I’ll give it a moment for you to stop laughing at what can only be described as the greatest article title in the history of food blogging before we begin…………Ok, now let’s get serious. If you’ve followed this blog for some time you will know the shame and embarrassment I feel for no longer having a charcoal grill. My beautiful, loving, caring, and selfless grill was taken behind the old wood shed last spring and put out of its misery. I ended up getting a gas grill for convenience sake and because my girlfriend refuses to light a coal BBQ when I am not home. Since she is the boss of me I agreed to make the switch mostly out of fear but also because it was her gift to me.
Cooking on a gas grill obviously is much different from charcoal. You can’t get that robust smoky taste or the smug sense of satisfaction of being the only guy in the neighbourhood with a “real” grill. Or can you? With cedar planks and a wide array of smoking chips readily available these days I’ve still been able to bust out some sexy grilled/smoked meals. I’ve still been hesitant to try out a dish that takes several hours of smoking time on the grill though. Will it get that nice smoky bark on it like on coals? Will the chips burn as well and incorporate that nice southern style bold smoke flavour profile? With indirect heat on a gas grill will it seem like the meat was just baked? Will you ever stop asking questions so I can actually tell you how it went?
I decided to go with some sexy St Louis style baby back ribs to see if I could still make magic happen with that porky goodness. I thought about winging it and just improvising a recipe but since this is the first time I’m going to be smoking something for over 3 hours on gas I chose to go to my BBQ encyclopedia; Weber’s Smoke. They recommend using a 6 burner grill for this, mine is only 3 burners so now as I picture the author riding around on his unicorn and shaming any servants who make eye contact with him I already need to improvise since I don’t have a fancy bourgouisie grill. What I’ll do is only keep the right side burner on and place the racks on the left. Since there won’t be indirect heat on both sides like the book suggests I’ll just have to keep more of an eye on the ribs to make sure they cook evenly. Now let’s fire it up!
Cherry Smoked Baby Back Ribs Baby!
3 to 4 Racks of baby back ribs
4 Handfuls of cherry wood chips-soaked in water for an hour
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 Tablespoon chile powder
2 Teaspoons mustard powder
2 Teaspoons dried thyme
1 Teaspoon ground cumin
1 Teaspoon celery seed
1 Teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mop–This is a little spray used to keep the ribs moist whilst smoking
1/2 Cup unsweetened apple juice
1 Tablespoon cider vinegar
4 Slices of bacon(already this is my kind of sauce)
1 Cup of ketchup
1/2 Cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 Cup Cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon molasses
2 Teaspoons Worchesterfordstonburoughpoolshire sauce
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 Teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 Fresh ground black pepper
Optional: Your choice of hot sauce to taste(basically not optional for me)
The first thing you’re probably thinking is Holy sh*t that is a crap ton of ingredients and now I am scared to try this. My advice to you is: Don’t be a wuss. Wusses make for terrible BBQers. You should already have most of this in your pantry anyway and this recipe is really just a bit of prep and then alot of sitting around on your ass sucking on beers whilst the ribs smoke. “Jody come help with the yardwork!” “Sorry, this drunken lying around is part of the cooking process baby! I can’t leave the grill!” Ok, so the first thing they tell you to do is to gently remove the membrane on the underside of the ribs. Meh, I’ve never done that before and I find myself not feeling like it so I skip that step. Besides, what’s a little membrane betwixt friends?
Onto step 2 I combine all of the dry rub ingredients in a bowl. Now comes the part that anyone who was a lonely college student will be a pro at: distribute the mix evenly amongst the racks and give all of your meat a good, thorough, dry rub. You rub that meat good. Rub it until it looks like the ribs need a smoke. Get it? Need a smoke? Like a cigarette but also like we are about to smoke them on the grill? Oh never mind. Like you didn’t see a dry rub joke coming. What you’ll need to do now is lay out the rubbed ribs on a platter, but not directly, get them on a rack so that air can circulate around them. Put them in the fridge for an hour or two. This will help the spices soak into the meat and also dry out the outer part of the meat a bit so that when they’re smoked they’ll form a nice bark on the outside. Remove them from the fridge about an hour before you plan on putting them on the grill so they can come up to room temperature. At this point you can also start to soak your wood chips. They call for hickory in this but I’ve used hickory often before and I like the mild, fruity smoke of cherry wood just fine so I switch it up.
Now light the Q and make sure you are doing this using indirect heat. The ribs should not be over the fire at any point. The temperature needs to stay between 300 and 350F. Fill up your smoking box with a few handfuls of the chips and place it directly over the lit burner and close the BBQ lid. When you can see and smell smoke it’s time to get the ribs on there. Now lie around with some cold ones for 1 hour. When that time is up give the ribs a spray with the mop and make sure they look like they’re cooking evenly. You may need to switch around the racks a bit but who doesn’t like messing around with a few nice racks, right? Empty the wood chips from the smoking box, but not into a plastic bucket that could melt and get stuck to your newly built deck, and add more and put the box back over the fire. Let them smoke for another hour. Sorry, no lying around this time. We gotta get working on the sauce.
Heat up a pan on medium heat and cook the bacon until nice and crispy. Now do whatever the hell you want with the bacon. All we need from that is the bacon fat. I chose to use my bacon as a stir stick for my beer. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, except the hot sauce and the bacon fat. Get it into a saucepan on low heat and cook down for about 5 minutes. Add the bacon fat and let it cook for a few more minutes. Give it a taste and adjust for salt if needed. Here is where you can go ahead and add whatever hot sauce you prefer. No one else eating with me is into anything too spicy so I just added about a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce. Take the sauce off the heat and set it aside for later.
After the second hour of smoking spray the ribs with more of the mop. Switch out some more wood chips at this point too. Let the meat cook for about another 30 minutes. By now you should be seeing the bone popping out of the edges a little. It’s like my grandma always said “A good dry rub should always lead to a nice little bone.” My grandma was weird. You can now brush the ribs liberally, or conservatively if that’s where your allegiance lies, with the sauce. I’m not really sure how a Libertarian or environmentalist would brush sauce onto ribs so if any of you knows please let me know.
When you’ve reached about 3 total hours of smoking time the ribs should be done. You’ll know this by picking a rack up at the end, with tongs of course, and it bends and you can see the skin/bark crack easily enough. Brush with more sauce and BABANGO! you’ve just successfully rubbed one out!
I prefer this type of rib preparation to the braised and grilled type. I like that the meat has a bit of fight to and you can’t just pull out all of the bones with no effort at all. The result on the gas grill is much better than I had hoped for. I now know I can still hold my head up high when my neighbours see me on the deck grilling on my gas Q. But, yes I am still working on getting a charcoal grill beside it. The gas one is lonely.