Well now, it’s nice to be writing about a subject dear to my heart once again.
I was recently speaking to some friends about ‘low and slow’ barbecuing, or rather smoking to be exact, a subject they know a lot more about than I do. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but it’s quite an art, and I really do mean that, as everything involved needs factoring into the equation – equipment set-up, the wind strength, ambient temperature, types of fuel, cut of meat, even breed of meat apparently (according the Pitt Cue Co). It all needs careful balancing – and that takes dedication. There are basic parameters, but after that you’re on your own.
The other thing about low and slow barbecuing that I’ve come to realise though, is that it’s a genius way to sit around the back garden on a Sunday whilst looking busy. Ushering the kids away from the Weber and keeping the heat set ‘just so’ is a responsible job. No time to cut that hedge or nip down the garden centre for me, no way, I’m far too busy.
Whilst I’m here, I may as well finish that Pale Ale I was saving in the back of the fridge too. Hectic I tell you.
The other weekend I managed to spend such a day cooking these beef ribs I’d found at a butchers. Amazing cut of meat, yet ugly enough to discourage the supermarkets and keep the costs reasonable. I normally braise them, but smoke and beef are such happy bed-fellows I just had to give this a go.
These took a good 7 hours on the barbecue using indirect heat with some hickory wood chips thrown in at the start. I got a fancy new grill which flips up at either end, allowing you to add more charcoal as needed. A life saver. The cooking took a little longer than I expected to be fair, and needed pretty regular fresh charcoal interventions, but it was a pretty windy day for July, even by UK standards.
The ribs were brought out the fridge to come to room temperature whilst the coals were being lit and it was all systems go. I rubbed the beef with a fairly standard barbecue rub (well I think it is – hopefully any American readers will set me straight), of roughly equal quantities of salt, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, paprika with about twice the amount sugar and a good pinch of oregano.
Keeping the temperature at a steady 110ºC/230ºf there or thereabouts, as research dictated, I admit was tricky but achievable by fiddling with the air vents and the use of a thermometer. Once they reached an internal 65-70ºC/150-160ºF, they were done though, so that was my Holy Grail.
I tried to baste them with a little bbq sauce in between too, but not so much that I kept losing the heat. A tray of water was added for a little heat consistency – I’m not convinced that it keeps the meat from drying though as some suggested.
The result was a nice ‘bark’ (as I believe it’s called) with a strong but not overpowering smokiness from the hickory chips.
They would have been amazing on their own, but I tried some spiced, pureed butterbeans and rye toast – it was a great match. A nice contract in texture and flavour. The beans were simply blitzed with gently fried garlic, plenty of butter and loosened with a little full milk. I only wish I made more.