Today’s recipe is a combination of two recent events in our house. First, I recently bought a remote grill thermometer, and I was itching to try it out. The thermometer has has two probes: one that goes in the meat and one to gauge the overall grill temperature. It’s an easy way to keep an eye on both the grill temp and your food without having to open the grill lid. Plus, it has a wireless receiver so I can keep an eye on the temperatures from afar, perfect for some wintertime grilling.
Second, we recently came across a beautiful French Rack of Pork at our local market, which is a shoulder pork loin still attached to the ribs; basically, it’s a rack of center cut pork chops. As luck would have it, the rack was on sale; my guess is that it intimidated customers and the store was having a hard time selling it. Either way, we couldn’t turn down the price, so I dragged the big hunk of meat home and the rest is history.
I decided to smoke the rack on my gas grill, which would allow me to give it a flavorful crust without overcooking the tender meat inside. Just to be safe, I brined the pork overnight to keep it from drying out, which was also a good call. The end result was crisp on the outside, and ridiculously juicy and flavorful on the inside.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Russ, it just turned October, and you’re already posting about Thanksgiving turkey!” While that’s true, there’s a simple explanation: if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with a wholesome, happy, and pastured turkey, you’re going to need to contact a local farmer and pre-order it soon. As in, right away. So this recipe serves as both a reminder to pre-order a turkey soon, and a guide on what to do with the bird when you get it. I’ve been smoking chickens and turkeys for a while, but I’ve been lousy at sharing my results. So this is my defnitive guide on how to get a great smoked turkey, using either a gas of charcoal grill. I love smoking turkeys because the flavor is awesome, but also because it frees up valuable oven space on what tends to be a hectic day.
The common turkey we eat today is a domesticated descendant of the wild turkeys originally found in North America. When Europeans first saw turkeys, they incorrectly thought they were a form of guineafowl, which was sometimes called “turkey fowl” because back in the day they were imported into Europe through Turkey. The name “turkey” stuck with this bird afterwards. Interestingly, many European countries (including France, Italy, Ukraine, Poland, and Russia) call the bird a derivative of “India” or “Indies” because of a similar confusion with guineafowl (which was also imported from India), or possibly because the New World was often thought to be part of Asia during the European Renaissance.
Greater Baltimore area residents: I’m speaking about food and nutrition at CrossFit Glen Burnie on Saturday, July 13th. More info is here.
Like most red-blooded American men, I have a special place in my heart for barbecue ribs. That’s probably pretty obvious, since I have no less than TEN ribs recipes on my site (my favorites are here and here) – that’s nearly 5% of all my recipes!
My taste in ribs has changed over the years, as well as my cooking method; originally I braised my ribs in apple juice and onions for a couple hours, then crisped them over a grill. While I still like ribs that way from time to time, I’ve come to better appreciate smoked ribs – those cooked over low temperatures for extended periods, gently nudged to perfection by wafting curls of smoking cinders.
The trouble is, despite all of my outdoor cooking adventures, I keep pushing off the idea of buying a charcoal grill or a smoker, the usual staples of tasty smoked ribs – my backyard patio only has so much real estate, and I don’t think Mrs. Domestic Man would appreciate more contraptions back there. So I’ve been diligently plugging away at making an easy, foolproof method for smoking ribs on a gas grill, and I’m ready to share the meats of my labor.
To demonstrate, I decided to use spare ribs, which is a cheaper cut of ribs, but they taste just fine to me when cooked properly. I also used a drip pan full of hard cider to flavor and moisten the ribs as they smoked (regular apple cider or water would do fine as well).
While spending a few days in Austin last month, I basically dove head-first into Texas barbecue: the pickles, the vinegar-based cole slaw, and man, the brisket! I loved how a dry, blackened crust over their barbecued meats isn’t a bad thing, and how sauce is added according to individual taste, after plating. Even better, the barbecued meats are sold by the quarter pound, so each person gets to choose how much they want to eat. If that’s not the most American way of eating ever, I don’t know what is! These are all concepts that are relatively uncommon in our neck of the woods here in Maryland, so I decided to try my hand at some Texas-style barbecued beef the other day.
When choosing a meat to try, I decided to go the easy route with some boneless short ribs: they are a great size, and fatty enough that I was sure I didn’t need to worry about them drying out while cooking. Turns out I made a great choice – the short ribs were perfectly moist and tasty, and a great change of pace from our typical method of cooking short ribs (braising).
US Wellness Meats recently asked me to make a recipe for their beef back ribs, and I was happy to oblige (note: don’t ever turn down ribs). Little did I know, I was in for a surprise: this package, which included four racks of ribs, weighed in at SIXTEEN POUNDS of beefy goodness. I immediately knew that I had to call in for backup to give these monsters the attention they deserved.
Enter my friend Jeremy from SeaDog BBQ. SeaDog BBQ is a locally-based Kansas City Barbeque Society competition team, and they’ve done pretty well here in Maryland against some very talented teams. Not only did he come up with an awesome sugar-free barbecue rub recipe to accompany these beef ribs, he brought over his own smoker! While his smoker is from a small, locally-produced source, he did mention that the Weber Smokey Mountain is one of the best introductory smokers that are commercially available. If you don’t own a smoker, never fear – I added tips on how to replicate this recipe using a grill.
Okay, enough with the background, on to the ribs! For this recipe we cooked two of the racks, totaling eight pounds. We opted for a dry, sauceless cooking method, typical of Memphis-style barbecue, with an hour’s braise in the middle to speed up the cooking process and to keep the ribs juicy and full of beefy flavor.
For Thanksgiving last year, I roasted/smoked our turkey. It turned out so crispy and delicious that lately I’ve been smoking our chickens using the same method. This recipe isn’t terribly different from that turkey post, but I wanted to make sure it had its own dedicated post so that visitors can quickly find it.
I did a little experimenting and found that the combination of lemon and dill – traditionally used in baked salmon – creates a tangy, fresh tasting bird. Because I smoked this chicken during our January Whole30 Challenge, I tried rubbing clarified butter all over the chicken instead of regular butter – I found it easy to work with (the butter quickly became solid again once in contact with the chicken skin), and it produced a golden protective outer “shell” around the chicken, leaving the meat inside perfectly succulent.