Dry Ribs – an Update

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my first real attempt at dry ribs. Over the course of the next week, I ate the leftover ribs, intentionally eating both dry ribs and wet ribs in the same meal, and made it a point to compare them. Here is my take:

The dry ribs were smokier tasting.

This is because the dry ribs are exposed to the smoke for the whole cook, while the wet ribs are essentially only exposed directly for about an hour, until I start to mop them with sauce. In addition, the wet ribs are wrapped for the last 2 hours of the cook, while the dry ribs are not.

The better smoke exposure is obvious when we look at the great smoke ring, in the photo above.

The dry ribs were spicier tasting.

This is directly because the rubs are different. The dry rub contained cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and chili powder, while the wet ribs had my traditional Franklin-esque salt and pepper only rub.

The dry ribs were more tender.

This one, I am not totally sure why, because the two kinds of ribs make a difference – full rack for the wet ribs, and baby back ribs for the dry ribs. Next time I should do the same style of meat and compare.

 

In conclusion, while this was the first time I had done dry ribs, it won’t be the last.

Am I giving up on wet ribs? No. But I’m not ruling our dry ribs any more!

Categories: Review, Ribs | Leave a comment

Dry Ribs

I have been blessed to eat ribs at some of the most famous joints in America. From Raleigh to Atlanta to Memphis to Amarillo to Kansas City, I’ve eaten a lot. I must say, I am quite a fan of Memphis style ribs, and specifically, wet ribs. I spent some time a few years ago often visiting Memphis on business, and I ate at Corky’s, Rendezvous, and Interstates quite frequently.  And the whole time, I only ordered wet ribs.

Now, I have had dry ribs, and probably the best I’ve had were from Dreamland, from the the original joint in Tuscaloosa. I admit, I didn’t order them dry, our plant manager did, and I wasn’t going to argue with him. They were great, but I put sauce on them, which probably told me something.

When I make my own, I have always done ribs by smoking for 3 hours, mopping as I go, and then wrapping and cooking til done. But this week the Dauphin told me he would like to try dry ribs, so I decided to give it a shot.

Spoiler alert – they turned out pretty good.

Here’s how I did it.

PREP

Starting with a rack of baby backs, I made a rub out of kosher salt and black pepper, with brown sugar and chili powder added. I also added dashes of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and paprika. This was added liberally as soon as I started the fire, and let sit while the fire grew, about 30 minutes.

That’s a full rack on top, destined for the wet treatment, and the dry rack of baby backs on the bottom. I rubbed the dry ribs more, since that was the only source of flavor.

COOK

For this cook I used oak to start, and mostly hickory thereafter. I cooked them at about 250F for about 5 hours total, until the bones felt a little loose, and I spritzed them liberally with water and apple juice, about every 20 minutes or so. (I also did sausage, as well as the flaps from the full rack, there on the left.)

This was about 3 hours in, just after I wrapped the wet ribs.

SERVE

I let them rest about 30 minutes, then cut, and served. That’s the wet ribs on the left, and I ate equal amounts of each.

The Verdict:

The Dauphin gave his blessing, and I agree. In fact, the next time I make just one rack, I may cut it in half and do wet and dry.

Having said that, I honestly found them a little salty, so I will likely cut back on the salt next time.

Which won’t be long!

 

Categories: Ribs | 1 Comment

Brisket Redemption


Now, I know, the star of the Texas barbecue scene, and to me, the world scene, is brisket. And to this Georgia native and current resident, there is no better barbecue than a well cooked brisket.

And this, my friends, is where I need to confess a defect: I am ashamed of the brisket I have made in the past. I know I have posted about how good it was, and to be honest, it was the best brisket I had made, but when I ate others’ wonderful meat, I was reminded that mine was tough and bland. So, for almost seven years, I have not made brisket.

But for 2020, I decided to make some barbecue resolutions – which I purposefully have not publicized – one thing I wanted to do was to learn how to make brisket that was comparable to the Boston butt I make.

So, I have been studying and researching, in the hope that I might sometime this year, cook a brisket. In the course of this search, I read a lot and watched some videos by Aaron Franklin. Slowly, he convinced me that maybe I could do a brisket.

And then a week ago Friday my wife and I were at the grocery store, and I was walking down the meat aisle, distraught that the COVID-19 pandemic had meant that good meat could not be bought, and that middling meat was expensive.

Then, I saw the store employee put this in the bin:

There was a 14 pound brisket, normally $4 a pound, marked down to $25. And it was the only one. I quickly asked the grocer what was up, and he explained that they had torn the package when they first opened that morning, and they re-packaged it, and marked it down. He assured me there was nothing wrong without, and upon inspection, it looked fine.

Okay, sold!

So now I got to put my work to use. I spent some time brushing up on what I learned, and wrote out a plan.

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Here are the steps I laid out, and will cover today:

  1. Prep
  2. Fire in the hole
  3. Rub
  4. Smoke
  5. Wrap
  6. Cook
  7. Rest
  8. Slice
  9. Enjoy
Prep

Normally I do prep the day of the cook, but because a brisket is going to take 12 hours or so to cook, I decided this time to start the cook at 6 AM, meaning not only would it be dark when I started the cook, but it would be too frickin early to do it reasonably. So, I took a half hour the afternoon before, to get ready.

I got the smoker set up, with starter charcoal in the firebox, the water pan set, and at least my first few hours’ worth of wood – split hickory and cut oak limbs.

Fire in the Hole

So, at 5 AM, I rose and got the firebox lit.

After the coals burned down to all white, I added some oak to get the box up to temp, and added hot water to the water pan.

Rub

I admit, this was a big change for me this time. As you can read, I have used a lot of different rub recipes over the years. But, after researching, I decided to acknowledge Aaron Franklin’s wisdom, and go with kosher salt and ground pepper, although admittedly I added a couple of shots of cayenne pepper.

Note, this is a shot of the rub in process, and I actually did a better job of covering the meat than is shown. (Note to self . . .)

I also learned a lot from Aaron about how to trim. As an example, he talks about how the mechanical trimming of the meat partially cooks it along one side, and this needs to be cut off. Spoiler alert, this makes a difference.

Smoke

Once the smoke box temperature started to get up over 200F, I added oak, and waited for it to get to 250F. At that point, the meat went on.

Now starts the fun, especially since the sun wasn’t coming up for another hour and a half.

These two photos were taken 40 minutes apart.

From there, it’s all about keeping the firebox stoked, and the smoke box temperature between 250F and 275F. I know this is hotter than some people do, but I have found it works best for me.

So, for the next 8 hours or so, I keep it running until the internal temp. I inserted the probe in the widest part of the flat, and let it go.

Wrap

After about 8 hours, I wrapped with aluminum foil. Now, I know Aaron Franklin uses parchment paper, and I would have, too, if I had some. But I did not. And, based on his test of making three briskets, one parchment wrapped, one foil wrapped, and one unwrapped, I decided to go with the foil.

It reached a stall at about 165, so I wrapped.

Cook

Now it was a matter of keeping it going, and take the opportunity to get a little yard work done. And now I could use my non-cook-worthy wood, as the smoke quality made no difference. It was a good thing, too, as the smoke was ugly and black a few times. But I kept the temp in the 225 to 275 range, and all was well.

I just hope my neighbors didn’t think it was still unwrapped.

Rest

Then, finally, after 11 hours and 20 minutes, the 200 degree setting was reached, and the alarm sounded! Off it came!

Slice

I decided to serve the point first, and sliced it thin.

And I have to admit, the burnt ends were perfect.

Enjoy

I must say, this was by far the best brisket I have ever made. The combination of simple rub, indirect smoke, hickory, and patience, paid off.

We ate the whole point that day, and the week since I have been enjoying the flat. I am almost embarrassed to admit to my guests from last week that to me, it was smokier and more tender than the point.

In summary, my review of the Franklin method is that it has redeemed me, in my mind. It’s simple, easy to follow, and makes an awesome brisket.

Categories: Beef, Brisket, Prep | Leave a comment

Coming Soon – Brisket

I was at the grocery store today, and as I was walking down the meat area, a fellow came out and put down a brisket, priced at less than half retail. Warily, I asked him, and it turns our the package had been torn open and the had to re-wrap. The “good-til” date is August.

Okay, I know what I’m doing tomorrow. Watch for live tweets at @fillyerhands, and a summary post later next week.

On a side note, the last time I made brisket, it was too tough, because I didn’t cook it long enough. I admit this has made me reluctant to do it again. But I have watched a lot of Aaron Franklin and others, so I know I will do better.

Categories: Brisket | Leave a comment

Nanny’s Legacy: Cornbread Dressing

My grandmother, Frances Lindsay, whom we all called Nanny, was a wonderful woman, and one of my top inspirations in my quest to learn to cook. When I was newly married, my wife and I moved to the panhandle of Texas, and, being young and poor, we were not able to return home to Georgia for our first holiday season away from home.

But the weekend before Thanksgiving, I called Nanny to talk to her, and I asked her if she would share her recipe for cornbread dressing. So she started telling me how to make it, and I quickly grabbed an envelope, and wrote down what she told me. I made it like she said, and a few years later, when I decided to compile my collection of recipes, I added some notes about how to best make it. Here is that original recipe, with my notes:

Over the years, though, I admit I didn’t always make it to spec. So this year, I decided I would actually make it the way Nanny told me, and it turned out wonderful. I will add, don’t be stingy with the broth, since the eggs will cook and the dressing will firm up.

So, I wanted to share this with my readers, and ask that if you do ever make it, share your thoughts with me here, or my email at FillYerHands at Gmail dot com.

Here is the formal recipe:

Nanny’s Cornbread Dressing

  • 1 – 12” pan of cornbread
  • 1 pound breakfast sausage, browned and crumbled
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups pecans, chopped
  • 3 slices white bread, cubed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 1-1/2 qt chicken or vegetable broth

Cook the cornbread the night before, remove from the skillet, and let cool. Crumble to small chunks.

Preheat oven to 350F

Brown the sausage and drain the grease. No need to rinse.

Mix celery, onion, mushrooms, and pecans. Add to the crumbled cornbread.

Lightly beat the eggs with 1 to 2 tsp broth, then add to the mixture, and mix well.

Add enough broth to moisten well. Then add a little more. Trust me, it won’t be too moist when you are done.

Put into a well-greased 9” x 13” glass baking dish, pressing firmly. Bake on the center rack at 350F for 30 minutes or until brown, and firm around the edges. If it’s still a little loose in the center that’s okay, when it cools it will firm up.

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Now, another wonderful thing is that Nanny also wrote me a letter some time later, with other recipes, which I am going to make and share with you. Look for those to come.

Categories: Holidays, Nanny, Sides | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving Turkey Breast 2019

As you may recall, after the hurricane fiasco in 2018, we had a maple tree and hickory tree taken down. I have to admit, I had never used maple before, so I decided to remedy that, and do a couple of turkey breasts for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I had last done turkey five years ago, so I went back to basics, I started with an old favorite turkey brine:

  • Six chicken bullion cubes, boiled in a quart of water until dissolved. Then add cold water so the following can dissolve:
  • 1/2 cup salt (for a brine I have found that kosher or not doesn’t matter, it’s going to dissolve)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole pepper corns
  • 1 tbsp allspice berries
  • 1 tbsp dried orange peel

Add the turkeys, and add enough water to cover. Then add ice until the ice stays frozen.

Brine overnight, then remove from the brine and pay dry. Coat with olive oil and let rest while you start the fire.

I used a simple “stuffing”, diced apples with cinnamon and orange peel.

For the wood I used some of my maple.

I split a large piece, then cut into 4 inch chunks. This was enough for the whole 5 hour cook, keeping the rig at 250 to 300 degrees.

I cooked to 165 internal temp, along with some bratwurst at the end. I will say, maple smoked bratwurst isn’t bad either.

Once it was done, I let it rest a half hour or so, then sliced it. As before, the meat was more like pulled turkey than sliced.

I will say, maple is going to be my go-to wood for poultry now.

Categories: Holidays, Turkey, Wood | Leave a comment

Boston Butt Perfected

I noticed it’s been some time (almost six years, yikes!) since I last posted about what is possibly my favorite smoked meat, certainly my most successful – Boston butt. The thing I noticed was how much my style has changed in that time, so I wanted to share with you, fellow smoker, how I do it.

I got most of my ideas by watching Aaron Franklin on YouTube, specifically his take on smoking Boston butts. Turns out he does them like brisket, and I have taken to doing that as well. Here is how I do it:

  1. Fire in the hole
  2. Rub
  3. Smoke
  4. Wrap
  5. Cook
  6. Rest
  7. Pull
  8. Enjoy

 

Fire in the Hole

My first step is to get the smoker going. I start with a simple charcoal fire, the only purpose of which is to get the firebox hot enough to get the wood going. Please know, I am not cooking with charcoal, it’s just to kick things off. I think of it like the plutonium fission part of an H bomb.

Rub

Gone is the brining step; instead I go with a rub only. Once I light the firebox, I rub the butt.

Aaron uses just salt and pepper, and I have tried that, but my favorite mix is kosher salt, ground black pepper, brown sugar, chili powder, and a little paprika.

This is rubbed generously all over the butt, and then it’s left to rest while the smoker comes up to temperature.

Smoke

Once the charcoal is white hot, I add wood. I start with oak, since I have the most of that, and close the fire box and smoke box, and let the smoke box come up to temperature, usually 275 F to 300 F. Once it is up to temperature, I add the flavor wood, which can be hickory or maple or mesquite or apple, depending on what I’m cooking. For pork, I use hickory and maple. Today, it’s hickory.

Once the smoke box is up to temperature, I place the meat.  Where it goes is not a random choice: the main, large meats like pork or brisket go in the center, while the secondary meats, chicken and brats in this case, go further out.

I have also changed a bit on where the fat goes. For a long time I placed it fat down, because I was only going to about 180 internal temp. But now I go with fat up, and since I am going to 200, that fat tends to melt down into the meat a lot better/

Now, I’ll be honest, with the new rig, I don’t have as good a feel for where the meat should go, so I place them where I have found them best in the past – sausages and high smoke meats up front, and lower smoke food like chicken and vegetables toward the back.

I then keep adding wood to keep the temp between 250 and 300. Again, I am getting a feel for the new rig, and this part is taking some getting used to.

Once the secondary meats are done – and I know this from experience – I can take them off. I generally do sausage for an hour at higher smoke, and chicken for 90 minutes in the back at lower smoke. Since I do a much better job brining the chicken now, I have found that I really don’t overcook chicken any more.

 

Wrap

My basic Boston butt schedule is to cook it uncovered for 4 hours or so, up to 160 internal temp, and then spritz it with apple juice and wrap in foil. At that point, I can switch back to the oak, or any plentiful heating wood, and save the flavor woods for later.

 

Now, I will be honest, since the hurricane, and the subsequent cutting of the hickory tree and maple tree, I really don’t need to worry too much about flavor woods. But I really don’t want to get complacent or cocky about my wood supply, either. Good habits will help in the long run.

Cook

I then cook the butt to 200 internal temperature, making sure to check the fire box frequently and keep the smoke box at the 250 to 300 range. I have a nice wireless temperature transmitter, and I set the alarm for 200.

Rest

Once it’s done, I let it rest, wrapped, for 30 minutes to an hour, maybe longer, depending on what I have to do. This is a good time to get the sides made, like potato salad and coleslaw, today’s choices.

Pull

The best thing about cooking to 200 is that the pork will just about fall apart at this point. I pull it with tongs or gloved hands, depending on how hot it is.

 

Enjoy

At this point we eat. And no, I don’t use sauce. I don’t need to.

 

Epilogue

The next day, I make sure to clean out the rig – I empty the fire box, and change out the foil water pan, which keeps the humidity high. That way, the rig is ready to go the next time, and I don’t have to do anything but start at step 1.

 

So that’s the latest on how I do Boston butt. I welcome your comments and suggestions!

Categories: Chicken, Pork, Sausage, Smoker | Leave a comment

On Second Thought – a New Rig

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As I reported last month, I had some damage to the old smoker, and I had done some work on it. But, given that the insurance company paid me for it, and a local store had a Father’s Day sale, I decided to replace it with a new CharGriller Outlaw.

Basically this is the old CharGriller Pro, upgraded with better decking, better handles, better legs, better wheels, and a real thermometer.

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Now comes some seasoning, and I will get it broken in. More to follow.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bad News and Good News on the Barbecue Front

On October 11 of last year, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, and moved north. It did a lot of damage in the Panama City area, and by the time it reached us in Kennesaw, it still had a lot of punch.

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At about 2 in the morning on October 11, and wind sheer made one of the oak trees in my back yard fall on my house It was not nice.

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The good news was that my deck was saved from utter destruction by my smoker.

The bad news, though, was my smoker was smashed in half.

 

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Here’s the real view.

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Now, the insurance company paid me for it, but I decided to spend 20 minutes with a hammer, and see what I could do.

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And the good news is I was able to make it seal well enough to cook with it.

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Yeah, the legs are bent, but that’s one way to tell the trees to bug off.

On the tree side, we spent a lot of time and money cleaning the tree up. Remember, this was an oak, and I made a lot of good barbecue from it. So I got the wood company to save me a bunch.

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In the course of the cleanup, we decided to be proactive on cleaning up the yard. So I ended up with enough hickory and maple to serve me for the rest of my life, and the Dauphin for the rest of his.

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So now comes the fun part, cooking. More to come. Really.

Categories: Wood | 2 Comments

The Perfect Margarita

While a student at Georgia Tech back in . . . the day, my fraternity, Sigma Omega Beta, perfected an easy margarita mix. Here it is.

  • 1 can frozen limeade
  • 1-1/2 cans tequila
  • 1/2 can triple sec
  • 1 to 2 cans water or ice, to taste*
  • 2 whole limes, washed and halved

Add the frozen limeade to a pitcher, and add the tequila, triple sec, and water, and mix well. Squeeze in the juice from the limes, and drop them in the pitcher.

Serve over ice in a salted glass.

My comments on this is that you don’t have to use top shelf tequila, but do buy a good limeade mix. Having said that, I find that Wal-Mart’s brand has a great flavor, although it’s a little more concentrated than others, so the original can is smaller, so you need to adjust the tequila and triple sec. But you can also adjust all this to suit your taste.

 

* If you want frozen margaritas, add only 1 can of water, then pour it into a blender full of ice and mix until slushy.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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