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
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
- 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.
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
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
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.
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
- 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.)
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
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."
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
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
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.
- 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.