BBQ Recipes

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BBQ Recipes

I've started to collect barbecue recipes because I found I like cooking on a gas grill. I like the food that comes off, I like the reliability and predictability of gas vs. charcoal, and I like the easy start-up and clean-up. (When only cooking for two, I find the overhead of charcoal is just not worth the payoff.)

Veggies

Several kinds of veggies are easy and work great on the grill. They can cook in about the same time as a steak, so things are ready at the same time.

  • Green, red, or yellow peppers: slice along the curved seams to get (usually 4) big flat slices per pepper.
  • Zucchini: cut off ends, slice in half or even thirds.
  • Petit Pan Squash: tastes like zucchini, but shaped like UFOs. Slice across the middle.
  • Onions: especially red onions. Slice these like for hamburgers (keep the rings intact) and not too thick - you want them turning transparent (and some parts brown) when they come off the grill.
  • Asparagus: cut off the tough part of the stem.

Having cut these, I then do the same thing to all of them: brush lightly or spray with olive oil, put them in a grill basket (see below), and throw them on the grill. No other prep necessary. (Well, a spritz of balsamic vinegar, especially for the onions, isn't a bad thing.) They even keep well in the 'fridge and are good cold for lunch the next day sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

I'm not a mushroom guy, but I hear some kinds grill just fine. I can't eat eggplant: I agree with an ex-vegetarian friend who considers it "the vegetable of betrayal." It's supposed to be so great but it's horrible. I think it's something about the mouth-feel of the meat and the skin that I just can't stand, while others are fine with it. Then again, some people can't abide green peppers, while I can't get enough of them.

Get a grill basket with a removable handle so you can put sliced veggies in the basket and turn them easily while still closing the cooker's lid. You'll have no luck with the onions otherwise, and a basket lets you do a "batch" without a lot of fiddly turning of each slice. Another benefit of the removable handle is that the basket fits in the dishwasher. I found such a basket at Amazon for $20. Get the one they list as Ultimate Grilling Basket sold by a seller called ShoppersChoice. The same item listed at Amazon itself as "Charcoal Companion Ultimate Grill Basket with Rectangular Head" has been "currently not available" all summer and into the fall of 2006. I didn't want a "fish basket" (usually too thin and too small) or a "tumbler basket" (usually too deep to hold things that you want to flip, not tumble).

Steaks (most kinds)

Fuggetaboutit. I was all worried about cooking steaks, but there's nothing much to it, and practice makes perfect. Dry the meat with a paper towel - or not. Sprinkle salt and fresh-ground pepper on the meat. (I said "sprinkle," not "coat.") Pat it in. Brush the meat with olive oil. (This helps transfer heat, adds flavor and moisture, and makes it non-stick.) Preheat the grill to "hot" (500+ degrees). Cook, flip, cook. Eat. Repeat. Thin steaks take almost no time. Thick ones take practice to get it done inside without being burned outside. But even the bad ones will be good. I haven't done a filet on the grill, just New York steaks, rib-eyes, and T-bones. Some have been too rare inside and had to go back on; some have been kind of black on the outside. All have been delicious.

Flank Steak

Unfortunately, this cut became more expensive when they started to call it "London Broil." Marinate in "Soy Vey Veri Veri Teryaki Sauce" all day. Preheat the grill to "hot" (500+ degrees), put the steak on for 7+ minutes, turn and give 7+ minutes more, and you're (probably) done. There is a thick side and a thin side; make sure the thick side is not too rare for your diners. If your grill has a "hot" zone, put the thick part there. The cooking will caramelize some of the sauce, which I love. The critical thing about this steak is to serve it sliced, and to slice it across the grain and on a bias. The grain runs in the long direction of the steak you bought, so when slicing you need to cut across the short way. "On a bias" means "at an angle," with the knife standing at about 45 degrees to the cutting board instead of being vertical. This gives big slices with short meat fibers, and that's what you need because the meat is too tough otherwise.

I found a "marinade for London Broil" at cooks.com, but I've never tried one. One site said just to soak the steak in red wine. The marinade at cooks.com uses oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Heinz 57 Sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, parsley, lemon pepper, and herbs (basil, thyme, oregano & chives).

BBQ Pork Ribs "Asian Style" (dry and chewy)

Get a slab of pork spareribs. Remove the membrane (see below). Do not trim anything. Cut the ribs apart. Marinate them for 3-4 hours or overnight in a gallon-size Baggie with sauce. One good store-bought sauce for this is Soy Vey Asian Marinade. (Generally, American BBQ sauces aren't designed as marinades.) My own sauce is similar but I like it better. It was inspired by a 1961 recipe from the New York Times and modified by me:

  • About 4 oz soy sauce
  • About 4 oz honey
  • A couple-three tablespoons of "chili sauce" (the ketchupy stuff that's spicy)
  • A teaspoon or more of hoisin sauce
  • A half teaspoon or more of crushed garlic (ok to get it from a jar)
  • Maybe a few drops of really hot hot sauce. (But not Tabasco, which in my opinion makes everything taste like Tabasco.)

In a little tasting I did with four sauces, this was the winner for me. It might get even better with less soy (less salty), less honey (so it's less sweet), and some ginger paste added.

After they've been in the marinade a while, I cook the ribs in my gas grill set as low as I can. The thermometer at the top reads 250 degrees but what does it know? I put them in there for about four hours, brushing a few times during cooking with the marinade.

This results in a dry, chewy rib. If you want moist and tender, keep looking.

Removing the membrane: slabs of ribs have a membrane along the bottom (non-meaty) side which is tough and inedible. Google for "ribs" and "membrane" for guidance on how to remove it. The "grip with a paper towel" technique works surprisingly well. Removing the main membrane makes your ribs more tender and easier to eat. Removing the secondary membrane will actually let the meat fall away from the bones.

The "Wet Finish": after four hours, put the ribs in a foil pan and pour the remaining marinade in the bottom - anything liquid, preferably with some acid (like cider vinegar or apple juice). Ideally, find a way to raise the ribs out of the liquid - use flatware to make a rack or something. Put another foil pan on top and seal the rim with more foil. (How tight a seal is necessary? Not very.) Put this in the BBQ (still very low temp) for another hour. You are making a steam bath: the ribs will finish in a high-humidity and slightly acidic environment, and a magical change happens that makes them much more tender. If you don't have two foil pans that fit, just wrap the ribs in foil and pour liquid in the bottom and seal the top.

Womack's oven ribs

My favorite beef ribs are at Womack's Texas Style Barbecue, 4041 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, CA. 530-544-2268, closed Mondays. You should call before making a special trip in the spring or fall to be sure you don't accidentally catch the two multi-week vacations per year that Mr. Womack takes. What you get there are beef ribs so tender you can leave your teeth at home. Go. Have the sweet potato pie. You can thank me later. Young Mr. Womack (the owner's son?) told me how he does ribs at home. I can't remember any more if this was for pork ribs, beef ribs, or either one, but here goes:

Get a roasting pan, something tall and oval-shaped with a lid. Not a Dutch oven - it doesn't need to be made of heavy iron. Get a rack that fits in the bottom of the pan. Put water (or beer, or apple juice) in the bottom of the pan, below the level of the rack. Season the ribs with a dry rub and put them on top of the rack - elevated so they're not in the liquid, and turned sideways so they are not "meat down" or "bone down." (If the roasting pan is tall enough I guess they can be standing with the ribs running up and down. Otherwise cut the slab apart so it'll fit.) Cover and cook this combination at 300 degrees for three hours or more until the ribs are tender. (Other recipes I've seen indicate 300 degrees is too hot...)

I haven't tried this. I don't know whether it works better with the lid on tight or loose, with an adjustable vent open or closed, or how much liquid (and fat) should be left in the pan at the end. I don't know whether/how the ribs brown; maybe you finish them on a hot grill. Don't know what rub to use, either. Most rubs have salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar as a base.

Boiling for tenderness

Another way to make tender ribs is to boil them for an hour, then sauce and finish them on the grill. The first time I tried this, I burned the ribs to a char while trying to caramelize the sauce. In the places that I didn't turn into carbon dust, this technique worked fine. I think they were actually better the next day, so maybe lower and slower on the grill after boiling will "dry them out" more before serving. I don't like my ribs to be dripping when I bite into them. Some BBQ purists think pre-boiling is cheating.

Boiling is also called "braising," especially if you put something other than just water in the pot, and most especially if there is an acid component: it triggers a reaction that turns collagen into gelatin, which is what gives pot roast its characteristic falling-apart tenderness, creamy mouth-feel, and shiny appearance. Some (including Alton Brown on the Food Network) as distinguish braising from boiling in that there is much less liquid, not nearly enough to cover the meat. Others don't draw that distinction.

Baby Backs With a Rub 

In August 2007 I tried doing baby backs for the first time. I tried three new things at once, which is not really a good way to experiment, but so it goes. I did baby backs, I used a rub, and I put pans of liquid (water and hard apple cider) in the cooker along with the ribs to attempt a braise.

The rub recipe I used is from bbq.about.com: 4 t paprika; 2 t each salt, onion powder, and fresh ground black pepper; and 1 t ground cayenne pepper. Key feature: rub it on the ribs and let them sit for a while, until the rub looks damp. This integrates the rub with the meat surface better. The dampness occurs because the salt has pulled moisture out of the meat to the surface.

Notes on this cooking: Removed the membrane. Applied the rub almost as a crust. The rub sticks to my fingers, so sometimes "pressing it in" actually removed seasoning from the meat - watch for that. Cut the slab of ribs in half and put them on an angled rack on one side of the cooker. Turned on the other side at the lowest setting. Under the cooking surface I have two aluminum pans with 12oz each of hard cider. The one over the heat boiled dry; have to add much more liquid. The inside did get hot and steamy as intended. Hopefully the trays and liquid blocked enough direct heat so this counts as indirect. I stuck a probe into the cooker to gauge the surface temperature. It was a little low - 200 rather than 235. I can set the temp higher next time.

The result: it was OK but not great. The rub had a little too much paprika. This is a no-sugar rub so you don't get a glaze on the ribs, but I generally don't want that. In the future I should definitely use wood chips for smoke, and plenty of them. Somehow the meat's texture wasn't quite right: too wet, too tender, not "tight" enough. Maybe next time.

America's Test Kitchen Kansas City Style Spareribs

Kansas City Style is saucy, sweet, tangy, and sticky. The TV show "America's Test Kitchen" gave this technique: start with spareribs, trim the brisket off, remove the membrane. Rub with a rub (See below.) Put the ribs in the (charcoal) cooker and tent them lightly with foil. Add wood chips. Let them go for an hour, flip, then a second hour also lightly tented. Then add more coals and new wood chips, flip back to bones-down, give them a third hour. Then slather with sauce (below), wrap tightly in foil, and give them a fourth hour on the heat. Use 1C soaked wood chips at the start, and another 1C plus more charcoal after the second hour. Finally, leave them wrapped off the heat for half an hour. (For the gas grill: I assume the charcoal gives about 220-250 degrees.)

Rub: 3T paprika, 2T lt brown sugar; 1T salt, 1T black pepper, 1/4t cayenne pepper. Enough for two trimmed slabs. Rub into both sides.

Sauce: They found you can use Bull's Eye. But to make your own: 1 onion minced, sautéed in 2T oil. Soften onion. Add: 4C chicken broth. 1/2C molases (regular unsulphured). 1C dark corn syrup. 1C cider vinegar. 2T brown mustard. (tang without being acrid). 1/2C ketchup, 1/2C tomato paste. 1T hot sauce (Tabasco?).  1/2 t garlic powder. 1C root beer (secret ingredient!). Bring to a bubble, lower the heat, cook 1h until reduced and thick.

Watch out for the brown mustard. I added it to a "BBQ beef in a Crock-Pot" recipe and it kind of took over.

Alton Brown's Baby Backs

On the Food Network web site you'll find Alton Brown's recipe for oven-cooked baby backs. This is a braise-in-the-oven technique. Alton describes braising as different from techniques which completely submerge the meat, but not everybody makes that distinction - consider braised lamb shanks or many Crock-Pot recipes which completely submerge.

Tricks:

  • Use an oven thermometer to be sure you've got 225 degrees, because a hotter oven will dry out ribs despite the braise
  • To test for doneness, open one end of a rack and lift by the end bone. Then take the third or fourth bone and try to tug and twist it. If it moves in its socket, you are in good shape: collagen is becoming gelatin. (Some people wait until the meat is falling from the bone entirely.) If you overdo the braising time, the ribs will be mushy instead of chewy.
  • The big step is to reduce the braising liquid to a glaze. Alton says be careful: near the end of this process, it's a short distance from syrupy to burned.
  • Dedicated bone-chewers might broil the concave side of the ribs as well.
  • The recipe doesn't mention a membrane. Do you have to remove the membrane on baby backs?

The Food Network recipe describes a particular rub, but I used another rub and it worked just great. The braise-to-glaze reduction is the most important part, not the rub: it gets the rendered gelatin and meat juices back on the ribs for a super-flavorful sauce.

Here are the key elements in case Food Network takes the recipe down. This is for two slabs of baby backs. Dry rub: 8:3:1 (tablespoons) ratio light brown sugar, kosher salt, chili powder. Then half a teaspoon each of pepper, cayenne, jalapeno seasoning, Old Bay, thyme, and onion powder. For the braising liquid: 1 C white wine, 2 T white wine vinegar (or any kind), 2 T Worcestershire, 1 t honey, 2 cloves garlic (smashed). Mix the rub and rub it in. Wrap the ribs in foil and rest them in the fridge for an hour or more. Warm the liquid mix, then pour it into each foil wrapper. Cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours at 225 degrees. Reduce the remaining liquid to a syrup and paint it on both sides, then broil briefly to brown (not blacken!) the sugar. Cut the ribs into pairs and toss in the syrup to coat.

See also: Bob Mutchler's Skillet Baby Backs. Very similar but done in an electric skillet with a lid instead of using an oven and foil. Completely different braise/sauce though, and no rub.

 


This page was last edited May 17, 2010.