For the past month, there have been 6 guys working incredibly hard on remodeling bits of our new house. Well, 5 guys working really hard and one guy who always reeks of booze and unashamedly keeps beers in our fridge for his mid-morning treat. Well, four guys working really hard, one alcoholic and one guy that actively goes out of his way to avoid work and has been caulking the same moulding for over a week. Well, one guy working really hard, one alcoholic, one lazy bastard and two guys who turn up every other day. Even the remaining hard working guy rarely turns up on time.
Let me start again.
I bought a smoker recently and wanted to test run it but we haven’t got any mates yet in Santa Barbara so we class the people who we are paying to work on our house as our closest friends. As such, I fed them yesterday with a gourmet, all-American spread of ribs, slaw, mashed potatoes and beans. I have very little to say about the sides as the ribs were the main attraction.
First, a few choices to make.
- Wet or Dry? Personally I’m a dry rib kinda guy meaning that the ribs at Rendezvous in Memphis are the Holy Grail that I’d be shooting for.
- The cut of meat. I went for Back Loin Pork Ribs as they are meatier and come with an extra blanket of meat across the top that results in the inability to eat more than three or four of these bad boys in one sitting.
- The wood. I went with hickory because...well, because I had a big bag of it in the shed.
- The rub. As we have just moved in, my pantry isn’t very well stocked so rather than go out an buy the dozen or so spices that make up most rub recipes, I went for a pre-mixed rub and beefed it up with a wad of smoked paprika and chili flakes.
Given that this was going to be lunch, my alarm went off at 6:30am to get the fire going. We haven’t been here long but we can’t have made a good impression with the neighbours as most days the guys are drilling and hammering from 7:30am but today they had the added bonus of being on the receiving end of 5 hours of smoke that bellowed from our Brinkman. Ah well, neighbours are only ever a bunch of leeching sods anyway so who needs ‘em?
Like I say, I haven’t cooked with a smoker before (beyond curing the grill a few days ago) so I was a bit nervous about maintaining the temperature between the recommended 200 and 220 degrees fahrenheit but it turned out to be a fairly low maintenance affair. In simple terms, when it’s getting low, shove on some more damp wood or charcoal and if it’s getting too hot, cut off the air. Not exactly rocket science which explains why even those from the Deep South can excel at it.
Despite being tempted to open the lid about a thousand times during the 4 1/2 hours of cooking, I was a good boy and opened it just once to flip them over but it was clear at the turn that things were going well as they were already beginning to develop a crust that would have made Mr Maillard himself weak at the knees. Still, they could still officially be a failure if they weren’t as tender as a nun’s quim and I’d have another two hours to wait until that question was answered. Allah has blessed me with good looks, a schlong that could knock out an elephant and the wit of a stand-up comedian (not to mention humility) but patience does not appear on my resume so the countdown to midday felt like a lifetime but I heard that all good things come to those who wait so I waited. And waited. And put together some furniture. And waited.
Finally, with just over 30 minutes left to lunch, I pulled the ribs, wrapped them in foil and let them redistribute their juices for half an hour. At approximately 11:53 (specific pacific time) came the real test - cutting the slabs into individual ribs. To my vast relief, the ribs nearly cut themselves although they did still have some structure and required just the slightest amount of tension to separate the meat from the bone. The inside was juicy and tender whilst the outside was charred and crusty. Dare I say they were perfect? Maybe one step down from perfect as next time I would have them further away from the firebox as the smaller, edge ribs were a littler closer to cremated than charred.
The good news about using three mighty racks of the back loin pork ribs is that, after feeding seven people, there were loads left so I took some to work that night. If you ever want to make instant friends in a new job, take in some home smoked ribs. I was the kitchen bitch equivalent of a rock star for the evening.
Next time I want to smoke a 30lb pork butt for 10 hours and see if I can’t make me some decent pulled pork. The downside is that I’ll need to replace the roof on my house in order to have enough people to feed.