.

Give them another 15 or 20 minutes and your ready to get them to the table.

What you want, when you cut them is a "smoke ring". It's the pinkish ring around the outside of the meat. This is the smoke that's penetrated the rib and gives you that great flavour that you really just can't get any other way.

I hope that this has given you some inspiration to practice the great art and science of barbequing. If you can't do this, then do yourself a favour and get your rib fix at somewhere that you can smell and see the smoke coming from the chimney of the pit.

Happy Independence Day!



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