North Carolina Smoked Ribs

The “original” BBQ sauce, according to recorded history was a vinegar and pepper mix. It is still used on the coastal plains of both North and South Carolina where it originated, and to a slight degree in Virginia and Georgia. After the vinegar and pepper variation we began to see adaptations with “light tomato”, “heavy tomato” and mustard: in other words, four basic categories. Vinegar and pepper based sauces are linked to early Scottish settlers in the Carolina, whereas mustard based sauces are the fine work of the German settlers.

“Light tomato” sauce is little more than vinegar and pepper mixed with ketchup. “Heavy tomato” sauce is a rather recent occurrence and what we see in the likes of “KC Masterpiece”. Sauce wars have been fought through the years over ownership of the original recipes, and of course, over which is best. After that the debates go to pork versus beef, and even in places like Kentucky, mutton, or lamb in considered best.

Being of Scottish descent, I chose a very basic vinegar and pepper marinade and baste, with a spicy flare:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon brown sugar

I let this mix sit for four hours to make sure the flavors had sufficient time to emerge and blend. I then put the mix in a large plastic bag along the ribs, and put the whole mess in the refrigerator over night.

Around 11:00 AM I fired up the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker with Kingsford briquets. For smoke flavoring I chose cherry wood which I purchased from Amazon.com, my new favorite retailer (I still love you, too, Costco, but Amazon Prime lets me get most everything with two-day shipping, and no sales tax). I put the ribs on around noon, and have been basting them every so often with the vinegar and pepper mix. These guys are gonna be good!

For more BBQ lore check out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ubTQfr_tyY

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Filed under Indirect, Kingsford, Marinade, Pork Ribs, Smoker, Weber

Santa Maria Tri-Tip


Tri-tip is a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin (see picture). It is a small triangular muscle, usually 1.5 to 2.5 lbs. per side of beef. You rarely (pardon the pun) hear of it outside of the west coast, although in New York city it may be called “Newport steak”. In my hometown of plain old Plano, TX you can find it only at few places such as Central Market or Hirsch’s Meat Market, and, of course, at my favorite store, Costco. BBQ Buddy Lee and I have had several tri-tip cook offs over the years, using a marinade recipe from Lee’s Reno friend Jim Riggen, who happens to be a real world McGyver, both in the garage and in the kitchen. The marinade (and baste) is a mixture of sliced purple onion, Teriyaki sauce, olive oil and brown rice vinegar. After spending 12 or more hours marinading, the beef is cooked over indirect heat on the Weber Kettle Grill or in the Weber Smoker.

The original US tri-tip recipe was created in Santa Maria, California, and named accordingly. In fact, it is alleged the town’s Chamber of Commerce has copyrighted the recipe. In its most basic form a rub comprised of salt, pepper and garlic powder is used, and the meat is cooked over red oak. I found a recipe for Grilled Santa Maria Tri-Tip on About.com which is much more involved, but turned out to be a a dead ringer! It calls for these ingredients:

2 to 2 1/2 lb beef tri-tip roast
1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup oil oil
4 cloves crushed garlic

I used Hungarian Hot Paprika in lieu of the garden variety and deli mustard instead of Dijon. Olive oil was substituted for vegetable oil. Preparation began with combining the black pepper, salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, and cayenne in a small bowl. This mixture was then rubbed on to all surfaces of the tri-tip, and the meat was refrigerated for 3 hours. The meat was removed and given 30 minutes to warm to room temperature.

For the baste the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, and crushed garlic were put into a jar with a lid and shaken vigorously until emulsified. The Weber Kettle Grill was fired up with lump charcoal. Once the coals were ashen white, the meat was placed on the grill and coated with a mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar. The meat was grilled for a total of 30 minutes to medium rare (135 degrees). Every 3-4 minutes it was basted. After resting for 30 minutes the meat was cut into thin slices.

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Filed under grill, Indirect, Marinade, Smoker, Uncategorized, Weber

All BLOGged Out?

It has been a while since I have posted, but certainly not a result of resting the grills or being otherwise lazy. I have been repeating some recipes lately, and doing some basic stuff like BBQ’d chicken and burgers.

With old friends in town it was my time to demonstrate grilling prowess, or, in the worst case, look like uncooked cabrito (an inside joke). Failure wasn’t an option so I endeavored to create a convergence of distinct flavors, without overemphasizing any one of them individually. Turkey breast has a wide appeal and is lean, but it seldom done with a sweet flavor for some unknown reason. Defying convention, I rubbed a Butterball young turkey breast the night before with John Henry’s Sugar Maple Rub Season which is heavy with sugar and brown sugar (I like brown sugar better since it doesn’t caramelize as quickly as refined sugar). I hit it again Saturday morning when it came out of the ‘frig to warm to near room temperature.

As turkey lay on the counter in wait of heat and smoke, I loaded up the side rails of the trusty Weber Kettle Grill with lump charcoal. Lump charcoal has a more distinct flavor than briquets, but not excessively strong like straight mesquite or oak. I put in more charcoal than normal since I needed four hours of steady heat and lump charcoal burns faster the briquets.

A little history on charcoal courtesy of Wikipedia:
Charcoal is the black residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood, sugar, bone char, or other substances in the absence of oxygen (see pyrolysis, char and biochar). The resulting soft, brittle, lightweight, black, porous material resembles coal and is 50% to 95% carbon with the remainder consisting of volatile chemicals and ash. The charcoal briquette was first invented and patented by Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania in 1897 and was produced by the Zwoyer Fuel Company. The process was further popularized by Henry Ford, who used wood and sawdust byproducts from automobile fabrication as a feedstock. Ford Charcoal went on to become the Kingsford Company.

In about 45 minutes, and with the help of my new battery powered yard blower, the coals were ready. I put the turkey breast on center grill, and for the other chosen flavoring, covered it in thick, peppered bacon. Coffee wood, the final ingredient, is great for adding a mild smoked flavor. Several chunks were placed on the lump charcoal burning in the side rails on either side of the grill, and the grill lid was put on with the vents about 2/3 open.

Four hours later and two bastings of olive oil, we were good to go. I removed the bacon, and put the bird in a throwaway pan covered with aluminum foil. This all went into my trusty cooler to keep things warm during the 50 mile trip to Ft. Worth.

We had a great time in Ft. Worth visiting old friends, the Morans and Hassons, enjoying libation and eating finger food. The turkey was a hit and I avoided being a goat (cabrito).

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Filed under coffee wood, grill, Indirect, John Henry's spices, peppered bacon, turkey, Uncategorized, Weber

Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if ya can back it up.”

New Year’s Day we had the best pork we can remember, and I made it (does anyone remember the “Shake ‘n Bake” commercials from 70’s?)! How that’s for braggin’? Well…was it really me, or was it the brine? “We” made a brined pork loin which was absolutely fantastic, and highlighted by great flavoring, incredible moistness and a very evident smoke ring (more later).

As an admitted “brinaholic” I have already dedicated two posts to the process; one on brined turkey and another on brined pork chops. Brining is the process of soaking meat or vegetables in a saltwater and/or seasoned water bath, and has been around for centuries to preserve meats when refrigeration wasn’t available. Brining is best for lean meats such as poultry (chicken, Cornish hens, turkey), pork (roasts, tenderloin, chops) and shrimp that tend to be mild flavored, more easily over-cooked and prone to drying out.

I concocted a “best of” brine New Years’s Eve morning in my new dedicated brining cooler (perfectly sized for a 15 lbs. turkey). The brine included:

2 gallons water
1 12 oz. UFO Hefeweizen (wheat) beer
1 cup kosher salt
3 TBSP molasses
3 TBSP Malabar Table Grind Black Pepper (store brand will work too)
1 TBSP crushed red pepper
4 bay leaves
Ice cubes

A 3 lbs. pork loin was put in the brine for 24 hours. The next afternoon I fired up the trusty Weber kettle grill. The pork was placed center grill at 2:00 with charcoal and coffee wood burning in the side rails. The vents were opened about half way.

I basted the pork at one hour with olive oil. At 1 and 1/2 hours I put the pork in a throw away pan with a 12 oz UFO Hefeweizen. The pan was sealed with aluminum foil and the vents were closed. In another hour I brought the pan inside to allow the meat to rest, as they say. The meat was still warm and moist when I carved and served it at 5:45.

So what is a smoke ring? A smoke ring is a pink discoloration of meat just under the surface crust (called bark). It can be just a thin line of pink or a rather thick layer. The smoke rings is caused by nitric acid building up in the surface of meat, absorbed from the surface. This nitric acid is formed when nitrogen dioxide from wood combustion in smoke mixes with water in the meat. Basically it is a chemical reaction between the smoke and the meat.

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Filed under Brine, grill, Indirect, Kingsford, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday, primarily due to the absence of commercialism. Granted the “Black Friday” phenomena has recently become a big deal in our consumer-spending driven economy, but each of us has the option to ignore it, without the consequence of being considered a friggin’ scrooge! Plus, we don’t have the bickering over what originated from Christian truths vs. which pagan holidays have had evil influence (where is the Church Lady when needed most?).

Faith, family, friends and food are my focus, and in that order! Consider the Psalms and other scriptures which point to our faithful Creator’s provision. Consider too that family and community are His gifts to us for organization, structure and protection, based solely on unconditional love and sacrifice.

Our immediate families are on the east coast, Chicago and Germany, so we generally holiday together with friends like the Henderson’s (BBQ buddy Lee) right here in plain ole Plano, Texas. Hearing our kids bantering and catching up, and seeing the flow of their friends in and out of the house is really cool, not to mention the aromas associated with cooking, baking and smoking all sorts of food! We start off Thanksgiving Day with sausage gravy and biscuits (fodder for another post), skip lunch and then gorge late afternoon/early evening on turkeys prepared several ways, smoked ham and all the other major food groups.

Lee Henderson’s specialty is smoked ham (previous post) while mine is brined and smoked turkey. The web has many variations of brines posted, but I really like just a few. This year I am doing a modified version of one submitted to “Saveur” magazine. Trust me on this and do the following:

CREATE THE BRINE:
1 cup kosher salt
1 lemon, halved
1 orange, halved
1 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
4 juniper berries, crushed
4 allspice berries, crushed

Combine dry ingredients in a 12-qt. pot, or large brining bag. Add 1 1/2 gallons cold water and stir. Squeeze lemons and oranges into the brine and add the squeezed halves. Submerge turkey in brine, breast down. (Weight the turkey down with dinner plates if necessary.) Cover pot with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or store in a cooler with ice. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and let come to room temperature.

Load up the smoker with a heap of Kingsford charcoal (burns best evenly for extended periods). Once the coals are gray, open the vents all the way, put the bird on the grate over the water pan, add hickory chunks, close her up and get a cup of coffee.

About every hour or so baste the turkey with a mixture consisting of a splash of red wine mixed with olive oil. About eight hours later you have smoked a beautiful bird with absolutely moist, tender and flavorful meat. Enjoy while giving thanks.

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Filed under Brine, Indirect, Kingsford, Smoker, turkey, Weber

Lee’s Ginger Ale Ham

Lee Henderson is my bestest BBQ buddy. We met 15 years ago when our daughters played recreational soccer together in the PYSA, and live five blocks apart in our neighborhood, the Highlands of Plano Prestonridge. Born and reared in Pittsburgh, Lee spends his Sunday’s worshiping and watching the Steelers with fellow fans at The Venue, in Fairview, TX. He is quite handy around the house, in the yard and on the grill. His backyard is known as “Lee World” and he has the cleanest epoxy coated garage floor in the ‘hood.

We traditionally do Thanksgiving dinner at the Henderson house and Christmas dinner at our house. Lee always does a ginger ale ham, while I do a brined turkey. I will chronicle my brined bird in the next update of King of the Que.

Lee starts off with a ten lbs. bone-in butt ham. In a large pot he simmers four two-liter bottles of ginger ale, one cup of brown sugar and a quarter cup of worchestershire sauce. After allowing the mixture to cool, he puts the ham in the mix, and refrigerates it overnight.

The next day he cooks the ham over low, indirect heat on his gas grill for eight, or so, hours. The ham is placed on a grate over top a throw-away serving pan filled with the ginger ale solution (see picture), which also serves as a baste.
lee ham

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Chicken Value Meal???

Ah yes! Two young hens from Sam’s or Costco for nine bucks, two oranges, one onion, olive oil, salt, pepper and John Henry’s Pecan Rub are all it takes. Fire up the trusty Weber kettle grill with coals in the side rails, add some hickory chips along the way, and you are in for a real tasty, yet inexpensive, treat!

It took just a few moments to clean out the birds, cube the oranges and cut the onions. I put the birds in a small throw-away roasting pan and stuffed a cubed orange into each one. In between the orange and the breast bone I stuffed in the onion pieces. Next I coated the birds in olive oil, then added salt, pepper and the Pecan Rub.

The birds went on the grill at 2:00 PM, and the top vents open about 1/4 of inch each. It’s about 5:00 PM now and time to retrieve the birds.
IMG_3292IMG_3298

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