Two racks gone.
It’s in the fridge.
But I should pick up where I left off, right?
The toughest part, as I think I mentioned yesterday, is keeping the ribs at a constant temperature. Or close to it.
In that regard, I failed. The temperature swung wildly back and forth from about 100F to over 300F at one point. It was cold outside, rather wintry, actually, and both Bill and I were busy doing other things at the same time, so we didn’t babysit the fire as much as we could/should have.
One of the ways of regulating temperature, of course, is the fire itself. You start with hot coals, and add wood for smoke and longer-lasting heat.
But it’s not easy to keep that heat consistent. The cold air drags the heat out of the smoker, and if you’re not right on top of it all the time, the temperature drops and the fire starts to die.
So you (or I, really) rearrange coals and add more wood and blow into the vent on the side of the smoke box to get the fire to wake up again.
In order to get more oxygen to the fire, you also open the chimney-like vent at the end of the grill. With both vents open, air is drawn through and feeds the flames.
Here’s the whole thing – the smoke box is that rusty-looking part on the left. And the mess all around is…well…the post-winter mess of our yard.
Here’s another view. See the little vents on the side of the smoke box? I crouch there and blow on the fire to rev it up.
It’s an art, really, and I am very much a novice. But it’s fun. And as long as you don’t let the temperature STAY too hot or two cold for very long, as long as (in my opinion) it averages out to where you want it, then things will turn out okay. Maybe not perfect, but certainly edible.
Inside, one of the things Bill did, when he wasn’t monitoring the beer production, was to make the sauce. He kind of uses a Weber recipe as a launching pad, but tinkers with it depending on his mood and who’s here to eat. Some people like heat, for instance, and some don’t. Yesterday he kept it on the less spicy side.
The sauce includes ketchup, onions, garlic, and – most important – vinegar. The smell of the vinegar gets me salivating instantly. There’s also…let’s see…Worcestershire sauce…brown sugar…I don’t remember what else. And, like I said, it varies every time.
He also made a coleslaw. We didn’t have any mayonnaise, so he,switched gears and made a kind of Asian-cuisines-inspired slaw with rice vinegar, sesame oil, toasted black sesame seeds, some kimchee he’d made a week or so ago, a little Sriracha (a chili garlic sauce found in Asian markets and some grocery stores – we call it Rooster sauce because of the rooster on the bottle), fish sauce, and I don’t even know what else.
It was really, really good.
I also made Hush Puppies, but that will show up in a later post.
Anyway, when the ribs had been smoking for about 6 hours, I went outside and painted them with some of Bill’s barbecue sauce.
Then I closed the grill again and left them for about twenty minutes or so. Just enough to cook the sauce onto the ribs and create that gorgeous glaze, but not enough to burn.
I was frying Hush Puppies when the ribs were ready to be pulled, so Bill went out and got them.
Aren’t they beautiful?
He also sliced them up for me. I was able to take a few pictures while I was frying.
Now…to critique them. First off, there isn’t really a smoke ring, which is a little strange, considering there was plenty of smoking wood (cherry tree) added. But maybe there wasn’t enough. Or maybe the temperature fluctuations affected it.
The bark, however – the sort of crust that forms on the outside of the ribs as the smoking dries it out – was nice.
Now, the meat wasn’t falling off the bone. It was completely tender, and maybe another hour on the smoker would have resulted in the falling off I was hoping for. The other thing we noticed, though, was that these were REALLY meaty baby back ribs. So that could be why the meat wasn’t falling off the bones. And cooking it longer would have worked.
The important thing, though was that the meat was tender and delicious.
We ate about two racks’ worth of ribs – the five of us – three adults and two rib-loving eight-year-old boys.
Not bad for a novice.