It's time to dust off the grill, break out the charcoal and fill that propane tank.
In other words: It's barbecue season.
There's nothing like fire-grilled meat, friends and family, and a couple of beers to kick off the backyard party.
Believe it or not, I take my grilling seriously. I have modified several grills through the years to achieve my desired cooking style. I've taken gas grills and made them half-gas, half-charcoal. It was easy to control the heat this way, but I still didn't care for the flavor. So several years ago I bought myself a Char Griller Pro with a side chamber smoker - best investment I've made for backyard barbecuing. Now, I stock up on various types of wood (apple, maple, oak, cherry and hickory) to enhance my finished product.
Anyone can fire up the grill, burn a few burgers and dogs and everything is done in 15 minutes, but when it comes to ribs, pork butt roast or beef brisket, you need to maintain a constant 250 F for many hours. The low temperature lets the fat break down. You also need to use rubs or marinades for the best flavor possible. I've even injected apple juice into the pork butts.
The day before I plan on cooking ribs, I rinse them off (you can peel off the back membrane if you want), pat them down with a generous amount of dry rub, then wrap them in cellophane and refrigerate overnight.
Basic barbecue rub
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons course black pepper
1 tablespoons red or cayenne pepper
1/4 cup paprika
In a large bowl, mix the above ingredients until well blended. Coat the ribs on the front and back with a generous amount of rub. Wrap the ribs in plastic wrap and store overnight in the fridge.
Leftover rub can be stored in a sealed container.
I like my barbecue sauce Carolina style, or vinegary, so here is my recipe:
2 18-ounce bottles of Giant Eagle Hickory or Honey BBQ sauce
3/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoons hot sauce
A couple dashes of liquid smoke
Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well blended. There is no need to cook this, just store it in the fridge until needed.
Lighting the grill
I start off with a small amount of charcoal in the bottom of my main grill. Once the charcoal is at its optimal glow I put the ribs on the highest rack with the curved side up.
In my side chamber, I start with a charcoal fire and add wood as needed to keep the temperature up to 250 degrees F.
Make sure you keep the lid closed because every time you peek you lose 15 minutes of cooking time. I cook each side for 1 hour. I only peek if I need to let heat out or if I have a fire.
Should your ribs get charred, spray the char with vinegar and it will break it up.
After cooking for two hours I raise my heat to 400 F and start dunking the slabs in barbecue sauce. I char them on both sides and continue to dunk and char until I have a nice thick coating of sauce. Take them to the table, cut them up, re-sauce and enjoy.
If you like your ribs to fall of the bone, after two hours cooking, wrap them in foil with vinegar or apple juice. Return to heat for at least a half-hour more, then sauce them.
I'm making baby back ribs, which take less time, and I don't have to peel the membranes off.