Sometimes its not about what you cook, its about how and where and with what challenges.  Well today, much like cooking breakfast on an open fire, the challenge was not in what I was cooking or how I was cooking, it was the element of nature that produced the biggest source of problem in my cook.  In the midst of a blizzard warning this morning I fired up the smoker to smoke up some rosemary and brown sugar rubbed Boston butts (3) for some pulled pork.

Smoking in a blizzard

In spite of the snow and the massive drifts and the sometimes strong winds, I prevailed the smoked stayed going and the pork is now ready for some pulling.  Its not new, its not special but it was a challenge.  And if I do say the results look, smell and taste fantastic.

My apologies for the picture quality, they came from my phone. 🙁

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Ribs, everybody wants to make some and a lot of people are not sure how.  Well like most meat low and slow will give you a juicy and fall off the bone tender result.  But with ribs there is something special that needs to happen.  I like typically like to stick with larger cuts of meat but no man could claim to be even a novice of the BBQ without having ribs tucked away firmly in his belt.

Rack of ribs

Like most chunks of meat I smoke the ribs started out the night before with a trimming, which I historically do a less than professional job at.  From there I wash the ribs and pat them dry with paper towels and then rub them.  Typically rubbing is a two part process.  The first is to coat them in mustard or some other liquid to help the rub stick and the second is the rub them with your rub.  How much is up to you, ribs have a delicacy to them that is easily over powered with too much rub.  Once this is all done is into the fridge in a sealed container to think about what they have done.

Freshly rubbed spare ribs

The meat (ribs) in the picture above were rubbed with two different rubs.  After a nights worth of sitting in the rub or a couple hours if that is all that is available I get the smoker ready.  I boil some water in my kettle for my water pan to speed up the preheating process and get my wood for the day ready.  Once the smoker has reached that magical temperature of 225°F it is ready for some meat.  So I lube my grate with some oil, its a habit and then throw the meat on and let the smoke start rolling.

Ribs just on the smoker

When smoking ribs I use the 3-2-1 Rib method, which is not my invention but seems to work quite well and is easy to remember.  The first stage is to smoke the ribs for about 3 hours.  The time is not nearly as important as is the appearance at this point.  Once the meat begins to pull away from the bone and has pulled back about a 1/4 inch it is time to move onto step two.

Ribs at the end of stage 3

Once your ribs are looking like these it is time to move on to step two.  Stage two is kinda hard to swallow at first, I mean I just wanna continue to flood my ribs with smokey flavor but its time to pull back for a few.  In stage two its all about time, take the ribs off the smoker and wrap them in foil with a little apple juice.  I am not sure how much apple juice I use it depends on the meat and what looks good.  You could certainly substitute some other liquid here the goal is just to provide the ribs with some moisture while they are in the foil.  Throw the ribs wrapped in foil back on the smoker for two hours and let the magic happen.  During this time the ribs are soaking up the juice and getting their fall of the bone tender status.  There is no need to supply smoke during this period.

Ribs after stage 2

After two house in stage two remove the ribs from the foil and place them back on the smoker grate and get the smoke rolling again.  It might be time to check that water pan too.  The ribs should look like those above at this point, shrinkage has occurred and they looking kinda mushy.  That is where the final stage of the 3-2-1 method comes in smoke them until they reach 172°F in the thickest part of the meat.  This should take an 45 minutes to an hour.  If you would like to add BBQ sauce during the last 15 minutes on the smoker is the time to do this.

Ribs cooked to perfection

Once the ribs are done pull them off the smoker and let them rest for 15 minutes on the counter.  During this time the juices will redistribute and you will be glad you waited.  Serve and enjoy.

The 3-2-1 method assumes you are dealing with spare ribs.  If you find yourself with baby back ribs you will be looking at something more like the 2-2-1 method, just be sure to be more attentive to the meat an hour earlier with baby backs.

As with most other pork I prefer to mix apple and hickory for my ribs, gives them an excellent flavor.

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So today I made pulled pork, again.  But it was not nearly as dreadful as I make it sound, as an avid connoisseur of all things smoked, pulled pork is a staple.  Its fairly easy to make, requires a slight flexing of the smoking muscle and is almost impossible to screw up.   Today was no different, I had a ham roast in the freezer that was just begging for some smoker time and as it ends up I also had a rosemary shortage which prohibited me from making my preferred Brown Sugar and Rosemary Rub, so it was back to the drawing board.

BBQ Pulled Pork

In the end I ended up with an excellent stand in using some ready made rubs and and brown sugar.  And a spritz with some molasses, cranberry juice, bbq sauce and seasoning, again we didn’t have any apple juice.  The day was full of improvising. You will find the recipes for the rub and spritz below.

I threw the meat on the smoker about 7:30 AM and it smoked at 225ºF with apple and hickory wood until it reached 165ºF, at which point I wrapped it in foil and threw it back into the heat until it reached an internal temperate of 205ºF.  Then it was, while still wrapped in foil, wrapped in old towels and thrown into the cooler for 2 hours to rest.  I then pulled it, put it on a sandwich and enjoyed.  It was most tasty not quite as tasty as the Brown Sugar and Rosemary Rub but it is certainly still edible, and will likely be the source of lunch room envy tomorrow.

Mix and Match Pork Rub
brown sugar
bad byron’s butt rub

Mix together 2 parts brown sugar to 1 part each bbq3000 and butt rub.  When thoroughly mixed, spread mustard on meat in evenly.  Then rub meat liberally with bbq rub created above.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate over night or cook immediately.

Spritz Recipe
1 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp bbq sauce
1 c cranberry juice
1/4 c white sugar
1 tbsp bbq3000

Combine all ingredients until mixed well.  Mop onto meat every hour until meat reaches 165°F.

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After the catastrophe the first time I tried to make some chicken with this rub, I went for round two yesterday.  With the other smoker full of jerky that was smelling better by the minute we loaded up a second smoker with some chicken thighs rubbed with a Memphis Style BBQ Rub.  But I cheated in the end I ended up basting the meat with a mixture of BBQ sauce, whole grain mustard and water, so I deviated a bit from the traditional Memphis Style.

Memphis BBQ Rub Chicken

The rub however, was the important part and it was a pretty traditional style paprika based rub, all but once I forgot it was on there it married with the meat so well, but I must have had an abnormally heavy section of rub under the skin that gave me a faint paprika taste in my mouth. So here is the recipe for the rub.

1/4 c paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

Blend all ingredients thoroughly and rub generously onto chicken both under and over skin.

Once the chicken was rubbed I plopped it on the smoker at 250°F for about 2 hours over hickory and apple wood until it was cook through.  I basted the meat once which I think was unnecessary.   Usually I brine my poultry but I did not this time mostly due to oversight on my part, in spite of this it still turned out juicy and fell apart.

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In perhaps the best smoking day so far in 2010 I smoked some bbq chicken quarters this afternoon.  The weather was perfect, cloudy with a ever so subtle breeze and that was it, no sun, no gales to contend with just cloudy skies and a faint breeze, made smoking so very effortless.  So here is how it went down, chicken was on sale this week and I have been itching to do some bbq chicken on the smoker, so on the way home last night I picked up a pack of chicken quarters, this would work with a whole bird, but I like the dark meat and the smoke seems to too.

I mixed up a batch of my legendary poultry brine I discovered last fall when I smoked my turkey breast, however, this time I did not include the celery seed and cajun spice rather I added 3/4 tsp per quart onion powder and 1 tsp per quart Bad Byron’s Butt Rub and of course a little cayenne and sage.  I let that sit by itself in the fridge over night.

How much brine should I make?  If you are struggling with how much brine to make, put your meat in the container you will be brining it, add enough water to cover the meat completely and then remove the meat.  Once the meat is removed measure the amount of water that is left in the container.  Be sure to discard this water and start with fresh water when making any brine.

Back to the bbq chicken, this morning I trimmed the excess fat from and brined my chicken for about 3 hours, you will notice in the picture some of the chicken is not covered in water, I had to use a plate to hold the chicken below the water line, it was a tight fit.

Chicken in brineOne the chicken was done brining I pulled it from the brine and brushed it with olive oil and then rub it liberally with BBQ 3000 from Penzey’s, at this point I let the chicken sit and got the smoker ready to cook at a temperature of 225°F.

Chicken rubbed with BBQ 3000

Once the smoker was up to temperature, I added a handful of apple chips and a hickory chunk to the chip can and then put the chicken on and let the apple and hickory do its magic.  I was using my Brinkmann Gourmet with the Afterburner Propane burner today, so once the temperature stabilized all I had to do was check the meat temperature and the smoke.  It was a pretty easy smoke.  I arranged the chicken so the smoke could easily flow between all of the pieces.  Be sure to lube your rack with oil or cooking spray for easy meat removal and clean up, but make sure you do it before it is over the fire.

Raw Chicken on the Smoker

In a rare stoke of brilliance today I took a picture of the meat right before I sauced it, the water pan is gross I know, but ignore it look at the shrink.  Look how much the meat has shrunk throughout this cook, this is at about 175°F, right before I smothered it in some bbq sauce.

Cooked BBQ Chicken on the Smoker

At an internal temperature of 180°F I pulled the chicken and let it rest for about 15 minutes.  On the bounds of bragging you know you have done well cooking your chicken when as you pick up the quarters with a tongs the drumstick bone just falls out of the meat.  I was excited!

Smoked BBQ Chicken Quarters

At this point it was all I could to do keep from eating it, we ate it with some corn and a chunk of stone ground wheat bread (thanks Lohn this stuff is great).  The chicken was awesome, better than even the cajun whole smoked chicken, which was really really good.  What was really surprising is I have never used apple as a dominant wood in my smoking and it imparts well an apple like taste to the meat, which just blew my mind.

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