Monday, July 6, 2009

July 4th, mmmm Ribs !!!!!!

I hadn't cooked any ribs on the smoker yet this year. So when July 4th rolled around I debated whether to do some brisket or some ribs, and Ribs won out. I went for a short ride early in the morning. I needed some pictures for a future post and got some that I was needing. It was nice and cool out. We had had a little rain earlier in the morning, and the weather loooked a bit threatening, but it held off and turned out to be a beautiful day. I got a wood smoker for Father's day a few years back and have been experimenting with it ever since. It has a side firebox and the design is perfect for slow cooking ribs and briskets. A large brisket, if done right, can take 10 hours to cook. Ribs do not generally take as long, but the plan for the day was a little over 5 hours of actual cook time, with an hour or so of prep time before they even get on the smoker. Here's a couple of books that I like. I borrow ideas from both of them. For today's cooking, I borrowed a portion of the recipe for a dry rub from the book on the left. It's a great book about making your own rubs and sauces. I've learned a lot from it. The book on the right is by a guy that has won a lot of awards at championship cook-offs in the past. I like some of his ideas as well, and the main methodology for today's festivities come from his book.
We have a herb garden and use some fresh herbs all summer long for either barbecuing or kitchen cooking. Fresh herbs are so good! Today I picked out some thyme, rosemary and 2 kinds of basil for the rub. One of the fun things about cooking like this is that every time you do it, it's a little different. You always learn what worked or didn't work in the past. Maybe use some different ingredients each time.
Today's rub consisted of sea salt, sugar, paprika, garlic, onion powder, chili powder, ground red pepper, brown sugar, turbinado sugar and black pepper. Next time it will probably be a bit different.
Chopping up the herbs is fun.
The book on the rubs and sauces says to keep the amounts of salts and sugars roughly equal to each other and use other flavors and spices to compliment the salts and sugars. But I find that this makes the food pretty salty, my own preference. So I use much less salt than a normal recipe for a rub would call for. May be partially due to the fact that my wife and I have over the years been very conscious of our salt intake, and I find that I don't really like very salty foods anymore. A little salt is fine, and actually required for this kind of food, but I did it once according to the recipe and found it way too salty.
Here's the rub after mixing it all up.
One side of the rubs all rubbed in.
Now the other side is done as well, note the empty bowl. I wrapped them back up and put back in the refrigreator for a bit while I go out and get the fire started.
We had cooked a little chicken the night before and I needed to clean out the cooker a bit. I had already cleaned up the cooking grates pretty well last night, but there were some charcoal ashes in the bottom that needed to be cleaned out.
There, that looks better.
For today I will be using some charcoal and 2 kinds of wood, Mulberry and hickory. I use the charcoal just at the start to get the fire hot enough to get the wood going, and then use just wood thereafter. I get the wood at a local garden center. Lots of types of wood work well such as hickory, mulberry, green apple, cherry, oak (real good with brisket), and others. I tend to just use what I have available at the house, but have always liked mulberry for some reason. Hickory and mulberry seem to make a good combination.
I set the wood chunks in a water bath for awhile to get them nice and wet. This make for a lot more smoke flavor.
I also place a pan full of water underneath the cooking area for a little more moisture in the cooking process.
I use a chimney to start the charcoal. One of our cats comes around frequently to check on the progress, but at this moment something else seems more interesting.
A brief commercial for my favorite beer. This is brewed in a microbrewery in Fort Collins Colorado. Not too far from where Charlie6 of Redlegs Rides resides. We have agreed that this is a good beer. I am not actually a big drinker, but on a hot day, mmmmm. Today I opted for another type of alcoholic beverage, which you will see in a moment. But for now, this highly technical set of procedures demands that I keep my wits about me. Besides, it's just now noon.
After the wood sits in the bath for a bit, I move a few pieces under the cooker to dry out just a bit before it gets in the fire. A brief word about this dog. If you notice the coffee can to the right, you will see that it is strategically place under a hole in the bottom of the cooker so that drippings from the cooking process can be caught in the can. This dog has been known in the past to become very interested in the drippings of the cooking process and once last year knocked over the drip can to get at the liquid inside. I make a mental note to keep an eye on her this time. She's very aware of the proceedings and what it means.
While I wait for the charcoal to get going a bit more, I check my own blog on the phone to see if there are any new comments to my last post. Seeing none I assume everybody is out either riding or enjoying the holiday with family and friends. Just fine with me.
I finally place the ribs with the rub in the cooker as it is time to cook now. Meaty side up, for 1 1/2 hours, then other side up for another hour or so. Then they will get wrapped in foil a little later. You will see. I had planned to purchase pork spare ribs. I went to the local butcher shop yesterday afternoon, and I should have known that they might get sold out. I was told that 20 minutes before I got there someone had purchased all of the remaining spare ribs they had (13 racks, no less!!) and all they had left was baby back ribs. I love baby back ribs as well, but they are about $2 more per pound. I bit the bullet though since that was all they had.
A word of caution about our back yard. With the pets we have, there are certain hazards that need to be avoided. We affectionatety refer to them as "Dog Bombs". As I go back and forth to the cooker during the afternoon, I do my best to avoid these hazards.
The wood finally goes in as the charcoal is ready. The cooker is closed up and the cooking starts.
Just a few minutes later the smoke starts coming out the chimney.
The drip can seems to be starting to collect juices, just as planned. All appears to be going according to plan.
A word about temperature. Cooking with a wood smoker can be tricky. The idea is to keep the temperature between 225 and 250 degrees farenheit for this type of cooking. Not sure how to convert that to celsius for you Canadian and international readers, but that is your problem.
The problem is that some woods burn hotter than others. And different batches of the same wood can vary a lot as well. There is an opening on the side of the firebox where air enters the system that can be closed or opened in varying amounts to help try and keep the temperature where you want it. If you close it down, then less air enters the cooker and the temperature should not get as hot (in theory). But theories are just that sometimes and it is easy to get the fire too hot. It just takes practice with your own cooker. Sort of like knowing your own bike. For today, I was able to keep the temperature very close to where I wanted it. Got up to 275 a couple of times, but most of the time it was about 240 which was fine. Getting it too hot will dry out the meat and char it sometimes.
An ever watchful feature of our back yard is what we call the "Jimtree" This tree supervises all backyard events at our home.
Adding some more wood. Each batch of wood will last from 30 to 45 minutes> Again not an exact science, but you hate to open up the cooker too often.
This was the plan. It helps remind me what needs to happen at various times in case I start drinking and forget what I am doing.
This is the reason for the plan. People that know me know that I like rum and I like raspberry. I found this Mojito "stuff" at the liquor store that had both. Damn near heaven! There is not a lot to do right now as the ribs cook, so we commenced with a little imbibing of the alcoholic flavors.
After a couple of hours they look like..........
At this time the procedure calls for wrapping up the ribs in foil. This keeps it from charring and provides more moisture in the process. You essentially use the honey and brown sugar to coat the foil. Then crimp up the edges of the foil and pour in some apple juice, trying to keep the apple juice from spilling out as you wrap the foil around the ribs. Again another inexact science.
Another view before the ceremonial wrapping of the ribs.
Let the wrapping commence! Part of the trick is to NOT tear the foil and let the apple juice escape. I was successful.
Three racks back on the smoker. They will stay this way for another 2 hours or so.
After the ribs have cooked in the foil, the final process is to unwrap them, turn up the heat to 350 or so, baste with some sauce, and cook for another 45 minutes or so to bake the sauce into the ribs. The book referred to at the beginning of this poat will tell you how to make your own sauces, but I am a bit lazy. I like this sauce just fine and it's a lot less work.
Here's a shot during the removal of the foil. Lots of juices still left in the foil, which is good.
As I remove the foil I let the juices just fall into the bottom of the cooker to eventually drip into the coffee can. I am watching for the dog at this point. As I removed the ribs from the foil I was unable to keep a couple of the racks intact. They were tender enough that they fell apart a bit. That's actually a good sign and I don't mind.
I had a couple of leftover brats that I put in the smoker during this final process and after coating the ribs with the sauce. The brats needed to be cooked as well, but with no sauce on them.
Ahh Yes, the drip can has a lot more liquid in it. The dog stayed away, for now.
The back Yard full of smoke!
My son cam over to inspect the final process and took this shot of me. Not sure what I am thinking here. Maybe partially a drunken stupor. Maybe in breathless anticipation of the eating process.
The final product on a big tray. You know what happens next! We had a salad and some beans also. And even a little more Mojito.
Placed the ribs in the cooker at about 12:30 pm. They were done at 6:00pm
It's a fair amount of work, but a lot of fun as well.


  1. cpa3485 Jim:
    I'm salivating. I can almost smell the aroma from here. Why don't you torture us more by showing you munching them down.

    If you didn't live so far away, I would be greatly tempted to raid your smoker when you turned your back, or have to much Mojito (lol)

    I'm not a good judge of weight. How many lbs of ribs are there ?

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  2. Looks delicious! (Well, except for the doggy bomb part.)

  3. BonSkoot,
    It was almost 8 lbs of ribs, of course a lot of that is the ribs themselves. There were no pictures of the actual eating of the ribs. The good thing is that we have some leftovers for a few days and maybe I'll post a picture of that enjoyment days after the actual cooking. (Trying to rub it in even more)
    Thanks for stopping by,

  4. Stacy,
    My wife and co-worker informed me that I didn't need a picture of the "Dog Bombs" for this post. I rebuked them by saying that it is a part of life in our back yard, LOL.
    And the ribs did turn out very well if I say so myself.
    Take Care,

  5. cpa3485 Jim:
    we also have "dog bombs" in our yard, but I remove them daily so as not to step on them in the dark. Sometimes they are hard, some times dry. some times lots, some times little. Very original . . . have never had the notion to post any pictures of them

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  6. Wow! That was a lot of work but it sure looked worth it! I haven't had ribs in probably 25 years! But this brought back fond memories and smells. My late father was an excellent griller. The joke was, he could grill a gym shoe and make it taste great! He modified new garbage drums and msde grills out of them and made his own sauce that should have been marketed.

    Love Jimtree overseeing things. Thanks for the memories...

  7. BobSkoot,
    Guess I may be famous or notorious for something. Posting pictures of "Dog Bombs" on my blog may not be what I aspire to being famous for, but ultimately it is the reader's decision. LOL


  8. Sharon,
    Thanks for the comments. If I brought back a good memory, then I am happy. We really don't grill a lot of food, maybe once a week or so during the summer. But on occasion I like to let loose a bit and cook something that requires a bit of effort. The rewards are usually good.
    Take Care,

  9. Jim, thanks for your post. I not only got a good education on the fine art of smoking, but I got really hungry as well. I have heard that folks from Kansas have great BBQ, and you have proved this! Also, the Mojito is one of my favorites.

  10. Our dog's been gone for over a month now and when I head to the grill I still start out over the grass on tip toe so as not to step in one.

    I just had to leave a comment so if you check from your phone for new ones, you won't be disappointed.

    A great post, Jim. I love lots of pictures and you documented your barbecue perfectly with them!

    - Joe at Scootin' da Valley

  11. Lance,
    Places like Kansas City and Memphis are famous for barbecue. Wichita, not so much, but a lot of folks around here do like to grill. I had a lot of fun with this post.
    Thanks for stopping by,

  12. Joe,
    That dog under the grill is a real favorite of mine. She's 12 yrs old now and definately showing signs of age. Last year she was having some problems, but we changed their food and she is doing much better now. She's part Australian shepherd and part Brittany (we think). When my son was running cross country in college she used to go with some of the runners for long distance runs. They had trouble keeping up with her and she would always have this expression on her face of "Come On, Let's Go".
    And BTW, I did find your comment by phone this morning. Thanks for the comments.

  13. I have been known to down a Fat Tire or two. Right now, though, I have a few 1554 Dark Ales from the same brewery in my 'frig. I have been a fan of grilling and smoking for a long time. Ribs are too much work to eat for the little bit of meat. At least in my opinion.

    What's so enjoyable is the process. Gas grills are forbidden on my property. Go to go, now. Time to go light some briquets!

    By the way, can dried dog bombs be used to start the wood fires? Like buffalo chips in Little House on the Prairie. From a much smaller animal, of course!

  14. Dear CPA3485:

    That definitely ,ooked like a labor of love, and would go beyond my culinary abilities. However, I do like to cook ribs on the grill; in less time with faster preparation, and you have given me some great ideas. I 'll let you know how they turned out. I haven't been writing in a while as I've had the blahs for a bit. But I am now back to work and looking at bike stuff again.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack "R" Toad

  15. Dan,
    I have always been a charcoal or wood guy. I had a Weber Kettle Grill for many years that was great to cook with. After close to 20 years it was starting to rust out and the family got me the wood smoker to replace the Weber.

    Re: Dog Bombs as fuel; Maybe if the recession (depression?) hangs on long enough I will have to start that up as a side business to make some cash. Of course cash may be worthless someday too and we will all be bartering services.

    Thanks for stopping by,


  16. Jack,
    The cooking is all for fun and has taken me a long time to get used to the cooker and what it can and can't do.

    And get rid of those blahs and get out riding! Riding always solves blah problems for me.

    Take Care,


  17. Mmmmm Flat Tire Ale - I miss that brew. The ribs look delicious.

  18. Jeffrey,
    Flat Tire?
    Actually I sort of like that change in the name, but don't wish to have any kind of "Flat Tire"
    We had leftover ribs for almost a week and they were good every time.
    Thanks for stopping by,