Ribs and Wings

Wings and Ribs

I had no use for Valentine’s Day this year, so I made up a batch of man food to drown my sorrows with.

Country-Style Ribs
1 1/2 pounds boneless country-style ribs
Rub of your choice (Dizzy Pig Dizzy Dust here)
Barbecue sauce

Season the ribs heavily on all sides with rub. Cover and stash in the fridge until the grill is ready.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at 250°F. On the Big Green Egg I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use an extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

Add your smoking wood (apple, in this case) to the grill and when the grill reaches 250°F and the smoke has turned blue, arrange the ribs on the cooking grate. Close the lid and let them cook, flipping every hour, until they reach 160°F internal (about 3 hours).

When the ribs hit 160°F internal, move them off to a flame-proof pan (I used a 9×13 roasting pan) and cover with a bout a cup of sauce. Turn ribs to coat and move the pan full of ribs back to the grill. Close the lid and let cook for an hour.

Check the ribs for doneness – they should be around 190°F internal and the meat should fall apart when you poke at it with a fork. Seal the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and move off to an oven set on the lowest setting while you cook the wings.

Greek-ish Hot Wings
1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
Penzey’s Greek Seasoning
1/2 cup Frank’s hot sauce

Season wings with a good dusting of Greek seasoning and stash in the fridge on a cooling rack in a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan while you get the grill up to 350°F.

On the Big Green Egg I used the same raised direct setup I used for the ribs. But just opened the vents a bit to get the heat up.

When the grill is ready, put the wings on the grate skin side up and cook undisturbed for 20 minutes. Flip and cook for another 20 minutes. Flip back skin side up and cook another 20 minutes until golden and crispy.

Baste the wings on both sides with the sauce. Let them cook for another 10 minutes, then baste again before serving.

The Ribs Verdict: ★★★★☆
Tasty hunks of meat, but they still were a little dry. I think my technique is sound, but the cut of meat might be too lean with not enough connective tissue to break down and get juicy.

The Wings Verdict: ★★★★★
Just straight up Frank’s and some Greek seasoning – nothing fancy but OMG they were good. The unadulterated Frank’s packs a little more heat than most Buffalo sauces I’ve made and that heat makes a big difference.

Music to grill by:

Recommended after dinner viewing:

Peach Pork Chops

I used the absolute last peaches of the season to make this sweet and tangy dish. I really like this grill and baste technique to keep the meat moist, particularly with leaner cuts of pork and chicken.

2 pounds thick-cut pork chops
1 pound of peaches, quartered and pitted (2 -3 peaches)
1/2 large red bell pepper, quartered
1 small onion, quartered
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (whatever is in the garden, I used thyme and rosemary)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
2 cups barbecue sauce (Pomegranate Pig in this case)

Combine peaches, pepper, onion, and herbs in a food processor or blender. Add just enough water to float everybody’s boat and then give it all a whirl until well-combined, but not pureed. You want it a little chunky.

Pour peach mixture into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it has reduced by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much water you used). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat. Add the barbecue sauce and stir to combine.

Set your grill up for a direct cook at medium high (400°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg is used an extender to raise the cooking grate a bit to give me a more even heat.

Pour about half the peach barbecue sauce into a shallow, flame-proof pan (a disposable 9×13 foil pan works great). Set the pan on the grill and heat until it starts to bubble. Remove from heat and keep warm (I nestle mine right next to the grill).

Season the chops with a little salt and pepper on each side. Grill for about 5 to 10 minutes on each side to give them some nice grill marks and a bit of char.  Remove the chops to the pan and turn to coat each side. Put pan full of chops on the grill and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the chops hit 145°F internal.

Peach Pork Chops

Let rest 5 minutes then serve with remaining sauce on the side.

Damn Near Perfect Pulled Pork

I’ve been playing around quite a bit trying to find the tastiest/fastest/easiest way to do pulled pork. I’ve done the traditional low ‘n’ slow method – 250°F for 16-20 hours until the meat hits 210°F internal and starts to fall apart. The results are always good – smoky and tender with a crispy bark – but I seldom have the time or inclination to do overnight cooks anymore.

I’ve also gone the “turbo butt” route – smoking at 350°F until the butts hit 160°F internal, then wrapping in foil and braising until done. The results have been good and expedient, but the butts seems to come out drier with too much bark.

This time I split the difference and did a slightly hotter and faster cook without any foiling/braising. The end result may very well be the best pulled pork I’ve ever made – tender and juicy with good smoke flavor and plenty of pliable bark.

I scored the fat cap on the butts every inch or so, then seasoned the butts with a heavy coating of Plowboys Yardbird Rub. I stashed them in the fridge while I set up the Big Green Egg for a 8 hour indirect cook at 300°F. This meant filling the firebox with lump and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the cooker was up to temp, I added some chucks of apple wood for smoke.

I cooked the butts for about 7 hours at 300°F, turning occasionally, until they hit 210°F internal.

Pulled Pork

At this point the meat was starting to fall apart and it was all I could do to get the butts off the grill in one piece. I loaded them into a large roasting pan and let them rest for an hour before pulling the meat.

First I broke down the major muscle groups, removing them from the fat and connective tissue. Then I worked the meat over using a pair of bear paws to shred the meat and to remove all the remaining inedible bits. I added a little finishing sauce (50/50 Pomegranate Pig and apple cider vinegar) while  working with the meat to help keep it moist.

Root Beer Ribs

My love for a good root beer goes back to my childhood when we would pull into the only drive-in diner in town and the carhop would bring out a big tray of frosty root beer floats.

2 racks baby back ribs
1 (12-ounce) bottle root beer (get the good stuff without any ingredients that you can’t pronounce)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 (4-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup raw or brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring the root beer to a boil and cook until the volume is reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Add the vinegar, paste, sugar, honey, salt, and Worcestershire. Wisk to combine. Return to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for 1 minute. Taste and adjust for sweetness, acid, umami, and salt.

Turn the heat off and add the paprika, pepper, onion, garlic, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne. Wisk to combine. Bring to a boil again then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Reduce heat to lowest setting and let sauce cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge.

Set your grill up for a raised direct cook at low (300°F) heat. I set the Big Green Egg with a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the heat.

While the grill is getting up to temp, season both sides of the ribs with your rub of choice. Toss in a chunk of smoking wood (sassafras this time), and when the smoke changes from white (bad) to blue (good), put the ribs on bone side down for an hour.

Flip the ribs bone side down and let them go for another hour. After 2 hours total, start checking for doneness. The slabs should bend and crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs and the meat should have also started to pull back from the bones.

Root Beer Ribs

When the ribs are showing signs of being done, sauce the meat side with the Root Beer Barbecue Sauce and let them cook for another 10 minutes. Flip them and sauce the bone side and let them go for another 10 minutes. Flip them meat side up and give them a final coat of sauce and let them cook for a final 10 minutes.

Remove the ribs from the grill and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving with more sauce on the side.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
The sauce is a winner and I really like the way the sassafras added to the anise flavor. The end result was very rich, sweet, and spicy. The bark ended up being a little too thick and dry for my tastes, probably from flare ups caused by cooking directly over the coals.

Polar Ribs

Ribs

Winter has just barely started to loosen its grip in my neck of the woods. I did spot one poor, puffed up robin this morning, so maybe there is hope for spring after all.

Between visits from the Polar Vortex, I managed to cook a batch of ribs. For winter grilling, I like cooking foods that require plenty of time, but little attention – ribs and roasts; or foods that take some attention, but little time – steaks and seafood. The idea is to minimize the total amount of time I spend freezing my butt off. These ribs are a great example of this – no misting, mopping, or foiling – just a straight 5-hour cook with little intervention on my part.

3 racks of baby-back ribs
Fresh-ground sea or kosher salt
Fresh-ground back pepper
Barbecue rub and sauce of your choice

Get a fire going in the fireplace. Assemble winter gear. Get the hot cocoa started.

Boots, parka, and winter gloves on – go outside and shovel path then set up the grill before the warmth from shoveling wears off.

Set up grill up for a direct cook over low (250°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the charcoal. Add a fresh load of charcoal, toss in a Lightning Nuggets Firestarter, hit it with the MAPP torch for 30 seconds or so, then run back inside until the grill gets going.

While the grill is getting up to temp, season both sides of the ribs with the salt, pepper, and rub. Warm hands in front of fire, sip some cocoa, and clear enough frost off the window to peek at the temperature gauge every so often.

When the grill is up to temp, make a quick dash outside to toss in your smoking wood (apple this time), put your cooking grate in place, and make any adjustments to keep the temp at 250°F. If you’ve got a remote thermometer to watch the grill temp, now is the time to set it up.

Dash back in and keep an eye out for the smoke to change over from white (bad and bitter) to blue (good and sweet).

Boots, parka, grill gloves, ribs – back outside and arrange the ribs on the grate bone side up. Close lid and stand around stamping your feet until it looks like the temperature has settled. Make any adjustments to keep the temp steady.

Back inside – add some Bailey’s to the cocoa and settle in front of the fire. Let ribs cook for an hour, peeking at temperature every so often.

Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs bone side down.

Back inside – toss another log on the fire and arrange couch for napping. Add blanket and cats and/or dogs as needed for ideal warmth. Let ribs cook for two hours, peeking in between snoozes.

Ribs

Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs end to end (still bone side down).

Back inside to start prepping side dishes. Let ribs cook for another hour.

Boots, parka, grill gloves – go out to start checking for doneness. Ribs are generally done when the meat has pulled back from the bones and a full slab will almost fold in half and start to crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs. If ribs aren’t ready yet, get back inside and get the barbecue sauce and basting brush ready.

Let the ribs cook for another 30 minutes.

Boots, parka, grill gloves, sauce, and basting brush – check ribs again for doneness. By now these ribs were getting very close to being done, so gave them a coating of sauce on each side and went back inside and let them cook for another 30 minutes. I made one last foray outside to sauce the ribs again and bring them in.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
I love ribs, and while these weren’t the best I’ve ever made, it was still damn fine to be eating ribs in the middle of winter. 🙂

Peach Spare Ribs

ribs
My dear wife saved me two of her precious peaches for this sauce. In the end, she said it was worth the sacrifice.

The recipe uses a wet blending technique that I’ve become very fond of. Rather than chopping up all of your ingredients individually, just cut them to a manageable size (quartering is usually enough), add a bit of liquid to float the goodies, and then pulse them in a food processor or blender until you reach the desired consistency.

Peach Barbecue Sauce
1 pound of peaches, quartered and pitted (2 -3 peaches)
1/2 cup red bell pepper
1 small onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup honey
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw or brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh sage
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1-2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients into a food processor or blender. Give it all a whirl until well-combined, but not pureed. You want some chunks of this and that floating around.

Peach Spare Ribs

Pour into a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until it has reduced to about a pint (about 15 minutes depending on how much water you used). It should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Let cool, bottle, and stash in fridge.

Spare Ribs
Set your grill up for a raised direct cook over low (250°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg I used a Woo2 ring to get the cooking grate further from the heat. When the grill is up to temp, add some wood for smoke (apple this time).

While the grill is heating up, trim the rack down as much as you care to. I like a St.Louis-style rack, so I remove the chine (breast) bone and the connective tissue between the chine and the ribs themselves. I also removed the tough membrane that covered the bone side of the ribs to let more flavor in.

After the ribs are trimmed, season them with a dusting of your favorite rub. I went with just salt and pepper on these to let the sauce shine through.

When the wood smoke goes from white (bad) to blue (good), move the ribs to the grill.

Spare ribs take a good 5 to 6 hours to cook. Start them bone side down and then flip them end-to-end and top-to-bottom ever hour. This helps even out the hot spots that can happen when you cook with direct heat. At hour 5 they should start showing signs of doneness – meat pulling back from the bone, and meat cracking when you lift up the rack at the end. When in doubt, check the internal temperature of the meat between the bones – it should read at least 180°F prior to saucing.

ribs

Sauce the ribs with the Peach Barbecue Sauce – and let them cook for 10 minutes. Sauce the meat side and let them go for another 10 minutes. Then sauce the meat side again and move the ribs off to a plate to rest for 10 minutes. Serve with remaining sauce.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
Wonderful, clean peach taste with just enough sugar and just a tiny hint of rosemary. It’s very versatile and is great both spread on toast and dolloped on pork chops. Must make gallons of this next year.

This Little Piggy is Going to the Fair

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

Sunday was kind of a big day for me – I entered my Pomegranate Pig Barbeque Sauce in the Minnesota State Fair’s Creative Activities competition. You have never in your life seen a grown man so nervous about the care and well-being of two little jars of sauce as I was that day.

Pomegranate Pig Barbeque Sauce
4 cups raw or dark brown sugar
2 cups honey
1 (12-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
2 teaspoons coarse-ground black pepper
2 teaspoons granulated onion
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine sugar, honey, paste, vinegar, Worcestershire, molasses and salt. Wisk to combine. Bring to a boil.. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Taste and adjust for sweetness, acid, umami, and salt. Note – I added another 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 teaspoons of salt at this point.

Turn the heat off and add the garlic, chili powder, paprika, pepper, onion, vanilla, cayenne, sage, thyme, allspice, zest, nutmeg, and cumin. Wisk to combine.

Bring to a boil again then reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Reduce heat to lowest setting and let sauce cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge. Makes about 3 1/2 pints.

For the competition, I canned the sauce in 1/2 pint jars. I filled the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space, sealed them, and then processed them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes at 10 p.s.i.

I should know the results early next week. Wish me luck!

Pomegranate Pig Spare Ribs

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

I have been craving ribs constantly a lot lately. Generally when I think ribs, I’m thinking of baby backs – those meltingly tender short ribs from the loin of the pig. But just to switch things up, I went with spare ribs for this cook.

Spares ribs sit below the baby backs and come from the from the belly side of the pig’s rib cage. Because they do more work (the whole breathing thing), spares have tougher muscles and more connective tissue. That means they also have a richer flavor, but it can be tough to get them tender (think of the difference between a filet mignon and a sirloin).

A full rack of spare ribs includes part of the chine (breast) bone and the connective tissue between the chine and the ribs themselves. I trimmed all of the non-rib bits off to make a St.Louis-style rack that is easier to handle and cooks more evenly. I also removed the tough membrane that covered the bone side of the ribs to let more flavor in.

After the ribs were trimmed, I gave them a generous dusting of Plowboys Yardbird Rub and then stashed them in the fridge while I got the Big Green Egg fired up.

I set the Big Green Egg up for a raised direct cook at 250°F, using a Woo2 ring to get the cooking grate further from the heat. When the Egg was up to temp I added some persimmon wood for smoke and put the ribs on.

Spare ribs take 5 to 6 hours to cook. I started them bone side down and then flipped them end-to-end and top-to-bottom ever hour. At hour 5 they started showing signs of doneness – meat pulling back from the bone, and meat cracking when I lifted up the rack at the end. I checked the internal temp (love my Thermapen for this as it can get right into the middle of the rib meat) and it read 180°F. Pretty much perfect.

I sauced the ribs on both sides with Pomegranate Pig Barbeque Sauce and let them cook for 10 minutes. I sauced the meat side and let them go for another 10, then sauced the meat side again and moved them off to a plate to rest for 10 minutes.

Pomegranate Pig Spareribs

The Verdict: ★★★★★
These have got to be among the best ribs I’ve ever made! Love the Plowboys rub and the way it works with the sweet tangyness of the sauce. Even though I cooked these raised over direct heat (no plate setter to diffuse the heat), they came out moist and tender. I like ribs cooked to the ever-so-slightly-not-yet-falling-off-the-bone point, and I nailed that here.

My only (very minor) disappointment is that the persimmon wood didn’t give me as much smoke flavor as I would have liked.

The Nutrition:
A four bone serving is about 600 calories and 10 Weight Watchers points.

One year ago – 1st Carnitas of the Year
Two years ago – Badly Bungled Black ‘n’ Bleu Bon Voyage

Pomegranate Pig Barbecue Sauce – Update

Pomegranate-Pig-Barbeque-Sauce

I am still working on perfecting a barbecue sauce for the upcoming graduation party. My last version of the Honey Hog sauce was very good, but after repeated tastings it just wasn’t quite what I wanted. I ended up cutting it 50/50 with cider vinegar and will use it as a finishing sauce when I reheat the pork.

Rather than continue to tweak existing recipes, I started from scratch. I wanted a “Gee-wiz! Woosh-bang!” kind of sauce that could just about knock the bun off. I decided that the key to getting this is the sweet/tart flavor of the pomegranate molasses and the way it complements rich, smoky meats. This recipe lets it take the starring role.

2 cups raw or dark brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (Karo, not the high-fructose stuff)
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine sugar, syrup, paste, vinegar, Worcestershire, molasses and salt. Wisk to combine. Bring to a boil (careful as it will foam up and bite you). Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. This is your sauce base. If it doesn’t taste great, the rest of the ingredients aren’t going to save it. Taste for sweetness, acid, umami, and salt. Adjust accordingly.

Turn the heat off and add the garlic, chili powder, paprika, pepper, onion, vanilla, cayenne, sage, thyme, allspice, nutmeg, and cumin. Wisk to combine.

Bring to a boil again then reduce heat to lowest setting and let sauce cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Bottle and store in the fridge. Makes about 1 quart.

First Impression
I’ll wait until after the party to give a final verdict on this sauce, but the initial tasting went really well. This is a syrupy sauce, but despite all the sugar, it has a lighter mouth feel than you would expect. The tang of the vinegar and pomegranate molasses help even the taste out, and there is just enough heat and spice to make it interesting.

I’ll let you know what the crowd has to say.

The Verdict: ★★★★★
We have a winner!

I got the pulled pork and the Pomegranate Pig sauce all set up for the graduation party and then left to go get dressed. By the time I got back the work crew and the graduate-to-be were happily performing quality checks and declared that the pork was wonderful and the barbecue sauce was the “best I’ve ever tasted.” 🙂

Everyone LOVED the Pomegranate Pig sauce – people were putting it on the hot dogs, stirring it into in the baked beans, and even squirting it on their fingers and then licking them off. I take that all as a good sign.

The sauce was thick, sweet, tangy, and complex. The sweetness hit first, but it wasn’t heavy and was quickly replaced by the pomegranate’s fruity tang. The herbs and spices followed with a nice black pepper note in the middle and some lingering heat at the end. I was afraid all the sweetness might make it a one-hit-wonder, but this stuff sang like a a full orchestra.

All-in-all, great party, had a good time and am glad everyone liked the pulled pork, but am also glad I’ve got about 8 years before I need to do another one of these ;).

Pile o’ Pig

Pulled Pork

I’ve been asked to make pulled pork for a graduation party. Having learned some lessons from my last catering effort, I got a head start cooking for the event.

While I would normally do pork butts (recently renamed Boston Roast) low and slow overnight, our weather has been so crazy lately that I decided to go with the hot and fast method – roasting them at 350°F, then foiling and braising them until tender.

The Big Green Egg will hold 4 butts at a time, so I cooked 2 batches. Here’s one batch seasoned up with Plowboys Yardbird Rub.

Pulled Pork

I set the BGE up for a 5 hour indirect cook at 350°F. This meant filling the firebox with lump and using a plate setter and drip pan to diffuse the heat. When the BGE was up to temp, I added some chucks of apple wood for smoke. When the smoke went from white (bad) to blue (good) I loaded up the butts, using an extended grid to give me some room and made sure to leave some space between them on the grate so they didn’t act like one big piece of meat.

I cooked the butts for about 4 hours at 350°F, until they developed a nice dark bark on the outside and hit 160°F on the inside.

Pulled Pork

I moved the butts off to a hotel pan and covered them tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. The pan full of butts went into the oven set at 350°F. I braised them for a little over 2 hours, until their internal temperature hit 210°F. Then I removed the pan from the oven and let them cool for another hour before pulling the meat.

My dear wife broke down the major muscle groups from the fat and connective tissue and I worked the meat over using a pair of bear paws to help remove all the remaining inedible bits and separate the meat into tasty morsels. I added a little finishing sauce while we were working with the meat to help keep it moist.

Pulled Pork

The finished pulled pork was put into one gallon zip-top freezer bags and stashed in the deep freeze until the big day.

I’ll follow up next month and let you know how it went. Wish me luck!

One year ago – Chicken & Chorizo Fajitas
Two years ago – Lemon Pepper Chicken