Friday, July 27, 2012

Back Ribs with some rub tests

I owe some friends and these are things I cannot pay back with money. I chose back loin ribs from Sams. (Based on the size, I think they qualify as baby back ribs, but I'm no expert.) I'm also going to perform some rub experiments. I cut off three end ribs so the racks fit better. I'm going to try a variety of other rubs on those micro-racks. But since I made larger quantities of two popular rubs (BRITU, Raichlen's Memphis rub) I'm going to do a rack of each of those too.

Temperature is presently at 79°, sunny and wind is very light (reported at 10 mph but I'm skeptical.)

Most of the ribs will be rubbed with the rub I used for Mother's Day with some changes. I used fresh rosemary form the garden and powdered garlic since we were out of bulbs. I also mixed up some other rubs to try for the sake of comparison:
  1. Plain with oil
  2. Salt and black pepper with oil
  3. Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Adobo with oil
  4. BRITU (Best Ribs in the Universe)
  5. Raichlen's Memphis Rub (From his Barbecue Bible book, but I'm not going to mop.)
  6. Salt, brown sugar, black pepper and Adobo with oil
I'm using toothpicks broken in half and stuck into the edge of the ribs (between bones) to provide identification. I hope they don't fall out otherwise I'll be guessing which is which.

This smoke is on my 18 1/2" WSM (Weber Smokey Mountain.) I'll be using water in the bowl and the third grate so I can lay two racks of ribs on each grate. For the fire I'm using Royal Oak lump charcoal with chunks of hickory, box elder (maple) and crab apple for smoking wood.

timetemp comment
10:45 AM
All rubs have been applied.
Lit charcoal chimney on propane (Yay Performer!) and set on a Minion lay.
Lit chimney dumped on unlit coals. One gallon of hot tap water in bowl and smoker closed up. Top vent is wide open (as always) and one bottom vent left 1/2 open (other two bottom vents closed.)
Meat on!
1:05194°/200°Progress is good!

Hmmm... What was that reading and what time was it? Anyway, at that point I stirred the fire a bit and threw in some more hickory and apple.
4:53189°/195°I stirred the coals a bit more and opened another bottom vent to 1/2. the ribs still look good but they're a ways away.
5:10177°/195°Gave it a shot of air to fire up the coals a bit. Temp seems to be recovering.
5:45200°/195°Opened one bottom vent full (two at 1/2 and one at full open.) Almost time for dinner!
6:10233°/215°Took samples 1 & 2 off for dinner - Hungry!
6:20250°/Closed one vent - the full open one.
Meat off!

This is about an hour into the smoke.

About 5 hours

Ready to come off

That's a nice pile of ribs!

Here's an evaluation of the various rubs.
  1. Plain with oil - Surprisingly good! It goes to show that the primary flavor is from the pork and the smoke and the rub just adds additional layers of flavor.
  2. Salt and black pepper with oil - Again very good with the improvement of the salt and pepper which provides minimal heat.
  3. Salt, black pepper, garlic powder and Adobo with oil - Also good with the addition of some heat from the Adobo seasoning.
  4. BRITU (Best Ribs in the Universe) This is good, but IMO not the best in the universe. But it is produce juicy ribs.
  5. Raichlen's Memphis Rub (From his Barbecue Bible book, but I'm not going to mop.) At present, my favorite. I think the mustard gives it a nice tang and the cayenne gives it some heat. and it is juicy.
  6. Salt, brown sugar, black pepper and Adobo with oil - Pretty good flavor for a simple rub. I little dryer but nice and spicy.
My rub - Not as good as Raichlen's. I should cut back a bit on the rosemary and the heat. I could add some mustard as well. An open question remains salt and sugar. Particularly with sugar, I'm just not sure it adds much. I'll have to taste test again tomorrow and re-evaluate, checking for moistness as well as flavor.

One thing seems clear. It is not necessary to add a lot of flavor. Hickory, apple and maple do that just fine. Subtle flavors and a little heat are all that is really needed.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Brisket for the 4th of July

I actually did this on the 3rd of July when we were expecting family (kids and grandkid!) Power was out so I could not blog but fortunately I could smoke. Here is an account of the brisket.

I started with a 6 3/4 lb brisket from Sams. I found it to be reasonably well trimmed (not a 1/2" fat cap like some previous purchases.) I again went with the coffee rub describd by Steve Raichlen and aso made up a lbatch of Red Eye BBQ sauce. Some day I may try something different, but for now these work well for me. I applied the rub about 8:00 AM. On the smoker I tried something a little different this time. I smoked the meat fat cap down with a couple strips of bacon on the top of each piece of meat.

Weather was hot - 80° in the morning and mid nineties in the afternoon. Sun was hot and wind was calm to very light breezes. It was not a good day to play outside but was an excellent day to smoke.

This cook will go on the mini-WSM and the brisket was cut in half into two approximately triangular shaped pieces to fit the 14 1/2" grates. Fire was using lump along with some mesquite, oak, box elder and apple for smoking woods. I lit some lump on a charcoal chimney and put that on a Minion lay at 8:45. At 8:55 I closed up the smoker and set the bottom vent to about 1/3 open. I'm also trying a new lid thermometer which projects a little further into the cooker than the last one. It should provide better readings. Grate and meat temperatures are using a Maverick ET-73. The stainless water bowl is about half full of warm water.

timetemp comment
9:05 AM158°/?/? grate/lid/meatMeat on! Shortly after putting the meat on temp spiked at 325° but a recheck indicated that the grate probe had slipped down and was just above the space between water bowl and cooker, just above the fire. Dome temp at that time was about 150°.
9:48244°/180°/102°Looks good.
10:14194°/170°/132°Dropping a bit too much, open bottom vent to about 1/2.
10:50206°/185°/154°Looking a little better.
11:54200°/?/170°Time to stir the pot fire. Added some more oak and 
1:02200°/170°/172°Open bottom vent full.
3:10280°/200°/185°Looks like the fire recovered and perhaps the water boiled out of the pan as well. Anyway, probed the meat and it seemed tender enough so I took it off.

Results: Everyone liked it. It seemed neither drier nor more moist than previous smokes. Putting the fat cap down probably matters more when there is no water bowl between the meat and the fire. It also could have been more tender, but slicing across the grain means that makes little difference.

What to do differently next time: Make more Red Eye sauce! Cindy used it up already. Need a double or triple batch I guess. I should try taking the meat to a higher temperature. Actually, since I had two pieces of meat, I could have taken one off and left the other on a little longer.