Sunday, November 15, 2009

Duane's Dual Grill Smoked Ribs

Cooking ribs is certainly an art form. Sure, if you are lucky enough like someone I know who owns a $14,000 Southern Pride, slow smoking ribs over hickory or mesquite for 8 hours is easy. And, they are great. Kristen and I were fortunate enough during a spring break SCUBA trip to Balmorhea State Park to stay at the Laird Ranch - a small B&B on the edge of dessert and town. Yes, I said SCUBA, and yes, it is just at the Northern tip of Big Bend National Park. Here the water bubbles from the earth into a large pond (read: pool) that contains fish and 30 feet of the clearest water in the world. This was Will's first official open water dive and it was perfect.

But, back to the ribs. There is very little in the way of food or for that fact anything in Balmorhea. Only one restaurant and a small gas station with a few packages of sandwich meat. The Laird's must have liked us, because although we were only able to stay with them one night, they offered to cook dinner for us the next. They sent two slabs of baby back ribs along with wine, potato salad, and cold slaw for us to enjoy at the park. Unbelievable people that not only shared their kindness and generosity but also awesome ribs. As a distributor for Southern Pride I'm sure he wanted to sell me one. If you haven't seen one of these beauties before, they are a backyard chef's dream. Measuring about 6 feet x 8 feet x 4 feet they aren't small. They have a rotisserie along with heat generated from an attached propane burner. The key though is the smoke box: where propane jets slowly burn whatever wood you desire to flavor your meat. In general, they allow you to "set it and forget it."

Creating slow smoked ribs in the backyard is more of a problem. Home smokers are challenged usually be the lack of consistency of temperature that's necessary for great meat. In addition, the caramelized sugar on the exterior of of ribs is hard to get with a home smoker. My brother in law Duane Sparkman, a CPA in Stephenville, Texas, is a phenomenal backyard chef. Having finally talked me into a Hasty Bake Grill a year ago, I am eternally grateful for him leading me down the rationalization path of spending $700 on a charcoal grill. But this has been probably the most used item in our yard ever since. Our poor Weber grill has spider webs and and a full tank of propane.

Duane's ribs allow for something similar to those Laird Ranch Southern Pride gems but are capable of being produced in three hours or so. These delicious ribs are due to the fact they are cooked in two parts: first, grilled on the Hasty Bake over charcoal, then smoked in an electric smoker for several hours. This two part approach has become my favorite way to cook spare ribs.

I've attached some photos to demonstrate the technique, but basically season your ribs with whatever rub you like (here I used William's BBQ seasoning, one of my favorites. Duane likes to use Don's Cajun Seasoning from a small company near Lafayette, Louisiana). Place them on the Hasty Bake over an open charcoal fire for about an hour. Then place them in an electric smoker set to around 200 degrees (we both use the Bradley Smoker) for about two hours . The result: great ribs that look and taste like you were at a BBQ cook off (well, we'll dream.). Let me know what you think.

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