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

Grill Camp ‘07 - Day 4

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So far Grill Camp had been pretty much a by-the-numbers affair. For Day 4 the menu was Lamb Kebabs and a new rib recipe called Princess Ribs. While the end results were great, getting there was half the fun. But Grill Camp is all about learning new things and I certainly learned a few things this day.

I’d always wanted to try kebabs on my latest gas grill. It has an infrared rotisserie burner on the back wall and where it is a 6 burner grill I have a nice wide rotisserie skewer. I’d always thought it would be great to be able to make a kebab using the rotisserie. Using the rotisserie you wouldn’t have to stand at the grill and keep turning multiple hot skewers, That was the theory at least.

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The infrared rotisserie uses a separate burner to heat a metal element to red hot which heats the food by radiation

Speaking of theories: MASTERING THE GRILL had quite a bit of information about the good and bad points about making kebabs. One of the problems about kebabs is the various items can cook at different rates. Another one I was unaware of is you should leave about a 1/4” (0.66 cm) space between the various items so that they cook correctly. Mastering the Grill is all about covering both the art and the science of grilling. So I decided this cookbook would be the source for my first kebab recipe. I would apply their theories to one of their recipes. If the results were good, I would then apply these theories to kebab recipes from other books. The recipe chosen was call Steak and Potato Kebabs.

These great looking lamb steaks made the switch from beef steaks to lamb a no brainer

When I went to Whole Foods they had some great looking lamb steaks. Since lamb is the traditional kebab meat this was a no brainer. The other change I decided to make was to buy some red and green peppers and onions. I wanted to add some color and other flavors to my kebabs. One of the other ingredients that was be a new flavor for me was garlic flavored olive oil. The recipe has you pre cook the yellow potatoes in the microwave after tossing them with this oil. The last item I needed was some marinade seasoning. The recipe has you toss the now pre-cooked potatoes and the cubed lamb meat in some more garlic flavored oil and some steak seasoning. I grabbed some Montreal Steak seasoning for this.

The potatoes are tossed in garlic flavored live oil and partially cooked

I wanted to eat by 1:00 so I started my prep around 11:00. No problem cutting up the lamb. I was also smart enough to pre-cut the holes in the meat before marinading them made them soft and gooey. The potatoes were already the right size and the red and green peppers were no problem. That left the onions. I’d purchased large white onions. In retrospect I should have bought small onions the size of the yellow potatoes. I wasn’t quite sure what to to do with these large onions. The tendency was for them to fall apart. I finally decided to cut the onions into a top and bottom half, which I then quartered. Then I removed and discarded the inner half of these onion wedges. I then pre-cut the holes for the skewer. Once the pieces were all ready, I began cooking the potatoes. After that I tossed in the lamb steak, more garlic flavored oil and the Montreal Steak seasoning and was ready to start assembling the kebabs. The last to-do item was to make the simple baste for the meat and potatoes.

The lamb is added to the potatoes plus some more garlic flavored olive oil & some Montreal Steak seasoning. They are tossed to mix

By now when I was ready to put everything on the spit, it was already 1:00. The assembly had taken far longer than I expected. Now part of it was the pictures, which may have added 15 minutes total to the time. Beside using the pictures for this site, they are invaluable if a lot of time passes before I revisit a recipe. I keep some of the pictures on my iPhone and can show the butcher just what I am looking for etc. At this point I was running late but wasn’t worried. The last time I made kebabs I was in High School, but I seemed to recall them taking about 5 minutes per side x4. Now my rotisserie seems to take longer than most recipes say so I figured maybe a half hour tops. When I went out to fire up the infrared burner, I took the rotisserie rod and end skewers with me. I wanted to set them to match the width of the infrared burner, which is not the full width of the grill.

I was only able to get about one third of my ingredients on the spit

I went back in and started adding the food to the spit. This is when two problems surfaced. There was no way I would get all of the food on the spit. In fact it appeared like it would take 3 rounds to cook it all. Part of this was my own doing when I added the peppers and onion to the mix. Still even with just the steak and potatoes it would have taken 2 rounds. There was no worry here because I was not trying to feed a large group of people. The second issue is the prongs on the clamps were bigger than the food. The food would have to stay stuck on the spit by themselves. However this really didn’t matter: Where the food was separated by 1/4” (0.66 cm) each one is an independent entity and would have to support itself anyway. These were small enough pieces I hoped they wouldn’t tear loose and stop spinning with the spit. This is the whole reason I try things like this at Grill Camp, so that when I make it for real I have the kinks worked out. When the skewer was full I put it on the rotisserie and fired it up. This is when I ran into problem number 3: They were taking forever.

After an hour the kebabs were finally done

I went out after 20 minutes and looked at the kebabs. They looked like they had barely been heated. Whenever I’ve used this infrared rotisserie it has taken sometimes 33% longer than the recipe says. In this case it seemed to be running even longer. Perhaps these pieces, which were a couple inches smaller than a roast, were far enough away there was a heat falloff. I don’t know what was causing the slow cooking, but even after a half hour I wasn’t seeing much change. By 45 minutes we were getting somewhere and at the one hour mark they were done. At this point it was 2:00 and I was hungry. These kabobs didn’t disappoint and were worth the wait.

The kebabs were worth the wait. This cooking method is certainly not suited to mass production

While I was eating I was planning the next move. At one hour per spit, I would be making kebabs all afternoon. It was then that I truly appreciated the fact that my meal planning involved mixing the gas grill for one meal and the smoker for the other. If I tried doing two meals on the smoker and the first ran long, it would hurt the startup time for the other. The kebabs were just right after an hour. The meat was tender and flavorful and I liked the basting sauce used. The peppers and onions were soft with a bit of crunch left in them. So while the kebabs were a taste success, I’d also learned this was not the way to turn out a large number of kebabs quickly. But I’d rather find out this way during Grill Camp where it didn’t matter.

The rub for the ribs used large quantities of sugar, brown sugar and kosher salt.

After enjoying the kebabs, it was time to get started on the ribs. I got another round of kebabs going on the rotisserie, and this time I could just set a timer for one hour. I would look in on them from time to time just to be safe, but on no set schedule. The ribs were a new recipe from Rib, Ribs, Ribs called Princess Ribs and the BBQ sauce was called Seriously Sweet and Hot Sauce. This recipe was the next entry in the book after the Bad to the Bone Ribs I made a few weeks ago. The rub for the Princess Ribs was a 10 spice rub and had large amounts of sugar & brown sugar. I’m sure this explains the dark brown color these ribs achieved early in the cook. There was chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powder to balance off the sweet. These ribs were not rubbed and refrigerated. In fact they were barely rubbed. The recipe said to use a shaker (dredge) to sprinkle on the rub. It also said t gently pat it and that you should not rub it hard. Before doing this I removed the silverskin from the bone side of the ribs.

The St Louis style ribs have been sprinkled with the rub and are ready to smoke. Note the handles on the rib racks which make moving the rack extremely easy. Why’d it take so long for someone to think of this?

The ribs were to go on the rib for 3-4 hours and be then pulled off the smoker to be slathered with the BBQ sauce and wrapped in foil for another 1-2 hours. Based on prior experience with my smoker where ribs seem to finish up in less time, I decided 3 hours out of foil and 1 hour in would be the right time. Once I tossed on the ribs I would make the BBQ sauce. The sauce had brown sugar and ketchup for the sweet and jalapeno juice, cayenne pepper, mustard and chili powder for the hot. A little Tennessee whiskey was part of the mix too. The sauce was simmered on the stove for about 15 minutes and set aside to cool. After it cooled I split the sauce into two half sized portions. One half to be used to baste the ribs during the cook and one after. Food safety dictates you would not want to use the same sauce that you applied to the partially cooked meat on the finished ribs.

The ingredients for the sweet & hot sauce

The cook was uneventful. With the weather in the 70’s (24 C) and no wind, the CG was rock steady the whole time. In fact at one point I went out to check the temperature out at the grill as I suspected the remote thermometer may have lost the signal and was just displaying the last reading it received from the base station. But no all was well and it was working. Meanwhile I kept an eye on the kebabs and turned out spits numbers 2 and 3 while the ribs were cooking. As always midway through I turned the ribs 180 degrees to even out the temps. After 3 hours it was time to baste and foil the ribs. One of the things I like about Steven Raichlen’s rib racks is they have handles. A simple thing that no other rib rack I have seen has included. It makes taking the ribs on and off the smoker a breeze.


The ribs are ready to be basted. I’m guessing the high sugar content was responsible for the deep brown color

It takes about 15 minutes for me to slather the 4 racks with the BBQ sauce and wrap them in foil. It is important you get a good seal for this as the ribs steam in the foil during this time. I figured one hour would be perfect based on other rib cooks I have done. Nothing beats a little hands on practical experience when trying to figure out times. It had taken me a few cooks where my ribs finished up on the sooner side t get the total time right. If you need to foil your ribs, use the wide roll of aluminum foil for this. It makes it a lot easier to get a good seal with the extra width. You’ll have plenty of extra foil to make a nice pleated seam. Then it was back onto the smoker for a final hour. Then it would be time to eat.

The ribs are placed on a double layer of foil, they get basted with the BBQ sauce are sealed in foil and it’s back to the smoker for an hour

The ribs were pulled off the smoker and unwrapped and allowed to rest for 10 minutes. When you have ribs that were steamed in foil like this, watch out for steam burns when you open the foil. I usually wear a pair of Williams-Sonona rubber kitchen gloves that go midway up my forearm. I can pick up the foiled ribs without burning my hands and the height of the gloves helps prevent steam burns on your forearms. I chopped the racks into equal 4 bone sections and waited 10 minutes to serve them.

The ribs rest for 10 minutes before serving

These turned out to be the best ribs I have made in every sense of the word. The meat was cooked just right-tender but not fall-off-the-bone tender, The ribs themselves were meaty with a nice thick cap of meat over the bone. The sauce was wonderful. I slathered some reserved sauce on my ribs before eating them and found it was stealth spicy. Some foods you bite into them and right away you realize this is REALLY REALLY hot. Stealth spicy is when you are vaguely aware that the item was spicy when you bite into it, and then 5 minutes later your mouth is burning. Ribs have been my weakest link in the BBQ triumvirate of Ribs, Brisket and Pulled Pork. I still had quite a bit of work to do to make me happy. With these ribs you can color me happy. I really can’t think of anything that would make them much better. That is not to say I won’t keep trying to improve my ribs.

It’s a rib fest!!

After savoring these ribs and using the FoodSaver to store the leftovers, it was off to Whole Foods to grab some trout and some ground beef for tomorrows two courses: Stuffed hamburgers and stuffed smoked trout. After the great tuna on Tuesday, I was really looking forward to making another fish recipe from Smoke & Spice.

My best ribs yet!!


  LAMB KEBOBS Lamb Picture Entry

  PRINCESS RIBS Pork Picture Entry

  GRILL CAMP ’07- DAY 1 Blog Entry
  GRILL CAMP ’07- DAY 2 Blog Entry
  GRILL CAMP ’07- DAY 3 Blog Entry
  GRILL CAMP ’07- DAY 5 Blog Entry
  GRILL CAMP ’07- DAY 6 Blog Entry
  GRILL CAMP ’07- WEEKEND Blog Entry


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