Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Time to do some pork ribs.

Ribs and Weber and I go way back. We received an 18 1/2" Weber kettle for a wedding present (which we still have, in fact.) I'm sorry to say that I didn't try it for a year or two. I was young and ignorant. Finally one day I bought some ribs and charcoal and fired the Weber up and slow cooked the ribs. They were one of the best things I ever tasted! I immediately regretted not trying the Weber sooner and used it more or less for the nearly four decades since.

I've had the Weber smoker for almost two years and I've never made ribs on it. I always backed off due to the cost of ribs vs. the cost of a butt (or more often the rib tip trimmings I get at Woodman's.) But there's something special about gnawing meat off the bone. And ever since that first time I made ribs on the kettle they've held a special place in my heart (or at least on my palate. ;) )

With what I've learned about grilling, BBQing and smoking in the decades since, I should be able to make them that much better. Maybe my fear is that they won't live up to my expectations. Anyway, I pulled the trigger today with 1 lb spare ribs and 8 ¾ lb back ribs. I'll pass on the baby backs this time, but I will get a chance to compare and contrast the spares with the backs.

There are schemes for foiling the ribs part way through and then finishing with a sauce to make them fall-off-the-bone tender. That's not my preference. I'm going to go with a dry rub and smoke them as slowly as I possibly can.

Weather - 79°, sunny and light wind (10 mph.)

I seasoned the meat with Jeff's dry rub (*)  with some modifications:
  • Hungarian Paprika and cut amount to 1/4.
  • No chili powder. I use Cumin and Cayenne instead.
  • Added some ground coriander as well.
  • Added Rosemary because it goes so well with pork.
They look like this when ready to go on.

For the fire I'm going to go with Mesquite lump from Sam's and for smoking wood I'll add Hickory, pear, Mesquite, Box Elder and Cherry. That should provide a nice mix for pork.

    5:20 PM
    Chimney full of Mesquite lump on a side burner. (Lights fast!)
    Lit coals on the fire. Actually the fire had a pretty good start just from setting the chimney on top of the fire lay. I immediately closed two bottom vents and left the third about 1/2 open. I'll give it a few minutes to stabilize and put some meat on!
    Meat on!
    6:11 185° Waiting for temp to come back up.
    6:21 194°/190 (grate/dome)
    6:49 198°
    7:04 198°/195° Coming along just fine!
    7:46 201°/195°
    8:07 194°/195° Opened one partial bottom vent full to support increasing burn/temp.
    8:25 224°/195° closed that vent just a tad. Don't want it to run away!
    9:30 233° Took a peek inside and flipped the ribs. At this point they don't look as good as the ones on the kettle. That may be because they are not as far along as I was more successful at controlling temps on the WSM
    9:50 208°/190° Nudging the vent open just a bit. seems like a bit of a balancing act holding the right temp here.
    10:10 199°/185° Opening that bottom vent full open again.
    10:35 204°/190°
    10:45 200° Time to stir the coals a bit. Some on the side and back never lit well.
    11:30 204°/185° More stirrage of the coals and opened another bottom vent. A bit of higher heat near the end will help to brown the ribs. Temp control was so low most of the water is still left in the water bowl.
    11:40 224° That's better.
    12:30 236°
    12:45 242° Checked again and looks like they're done as well. I brought them inside to rest.

    OK, starting more coal to run on a 22 1/2" Kettle. Can't fit three slabs of spares and three slabs of back ribs on two grates in the smoker. As it was, I had to trim the ends of the ribs on the smoker to fit. (I should probably get a second bottom grate and add supports for it midway between top and bottom grates for use with flat stuff like ribs.) I used Mesquite lump again and sprinkled hickory and apple chips on them and stuck a couple cherry chunks in for good measure.

    Meat on! They overlap, but I'll handle that when turning them. I don't have the benefit of electronic temperature measurement. The dome temp (dial thermometer in the lid) was about 200° when I put the meat on.
    6:20 215° cutting back a wee bit on the bottom vent. I think thet the dome temp reads low and I prefer to keep this on the low side.
    6:49 230° Flipped them on to the meat side.
    7:04 240°
    7:46 250° Flipped again. Temp is higher than I want. I cut back on the bottom vent a bit more. The spares are starting to pull back on the bome already. That's too soon!
    8:07 225° More like it!

    220° Perfect!
    9:30 180° Added some unlit lump to bring temp back up. Will need to check in a few minutes for temp control.
    9:50 240° Closing the bottom vent a bit.
    10:10 240° Closing even more.
    10:35 225°
    11:30 225° Meat off! I tried to pick up the back rib and it broke. The spare was similarly tender. It's inside resting but I snuck a taste.

    (*) This is from Jeff sells the recipe to make a couple bucks and probably help support the site. I won't spoil that by publishing his recipe here but I will describe some of my tweaks.

    Here's what they looked like when they came off. First the ones cooked on the kettle.

    And the ones cooked a little lower and slower in the WSM.

    Initial impressions. The slabs came off the kettle first due to higher temperature. Flavor was good with a nice (not overbearing) smoky taste. Some parts of the spares which were particularly thin were overdone to the point where they were jerky-like (and that's being kind.) Between the Cayenne and Hungarian Paprika they're a bit on the hot side, but not too hot for me. Some Sweet Baby Ray's will probably offset that. The back ribs exhibited none of those dry areas because they were thicker overall.

    I'm going to taste the ones from the WSM after they rest or perhaps in the morning. I've already eaten way more than I should this time of night. ;)

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