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Cooking Tip: Ribs

October 4, 2010 Comments off

One of my favorite items to cook on the grill is ribs.  Over the years I’ve come to refine a few techniques that have proven to be very beneficial in the way that I cook ribs.  Do a quick search on the internet for rib grilling techniques and you’ll be swamped!  So the techniques presented here are simply the ones that I use… and they work.

There are several things that I do and I’ll cover them in more detail below — preparations, cuts and staging.

Preparation

Before putting those ribs on the grill I go through a few preparations.  First is removing the thin membrane covering the ribs.  This does a couple of things:  (1) It’s less chewy; and (2) keeps the skirt from curling up.  Secondly, I cut off the “skirt” from underneath the rack of ribs.  These are what I call my chef-snacks!  During the grilling process this skirt cut will cook up first and serves as a good snack for the grill master and a teasing morsel for those that mosey up around the grill while the cooking is underway!

Cuts and Staging

I don’t just throw the rack of ribs onto the grill all at once.  If I did I wound up with nice juicy ribs on one each and jerky on the other!  So I make several cuts  on the rib grouping these cuts based on the thickness along the rib.  The thicker cuts go on the grill first, followed by thinner cuts.  Doing so helps to ensure that when the final ribs (the thinnest cuts) are cooked, all of the ribs are cooked to the same (or near-same) done-ness.

Try these tips and I’m sure they will work well for you too!

Cooking Tip: Cook that pork butt the right way!

July 9, 2010 Comments off

Many times folks just grab some meat and throw it onto the grill in hopes of it coming out tasty.

If’n you want that food to come out tasty you have to put in a little bit of effort but the payoff is oh so worth it!!!

In this entry I’m gonna walk you through the paces on cooking up that pork butt that will have folks begging for more!!!

Here are the processes that will be covered:

  • Meat choices
  • Brine solution
  • Grill preparations
  • Mustard moisturizer
  • Seasoning blend
  • Grilling!!!
  • Wrapping mixture
  • BBQ sauce

Meat Choices

When choosing your pork, go with the bone-in butt and be sure to get you one that has thin white streaks of fat all throughout the cut and that it’s 7 to 9 pounds.  Take your time and be extra choosy…. it’s your money, your time, and your enjoyment … so pick the best you can get!

Brine Solution

Ingredients:

  1. 9 cups of apple juice
  2. 1 and 1/2 cups water
  3. 9 tablespoons (just a tad over 1/2 cup) of kosher salt
  4. 36 tablespoons (2 and 1/4 cups) of light brown sugar

WHOA!!!  Now I know what you are thinking, “that’s a LOT of stuff”!!!!  It sure is but worth it!  Mix up this batch and pour it off into a gallon jar and then use only what you need.

Combine all of the brine ingredients and then stir until all of the sugar and salt have been dissolved.  Put the pork meat in a baking dish (I prefer to use an aluminum disposable pan) that’s big enough to hold the meat.   Get you one of those injection kits and, using the syringe, inject the meat all over with the brine solution; and be sure to inject into the very center of your meat when the cuts are large/thick.

Let the meat sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours; I prefer mine to sit at least overnight.

Grill Preparations

An hour and a half before the pork has finished resting you need to start getting your grill to heating up.  You can either use charcoal/wood chips or a gas grill.  For the purpose of this tip, I’m going to be using charcoal; but if you prefer to use the gas grill, just make sure the temperatures called for are what you keep that gas grill at.

Light about 30 charcoal briquettes using a chimney starter (these make it so simple).  Crumble up some newspapers and put that into the bottom of the chimney starter and then light the newspaper.  DO NOT USE LIGHTER FLUID!!! This will cause the meat to have an AWFUL taste!  Wait until the coals turn gray (about 30 minutes).  Pile the coals on one side of the bottom rack in the grill.  Place a disposable aluminum pan filled with about 2 cups of water on the other side.

The temperature of the grill needs to be about 250° F so open the grill’s bottom vent all the way and then open the top vent only halfway.  Be sure the lid to the grill is closed and wait until the temperature gets down to 250° F.  If your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge … get one!!!  They are cheap and the benefits are immeasurable!

Mustard Moisturizer

While the grill is getting down to the prime cooking temperature, you need to get back to work and start putting together your mustard moisturizer.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 and 1/4 cups of water
  2. 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce
  3. 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  4. 2 and 1/4 cups of yellow mustard

Take the pork meat out of the refrigerator and pat it dry with paper towels.  Combine all the ingredients for the moisturizer in a bowl and mix until it is nice and smooth.  Use a brush (or your hands) to add a light coat of the moisturizer to the outside of the pork meat.

Seasoning Blend

Ingredients:

  1. 1/8 cup mild chili powder
  2. 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  3. 1 tablespoon light (or dark) brown sugar
  4. 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  5. 3/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  6. 3/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  7. canola oil

In a bowl, combine all of the seasoning blend ingredients (except for the canola oil!!).  Sprinkle just enough of this seasoning blend onto the meat forming a thin layer.  You won’t use all of the seasoning (or you can if you really, really, really like it!… but I wouldn’t recommend doing so).

Use a brush or your hands to coat the meat with a very thin coating of the canola oil.  Don’t rub too hard as you don’t want to rub off that moisturizer and seasoning blend!!

Stick in a meat thermometer but be sure it’s not touching the bone!

Grilling!!!

I recommend adding in wood chunks or chips that have been soaked in water.  These add to that distinct smoky flavor that’s just hard to beat.  If using chips, be sure to put them into a foil packet and poke some small holes in it.  Place the chunks or chips directly onto the coals.

Once the grill hits 250° F, put the top grate back into the grill and place the meat fat-side down above the pan of water and close the grill lid.  You’ll be cooking this butt for about 6 hours and you’ll need to turn it 180° after about 4 hours to even out the cooking of the pork butt.

Replenish the wood chunks/chips as needed during the first 3 hours of cooking.  Keep an eye on that pan of water and fill as needed as well.

The main goal during the cooking phase is to keep the grill at 250° F as best as possible.  To accomplish this you will need to add lighted charcoal every hour.  You may (or may not) have to remove the top grate and meat when you are adding charcoal to keep that temperature steady.  Each hour you’ll want to add 10 to 15 lighted charcoals (use that chimney starter!!) to maintain your grill temperature.

If you need to adjust the grill to change the temperature, remember to use only the top vent:

  1. opening it slightly will help raise the temperature
  2. closing it slightly will help lower the temperature
  3. NEVER close it completely!!!

You’re going to have the desire to check on the meat to see how it’s coming along.  Doing so requires lifting the lid and there goes all your heat and smoke!!!!  Stay away from that lid as much as possible.

When the thermometer in the meat reaches 160° F (usually after 6 hours of cooking) it’s time to prepare your Wrapping Mixture.

Wrapping Mixture

Ingredients:

  1. 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
  2. 1/4 cup honey
  3. 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  4. 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  5. 1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend until nice and smooth.

Take the pork butt out of the grill (and close that lid!!) and place it on top of two large sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Take the meat thermometer out.  Pour the wrapping mixture all over the pork butt and then tightly wrap the pork butt with the aluminum foil; be sure to not cover up the meat thermometer!!!

Place the pork butt back on the grill, close the lid, and cook until the meat temperature reaches 193° F (usually another 2-1/2 to 3 hours).  Be sure to add lighted charcoal as necessary to maintain that grill temperature of 250° F.

Do note that the temperature of the meat may stop climbing from time to time.  Don’t worry about it.  There’s a lot going on in the meat and it will continue to slowly climb.  During this time, go ahead and mix up your BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce

Ingredients:

  1. 1  cup of your favorite BBQ Sauce (I prefer to make my own but you can use pre-made sauces if you like); don’t use something with a lot of sugar in it though.
  2. 1 cup apple jelly
  3. 1 green apple; peeled and finely grated
  4. 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  5. 1 tablespoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl until well incorporated.

Once the pork butt hits 193° F, take it out.  Be careful as that meat is going to be VERY tender.  Open the top of the foil wrapping and drizzle a bit of the sauce (not all of it!!) on the meat.  Put the meat back into the grill (don’t close the foil wrapping) for another 20-30 minutes.

Take the butt out and firmly close up the foil wrapping and set the meat off to the side and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Your pork butt is now deliciously ready!!!  Now it’s time to get it ready for some fine eating enjoyment!!!

You can pull the pork apart with your hands or you can use forks to shred that meat up.  I prefer to use tools called “bear paws” to really shred up that meat….. just don’t do the grizzly bear impersonations like I’ve tried to do in the past!!!

Once the meat is nicely shredded up, add the rest of the bbq sauce mix and pile that meat onto some hamburger buns and enjoy!!!

Cooking Tip: Grilling with Planks

June 11, 2010 Comments off

You’ll find a whole new flavor to your foods when you put them on planks when you grill!  Here are some helpful hints to make your plank-grilling more fun!

1) Always cook on the same side of the plank…. I take a nail and hammer a couple of holes (well not all the way through) on the side I always want the food.  Some planks have burned-in labels on one side so you can use that as your ‘marker’.

2) Flip the plank over and take a router and route and oval shape roughly 1/2 inch from the edge of the plank.  This really helps with “holding” the foil”… like when I do my drunken salmon.  The routed edge depth should equal roughly half the thickness of the plank.  Now you can securely tuck your foil into that area and the foil will stay in place more securely.

3) For variety try apple and cherry wood planks and cook some fish on them … then try the fish from each and you’ll love the subtle difference in flavors!!

Cooking Tip: Working with Cream Cheese

March 19, 2010 Comments off

When working with Neufchatel or other cream cheese (like Philly…), be sure to work with the cheese at room temperature. Otherwise you’ll be working with a big thick mess!!! If you’re going to be using a blender, put the cheese into the mixing bowl, cut into smaller cubes and then let the cheese sit until it is at room temperature.

Trust me, this makes a world of difference in your recipes!!!

Cooking Tip: Tender Steaks

March 10, 2010 Comments off

One of the methods that I use to make sure my steaks are tender is to soak them in red wine overnight.  I first start off using a meat mallet or tenderizing tool (the one I have has a handle with 15-20 sharp nails on the end) and pound the meat up on both sides.

Next I take my steak seasonings (my own personal blend, thank you very much!) and season both sides of the steaks quite liberally.  Then I massage those seasonings into the meat.

The steaks then go into gallon-sized zip-lock bags and then I’ll pour in the wine.  Seal the bags and toss them into the refrigerator overnight.  Just be sure to turn the bags several times while the steaks are tenderizing/marinating.

Now the big question I get asked most of the time is ‘what type of wine to use’.  I always recommend a Syrah/Shiraz or a Merlot (both are red wines for those that don’t know).  It’s the tannins in the red wine that are going to get into that meat and really get it nice and tender.  I don’t go for the pricey red wines though; generally I’ll use a nice red from Yellow Tail (click on that link to visit their website).

Aside from helping to tenderize the steaks, the red wine also gets infused into the meat which makes for a fabulous flavor! When I’m getting ready to put those steaks on the grill, I’ll take them out beforehand so that they will be at room temperature.  Use tongs to take out the steaks and place on the grill; discard wine marinade.  Sprinkle on some of your favorite steak seasonings and grill to your desired done-ness!!

Trust me… once you’ve prepared your steaks this way, you won’t want it any other way!!

Grill on y’all!