You’ve survived your epic summer and it’s time to celebrate. It’s the excuse you’ve been looking for to bring all your mountain bike friends together with your drinking buddies, your mom’s group together with your book club, and your work friends with your zany college roommates.Basically, what you want to do here is offer up some great food and some great music. Add booze and, voila, epic party at your place.
Labor Day is the unofficial end to summer and it wouldn’t be right if you didn’t send it off in style. So forget the Lloyd’s pre-packaged ribs when you put together the menu for your party.
You don’t need that mass-produced stuff when all it takes is an old school Weber grill, a bag of briquettes, some slices of hickory and rack of pork ribs to do it up like an all-star.
Here’s an easy guide, to pulling it smoked ribs like a pro.
Meat- If you’re willing to go all out, try one of our local boutique butchers such as Pono Farms on the Northside or Primal Cuts on Galveston. If you’re trying to keep your budget in check, both Safeway and Cash and Carry offer some good deals on bulk ribs. Whatever you do, don’t chase the cheapest deal on the shelf to save a few bucks. Having a quality rack is key.
The Grill- Traeger smokers and other similar products are great and take some of the guesswork out of smoking. But they’re not necessary, particularly for the casual chef. A good old charcoal barbeque works fine. If you don’t have one ask around, I’m sure you’ll find a friend willing to offer a loaner.
Coals- Don’t buy the self-starting or any other brand of cut rate charcoal. Go for Kingsford or one of the other top shelf brands. Also, don’t use lighter fluid to start the grill. Invest the $10 and get a charcoal starter that uses a few scraps of paper to light your grill.
Temperature- This is absolutely key. The mantra of award-winning barbeque maestros everywhere is “low and slow.” That means keep the heat low, below 230 F and be patient. A properly slow-cooked rack of ribs can take four hours or more. To make sure you get it right, get a digital thermometer, though a good old turkey thermometer will work in a pinch.
The Seasoning– Probably less important than you think, or at least over-emphasized by some cooks. There are plenty of pre-fab blends that will work fine. Or, if you have a deep spice rack, put your own together. Memphis smoke is a great blend. Beware using too much brown sugar or you may char your meat. Whatever you do make sure to pull off the thin layer of skin on the bottom of your ribs and allow them to sit and acclimate to room temp for at least 45 minutes before applying heat.
Smoke– Opinions vary about how much smoke to add and when, but you should definitely start your ribs off with a good dose when you first put them on. Add a second round of hickory, alder or cherry when you put on more coals.
Sit Back and Try to Relax– As previously mentioned this is a multi-hour process. No need to check the appearance of your ribs every five minutes. Check every 20 to 30, though, and adjust the heat accordingly. You know the ribs are done when the meat starts to pull back from the bone. At this point some grill masters like to hit them with a coat of barbeque sauce and flash them over medium to high heat. But that’s your call. Happy Grilling.
Infuse Your Booze!
Pick your poison:
• Juniper Berries
• Native plants
To infuse your booze:
• Acquire super sterile pint or quart-sized mason jars and ring lids
• Clean/scrub/rinse ingredients as much as possible
• Place your infusion ingredients in the bottom of the jar
• Pour your liquor over the top
• Screw on lid
• Store jars in a cool, dark place.
• Give jars a tilt/shake several times a day for at least one week
• When the booze tastes right to you, pour through coffee filter to strain ingredients
• Store as you would other liquor until you are ready to great creative with your cocktails