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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

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Ribs Ruminations

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Today I made ribs in an attempt to fine tune some little issues and get my version of Steven Raichlen’s Kansas City ribs to where I felt comfortable with them. While I solved some problems I introduced some new variables into the mix. I thought I’d share some of my findings.

The Real Deal
The first thing I discovered was there is a big difference between using real lemon vs lemon juice in the marinade. I bought a lemon press which makes short work of extracting the juice from the lemon, You get all of the juice and none of the seeds. I never thought there would be much difference in flavor, but I was dead wrong. Now the marinade is primarily apple juice, but I noticed a difference just opening the lid of the containers I marinade the ribs in. There was a pronounced lemon smell which I never noticed using lemon juice. Would this translate into more flavor in the ribs? Surprisingly enough it did. The finished ribs had a distinct and pleasant lemon flavor. So from this point forward it is real lemons for me.


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Timing is Everything
Next was the timing. The first time I made St Louis ribs in my smoker I used the so called 3-2-1- method. Three hours on the smoker, two hours wrapped in foil and a final one hour on the grill. The last half hour a Kansas City style sauce is applied. This time proved to be too long. The ribs practically fell apart when I tried to pick them up. Ribs are not supposed to be fall off the bone tender, they should cut easily but have a little resistance to them, Another thing I accomplished with today’s run was the time for ST. Louis style ribs on my smoker is 2 hours 15 minute, 1 hour 15 minutes in foil, and 30 minutes out of foil to finish. These ribs had just the right consistency.

“Third
Looks Can be Deceiving
The thing that is a bit of a puzzle to me is the appearance of the meat on the bones. Many of the bones were exposed 3/4” (2 cm) instead of the 1/4” (0.66 cm) the books say indicated done. These ribs were definitely not over done, but their appearance seemed to indicate otherwise. The ribs looked fine going into the foil but when they came out of the foil the appeared to be way overdone. They tasted great so for now I’ll go with that until I figure out the reason this is happening . If anyone reading this has a clue, please leave me a comment.

“Fourth
Now We’re Cooking
The next thing I’ve nailed down is the woods I like to use. I’ve tried various combinations of Apple, Oak, Cherry, & Hickory I’ve decided that a blend of Hickory and Cherry compliment these ribs the best. I’m also happy to report that the Duraflame charcoal I wrote my last blog entry about performed superbly. Once again it lit faster, the grill came to temperature faster and the temps were very steady. Today’s cook occurred during some of the heaviest rains I’ve ever seen, but I was able to maintain my temps without too much trouble. There was less ash again at the end. So I’m comfortable with my grill, the charcoal and the wood chunks.

“Fifth
Happy Accidents
The new wrinkle I inadvertently introduced into the mix was what I did when I put the ribs in the foil. I was supposed to spray the ribs with some apple juice and seal them up in foil. Perhaps my brain was still waterlogged from the monsoons, but I screwed up big time. Before wrapping the ribs I coated them front and back with the KC BBQ sauce from HOW TO GRILL. I didn’t realize my mistake until midway through the foil time. Now conventional wisdom and the recipe had me applying the sauce during the last half hour. This is due to the high sugar content in the sauce which would burn if left on to long. When I realized my mistake, I figured I’d open the foiled ribs to find blackened skins and a burnt flavor. Instead the ribs were moist, not burned and the sauce had been absorbed into the ribs. I applied some more sauce and finished the ribs out of foil for the last 30 minutes. To cut to the chase, people told me these were my best ribs yet. They were moist, flavorful, with great smoke flavor and good consistency,

“Sixth
What to do?
Now here’s my dilemma: Is this repeatable or was this a fluke? Why didn’t the sauce burn in the foil? If I try it again am I asking for trouble? I suppose if you are going to have a problem, this is the kind to have: an accident that turned out better than expected. I’m going to be making a double batch of ribs for a cookout in a couple weeks and I’ll have to decide whether to repeat my “mistake” or play it safe. I’ll be doing two rounds of ribs, so I think I’ll try my “mistake” again. If it doesn’t work I’ll be able to do it the “normal” way for the second round. In any event I’ll probably report the findings here in a future entry.



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