Along with the greening trees and putting away the parkas and boots for the season, there’s nothing that makes me happier for change in seasons than getting to work with the BBQ. Don’t get me wrong, we use the BBQ year-round (heck, the only thing I shovel in Winter is the path to the BBQ out back), but that’s usually for grilling. I’m talking about BBQ (you know, as a noun) — low and slow over smoke.
This year on Mother’s Day, Maureen requested BBQ ribs and I was very happy to oblige. I was looking forward to trying out a new gadget: an iGrill. A temperature probe that works with an accompanying app that gets real-time temperature info transmitted to your iPhone or iPad. This enables less direct fussing over consistent heat as you can tell the heat at all times wherever you are and an alarm will sound if temperature gets to high or low. It certainly reduces the babysitting that real BBQ sometimes demands. I really only tended the BBQ all day for adding wood chips to my smoker drawer and spritzing the ribs with a mop mixture to keep them from drying out.
For this recipe, I used trimmed baby back ribs and a clean-out-the-cupboard rub composed mostly of Renee’s Desert Rub (a southwestern favourite of ours made with ancho chiles, spices and brown sugar). Also used was a clean-out-the-fridge-BBQ sauce with two main components, Piggy Market‘s Happy Goat Pig Slathering Sauce, made with Happy Goat coffee which added an earthy quality and Renee’s Desert Glaze, made with their rub mixture suspended in a thick prickly pear syrup.
While the rub is important and so is the sauce, neither come close to the technique in influencing the outcome: Tender, BBQ ribs that have sweetened with smoke and heat. This time around I used a mixture of cherry wood and alder wood smoke.
There’s no recipe here, but this is the basic technique:
- Trim the ribs to clean up any loose flesh or fat.
- Apply rub liberally and yes, RUB IT IN. it’s this action that helps to break down the tissue of the meat to soak in the flavour and smoke. I like to let the meat sit after applying rub for at least 30-60 minutes. It helps it to soak into the meat and ensures that there’s not a powdery coating on the meat.
- I set the BBQ for approximately 275 degrees F and start the smoking process. I soak about 2/3 of the chips in water and mix them with dry chips in the smoker drawer of the BBQ. This ensures that they just don’t catch fire and burn up. It also lets them provide smoke for a longer period of time. I replenish the chips about once every 40 minutes or so, as they reduce to ash.
- I place the ribs, bone side down on the grill, on the opposite side of the heat source to ensure indirect heat only. I make sure to put my temperature probe on the side of the meat for accurate readings.
- Whenever I replace wood chips I lift the BBQ lid and spray it with the mop liquid, made from cider vinegar, a little ketchup, some rub spices and some bread and butter pickle juice (yes, really!).
- There’s no hard and fast rule here. The longer you do this, the more tender the meat will be, as long as the heat is maintained and kept from drying out. This time I let them smoke for about 4 hours, which is about an hour more than what I would consider the minimum.
- Just when they are about ready, I use the sauce I prepared, and brush it on. I avoid the overly thick, strong and smoky BBQ sauces as the flavour should come from the meat and the sauce only embellishes it. I always favour a light glaze-style sauce.
- I turn up the BBQ to high and get some grill marks on the racks and then bring them inside. I always cut them and serve individual ribs. They’re messy enough to eat without having the diners wrangle sharp knives with saucy fingers.
This time I served them with a red cabbage coleslaw and a fresh corn salad, made with scallions, red pepper and pickled jalapeno with an agave nectar and lime vinaigrette.