In addition to baking, I sometimes get requests to make BBQ. It’s funny, a coworker of mine is from Texas and swears that what I make isn’t real BBQ because I don’t use a wood fire to cook my meats. I think what’s important is the end result and that people enjoy it. Besides, what do Texans know? They don’t believe in putting beans in Chili. Hehehe. The Chili discussion will be saved for another day.
So, what do I use for making BBQ? Well, I have a Traeger Pro 575, pellet grill. The pellet grill uses wood pellets to create the heat, used to cook with. A hopper and an auger are pretty decent at maintaining a pretty steady heat. Before my Traeger, I had a gas powered smoker which did an outstanding job at smoking meats. Anyway, if you have a smoker (gas, pellet, wood, or other) that can maintain a pretty constant temperature of around 230 degrees Fahrenheit, then you should be good.
This weekend being Labor Day Weekend, I received a request to make a brisket and ribs. The challenge was the cook time between a brisket and ribs. Brisket, done correctly, needs about 12 – 13 hours at around 200 – 230 degrees to break down the meat and make it nice and tender. Ribs on the other hand, need between 4 – 5 hours to make the meat almost fall off the bone. Doing different meats requires a little bit of pre-planning.
I have been playing around with a rub recipe for a few months, and think I have a decent rub that works for both beef and pork. The difference is the amount of brown sugar that I use. For beef, I use less sugar, and for pork, I use more sugar. Otherwise, the mix of spices produces a slightly spicy flavor with a touch of heat. The following recipe covers 1 medium sized brisket, or 1 rack of ribs.
Brown Sugar (1/3 Cup for Beef, ½ Cup for Pork Ribs)
2 Teaspoons of Sea Salt (See Note)
1 ½ Teaspoons of Dry Minced Garlic (See Note)
1 ½ Teaspoons of Dry Minced Onion (See Note)
2 Teaspoons of Black Peppercorns (See Note)
2 Teaspoons of Paprika
1 ½ Teaspoons of Chipotle Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon of Mustard
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
In a Coffee/Spice grinder grind together the Sea Salt, Minced Garlic, Minced Onion, and Peppercorns. Once sufficiently ground, add in a bowl, the brown sugar and all of the other ingredients. Use a fork to mix the ingredients, breaking up large chunks of sugar. In the end, the mixture should look like a course meal.
For the Brisket, I like to dry rub the brisket about 3 – 4 hours before smoking. Beef does a pretty good job of absorbing the spices. Do Not trim the Fat off of the Brisket. The fat is a pretty important part of the cooking process, so do not trim it. Place the brisket on a foil lined pan, with the fat side up. Lightly rub the fat side. The fat will not let the spices penetrate to the meat but seasoning this side will help make a flavorful crust. Once the fat side is seasoned, turn the brisket over and use the rest of the mixture to cover the exposed side of the brisket. Once you are satisfied with the seasoning, wrap in foil and refrigerate for 3 – 4 hours (second picture is after refrigeration).
When the Brisket has set for long enough, preheat your smoker to around 230 degrees. Once the smoker has reached temperature, place the Brisket fat side down. Now, there’s a lot of debate about which direction to place the fat side (or cap). I do it facing down because I think it creates a more flavorful crust.
Depending on the type of smoker you have, you may want to put a small pan or bowl of liquid in the smoker with the meat. Some smokers have a built-in water pan. The Traeger does not have a place to put water. I use Apple Juice, which not only keeps the humidity inside the grill up, but also adds a little flavor. Water will serve the same purpose. Additionally, I keep a spray bottle of apple juice handy. Every hour or so, I spray down the meat to keep it moist. This also works to keep the meat from drying out and adds a little to the flavor.
Basically, you let the Brisket smoke for 12 – 13 hours. This is a long time for something to go wrong. Use the spraying the meat with apple juice as a prompt to check things like fuel, wood, and temperature. You really want to keep the temperature fairly constant. I know that for gas smokers, the temperature varied with the daytime temperature because the gas bottle would heat and cool varying the pressure. So, keep an eye on things. Also be aware that for a 5pm supper time, you will need to start smoking between 4 – 5am.
For Pork Ribs, I like to dry rub the ribs just before smoking. With a higher amount of sugar, the rub tends to liquify and run off the ribs. So, rub and smoke. There is a membrane on the underside of the ribs, you can remove it if you like, but I never remove it. I actually like the texture of the membrane on a fully cooked rib.
Like the Brisket use a foil lined pan. Lightly rub the bottom side of the ribs. There isn’t a lot of meat on the underside, but you want to make sure you season the exposed meat. Flip the ribs and heavily rub the top side of the ribs. Once the ribs are adequately seasoned, they are ready for smoking.
I smoke a rack of pork ribs for about 3 – 4 hours at around 230 degrees. I found that the closer you get to 4 hours, the more tender the meat will be, and the more likely the meat will pull away from the bone. While the ribs are in the smoker, I spray the ribs with apple juice every 30 – 45 minutes. Just like the brisket, it keeps the ribs moist and allows you to check on the status of your smoker.
If you like to sauce your ribs, I recommend saucing your ribs with 20 minutes left in the smoke time. The 20 minutes will allow the sauce to cook into the ribs, and not come out too goopy.
I cut my ribs with the bone side up. This allows you to see the rib bones and position your knife between the bones. I use a 10 Inch Butcher Knife. The length and heft make quick work of the ribs.
For cutting the brisket, I use the same knife (10 Inch Butcher). I cut my brisket perpendicular to the grain of the meat. I you don’t understand what it meant by the grain, picture a box of straws. The length of the straw is essentially the grain, and the top of the box of straws is perpendicular to the grain. So, you essentially want to cut off the top of the straws, which will produce slices that aren’t quite a stringy. I cut my brisket in ½ slices.
In both cases, you will see a layer of red around the outer edge of the meat. This is called a smoke ring. When done right, you should have a noticeable smoke ring in both your ribs and brisket.
I hope you enjoyed my BBQ Tutorial for Brisket and Pork Ribs. I will be sure to do other types of meats in the future.