Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mother's Day back loin ribs

That's what Mom (*) wants and we're having company so I got two cryovac packs of three racks each from Sam's club. They had no spare ribs so I went with loin back ribs. (SWMBO had requested back ribs but my original plan was to do some of each.) Target serving time is 3:00 PM. I should have these on the fire by about 8:00 AM (based on previous cooks) but that's not critical since I can easily bump it up with additional heat.

Weather is going to be beautiful today. We're at 57° right now and the temperature is climbing fast with full sun and practically no wind at about 5 mph.

I'm using my typical wet rub (dry ingredients + peanut oil + lots of crushed garlic.) In the rub went:

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Coarse grind black pepper.
  • 2 Tbsp. ground Sage
  • 1 Tbsp. Coriander (**)
  • 2 Tbsp ground Rosemary (**)
  • 1 Tbsp ground dried Oregano flakes. (**)
  • 1 Tbsp. ground Chili Ancho
  • 1 Tsp. ground Chili Chipotle
  • 1 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1 1/2 bulb crushed garlic (not clove, bulb.)
  • Enough peanut oil to make this mixture a slurry.

(**) These herbs and spices were ground in the Krupps whirling blade coffee grinder that has been repurposed as a spice grinder.

These are going into the regular WSM of course. I'll be using the third rack since I like to smoke ribs flat. This is going to be a big load for the smoker. I'm firing with Grove lump from Woodman's (very nice mix of sizes with very little fines.) For smoking wood I'm using Hickory, Box Elder, Black Walnut, Apple and one piece of Cherry. The 22" WSM would be ideal for this size cook but I can get by with the 18". I just cut the last three ribs off each rack and then I can fit two racks and the extra pieces on each rack.

Later on I'll fire up something else to roast some red peppers and then bake some foiled potatoes. Maybe time to use the 18 1/2 which hasn't been fired up in years.

8:00 AM°Lit coals on the Minion lay. closed bottom vents to (0, 0, 1/2) (The numbers indicate the approximate fraction that each of the three bottom vents is open. 0 => closed, 1 => wide open)
Meat on! 

9:25180°/190°I'm happy with this start. I can bump the temp later if necessary to hit my target time.
10:03178°/190°Opened the bottom vent a bit to (0,0,3/4)
10:30176°/185°Need to bump this up a bit - stirred the fire and went to (0,1,1) on the vents.
11:09192°/220°Bump working - back to (0,0,1)
11:58192°/230°Threw some Box Elder, Apple and Walnut on the fire. Higher lid temp than smoker temp is a puzzlement. But the smoke is progressing. I peeked in and the meat is starting to darken a bit but there is no hint of pulling back off the bones. When the spuds are finished, I'll see if I can add those coals to the smoker to give it a little bump.
2:45242°/200°Flipped the ribs over. They are starting to pull back on the bone but did not pass the "break when you pick them up" test. They should be done soon but I miss the 3:00 target. 
Meat off!
(grate/lid) Temperatures are recorded using the built in lit thermometer and the smoker temperature probe of a Maverick ET-73 hanging near the edge of the top rack.

I didn't get pix of the final results as it was time to eat and other food to get served. But part way through they looked like this.

Everyone liked the ribs. They were pretty moist and had good smoky flavor, but I felt the spice mix left a bit to be desired. I dunno... I just felt they could have been better.

While the ribs were smoking I fired up some more lump in the 18 and fire roasted some red peppers and then closed things up to bake some foil wrapped spuds. Temp reading I'm getting with a thermometer inserted through a vent is about 425° Peppers were done in minutes on a very hot and open grill and the spuds were started around the edge. Once the peppers were done about 11:30 the spuds were spread over the coals, one bottom vent was closed (1,1,0) and the lid put on.

Once the peppers are roasted, the skins slip off easily and I slice them into strips and dress with white wine vinegar and lemon juice.

Next time I do this many ribs, I should take the three-rib mini-racks and experiment on them with different rubs and perhaps smoking conditions. I could do them in the mini while the almost full racks smoke in the WSM.

(*) Not my mom but the mother of our children. When they were young I had started to call her 'mom.' She pointed out that I was not her mother and I was directed to call her Cindy. I did so and soon our sons were calling her Cindy as well. She sighed and said "OK, call me mom."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Not another rotisserie chicken

I picked up a couple chickens a couple days ago with the thought that I'd put them on the rotisserie again. That works well, but I decided that I wanted to be a little more adventurous and use charcoal. Unfortunately I have nothing that burns charcoal and on which I can  mount a rotating spit. I recall some recipes on Primal Grill that involved a bird split in half so I decided to go that way. It seems like the perfect task for my big Weber. I settled on the recipe for Java Chicken with cafe latte BBQ sauce. It sounded pretty good to me, particularly since I like the coffee rub on brisket (what we had for lunch today) and this started out as coffee rub for chicken. I'll take advantage of the extra space on the grate to grill some zucchini to go along with the chicken.

Weather today has included rain and thunder showers but that may be behind us for the rest of the day - I hope! Temperature is about 63° F right now and wind is light at about 6 mph. The sky remains cloudy and I can hear thunder in the distance.

I mixed the rub per the recipe making a double batch and then split the chicken, saving the back bone, breastbone, giblets and fat and skin trimmings for stock. Then about 3:30 PM I rubbed the chicken and returned it to the refrigerator to marinate a bit while I prepared the kettle.

I'm using lump charcoal and an aluminum drip pan in the middle. I'll use my Maverick ET-73 to monitor cooker temperature so I can shoot for about 350° F. I think I'll use oak and mesquite for smoking woods for this one.  The charcoal chimney goes on the propane burner about 4:15 PM and put on the charcoal grate at 4:18. At 4:30 I dumped the coals onto either side of the fire grate and put the meat on. Before closing up the cooker I put some oak and mesquite on each side of the indirect fire lay. Within minutes the temp is up to 360° so I closed the bottom vent to about 3/4 open.

While the chicken was getting started I set about making the Mocha Mop Sauce and the Cafe Latte Barbecue Sauce. Joke's on me! Care Latte is identical to the Redeye recipe Raichlen provides for beef brisket and I just made some a couple days ago. I'll use that for the chicken then. I'm not a huge fan of mops but this one has both beer and coffee in addition to chocolate so it seems worth a try. As far as the mop goes, it was Dark Magic coffee and Ranger India Pale Ale for the brew.

Here's the chicken ready for the second mop.

4:35 PMMeat on! Starting with top and bottom vents wide open.
5:00350°Temperature measurement was spot on! Woops... It just dropped to 329°. I guess I'll open the bottom vent wide open again.
5:14302°All vents open and temp still dropping. :( Time to open up and mop and see what's going on! Fire looked robust on one side and not so robust on the other. I added more oak and a few Stubbs briquettes on the not so robust side to see what happens. Chicken looks OK but not moving too fast.
5:30310°Mop again.
5:46310°Mop again. Flipped the birds and mopped the bottom too. I also added about a half dozen lit briquettes to the laggard side of the fire.
6:00273°This time it looks like the robust side of the fire had nearly exhausted the fuel. I added some lump to both sides. I also flipped the birds back up and mopped again.
6:45327°Mopped again, mop sauce almost gone. I poked the birds a bit and they were between 155° and 160°. I'm going to take the zucchini out and grill it over the coals with some green onions. Next I slather on a bit of redeye sauce and set it over the coals for 2 minutes.
Chicken off.

Chicken was still a little bloody at the joints which was to be expected, I suppose. Skin did not crisp due to the extended cooking time. However the white meat was very moist and the chicken was delicious.

When cooking something on the big grill that's going to take over an hour, I need to start with more than a full chimney or charcoal. I can probably light one chimney and pour it out on to some unlit coal. If I need instant high heat, then it's going to take to be two chimneys.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Jonesing for brisket

I've been jonesing for brisket recently so when SWMBO asked if she could pick up anything from Sam's Club I asked her to get a brisket. She came up with this:

Weather is 66° with wind light at about 10 mph. The sky is partly cloudy but we could have almost anything as the day progresses.

Once again I'm using Raichlen's coffee rub with not a lot of marinate time. I guess I should have done that last night, but I'm not sure it matters much for this.

This brisket is just about 14" tip to tip so I plan to put it on the upper rack of the mini. I plan to use some left over charcoal and smoking wood augmented with some lump and mesquite smoking wood. I placed couple handfuls of barely lit coals in the chimney on top of the fire lay about 10:00. This has the effect of starting the coals and wood below it while the coals in the chimney continue to start. At about 10:20 I dumped the coals from the chimney on the fire lay, poured a quart of hot water in the bowl and assembled the mini-WSM. I started out with the bottom vent about 1/3 open and the top fully open. Within about ten minutes the cooker temperature is approaching 200° F so I put the meat on.

It barely fits but should pull back a bit as it starts to cook. Had it been any bigger, I would have cut it in half and divided it between the upper and lower grate. Today - just the upper grate.

10:28 AM?/200°Meat on!
10:5788°/235°Too much heat - need to trim the bottom vent back a bit. (I don;t want to boil away all of the water too soon.)
11:15120°/244°still hotter than I want - trimming a wee bit more.
11:43147°/221°That's better.
11:58153°/217°Overshoot - trim slightly open now.
1:51166°/221°Back from grocery shopping - nice!
2:58165°/241°Stalled! Cooker temp has crept up from previous reading. I'll speculate that the water in the pan is now gone. I'll let the temp drift up a bit to drive the brisket toward being done.
3:23164°/247°WTF! What's going on?
4:04167°/217°OK, meat is moving up again and now the smoker temp is dropping. Time to open it and look at the coals. Stirred the coals and refilled the basket with lump left over from last night's grilling.
4:28164°/282°Restabilizing after opening the cooker and adding fuel. Need to cut back on the bottom air vent a bit.
5:12189°/265°Need to poke it I think. Still firm. Good time to drop a couple foiled spuds on the coals.
5:50197°/219°Still a little firm, just flipped the spuds. They need more time. I'm almost ready to take the brisket off to let it rest. But I haven't made any redeye sauce yet.
6:05198°/257°Time to rest the brisket.

Here it is ready to come off the smoker.

I took it to a little higher temperature this time and consequently it seems a little more tender. It's also on the verge of being dry (at least at the thinner end.) It has a thin smoke ring and once again, it is delicious!

The result of refueling was that plenty plenty of fuel was left over. I dumped it in my Platinum and used it to grill some Chorizo Quesadillas following Weber's recipe of the week.

They're appearance on the grill does not do justice to how good they tasted. They were a bit overstuffed. I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I don;t think this is the kind of recipe where proportions are that important. I used a mix of pepper jack and sharp cheddar cheese. I should have drained the chorizo on paper toweling rather than drain in the pan as it was still giving up grease when served.