BBQ 101 – Baby Back Ribs

Delicious, glazed BBRs!Once you have mastered the art of Smoking Bratwurst – it is time to up your game a little and try your hand at another BBQ staple: Baby Back Ribs!

A lot of people’s favorite food of the smoker, BBRs are not to be taken lightly. I like to make mine tender, but not fall-off-the-bone tender. A lot of (gruesome) chain restaurants have made people think that BBRs should be cooked (I believe they steam/braise them at most of those restaurants) so they can be eaten without teeth. I tend to disagree, and go more for the BBQ competition level of doneness, ie tender, but not doughy and fall-of-the-bone. Anyway, if you want fall-of-the-bone and/or do not have teeth, I will teach you how to do that too.

Serving suggestion:
I like to serve my BBRs straight up with a coleslaw on the side and some homemade pickles. For this occasion photographed, I made my regular creamy coleslaw recipe but substitued regular cabbage with the red one for some interesting color combos. Some people like extra sweet and smoky bbq sauce on the side!

Total time: 3-5 hours
Skill level: Intermediate
Grilling method: Indirect, one-zone
Grill temperature: About 110-120 degrees centigrade (230-250F), more for the finishing

You’re going to need:

  • As many racks of ribs as there are people, at least. Some people can muster 1.5 racks too
  • A rib rack can be a nice way to fit more BBRs on your grill, they do take up a lot of space
  • Some lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes (make sure you get good ones with no chemicals and food starch as a binder)
  • 1 cup of wood smoking chips (I like to use apple or cherry for baby back ribs, read more about smoke wood here.)
  • An instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen is useful too
  • Your favorite BBQ rub – this one works well for ribs too.
  • Your favorite BBQ sauce for glazing at the end if you want to. I like a sweet and smoky style sauce for ribs, not too spicy. Your favorite store bought or homemade one will do!

How you do it:

  • We are going to use the three step method for doing BBRs. That means step 1 is BBRs, coleslaw and pickles. Who needs more? Hai, beer!smoking the ribs, step 2 is foiling and steaming, step 3 is finishing/glazing. This method is sometimes referred to as the 3-2-1 methods, where the numbers refer to number of hours in each step. Anywho – the goal is not to achieve 3, 2 and 1, but to achieve rib perfection, so your mileage on those may vary, but as a guideline it is sound.
  • Prep the baby back ribs by removing the membrane from the bone side. It’s very easy to do, check out a video over here if you don’t know how.
  • Fire up your grill or smoker and try to stabilize the temperature in the desired range of 110-120C (230-250F). On my Webers I will use a water pan to help me out in the stabilizing, it adds both mass and moisture inside the grill. On my Primo Grill I don’t really need that, and I also like to put the meat in when the grill is warming up, so it can get the maximum amount of smoke time. Remember to get good smoke going before putting in the meat.
  • Smoke the meat for as long it takes for the racks to reach 80-90C (175-195F)in the meatiest parts. The longer you spend on this step, the more smokey flavors.
  • Once they are smoked, it is time for step 2, the foiling and steaming of the ribs. Put them in a stainless steel pan on top of a rack, or on top of some crumbled up foil so they don’t touch the bottom, add a cup of water or apple juice, and cover with two layers of foil so it’s fairly airtight. Place the pan back on the grill.
  • Now for steaming time, this can take anything from 45-120 minutes. The best way to find out if they are finished is to check every 15 minutes towards the end. Take the foil off, wiggle the bones, pole them a little bit. When they are close to done, the meat should loosen from the bone with not too much effort. If you want them chain restaurant style, toothless done, they should start coming apart if you try to lift from one end.
  • Whenever your preferred doneness is achieved, take the pan of the grill, and DSC_1781increase the grill temp to about 150-160C (300-320F). This is the best temperature for the third and last step – finishing the ribs.
  • The reason you don’t go above 160C/320F for the finishing, is that at about 175C/350F, sugar will burn. This means your BBQ sauce and possibly your rub will turn from sweet to nasty in no time.
  • So, once stabilized at the new higher temp, lay out the ribs again, and brush them with a layer of your favorite BBQ sauce on both sides. Leave them on the indirect side 10 minutes, add another layer and flip, and leave them for another 10 minutes. After this they should have a nice, glossy laquer to them, and they should be finished, so serve it up!
  • ENJOY!

Chipotle Beef BBQ Sauce

Chipotle BBQ Sauce for beef ribs!Came up with a new BBQ sauce today. The plan is to use it for beef short ribs, so that’s what I thought about when coming up with the flavour profile for it. It’s slightly sweet, very tangy, and as spicy as you want to make it. I ordered some delicious dried Chipotles from iHerb. They’re kinda hard to come by in Norway. If you can get them locally where you live, consider yourself lucky. Here’s what I did.

Time: 45 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

You’re going to need:
1 yellow onion
6 dried, whole chipotle peppers
4 whole fresh chillies (I use some medium to mild ones)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup A1 Steak Sauce
1/2 cup of ketchup
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp paprika powder (preferably the Spanish, spicy variety)
2 tbsp freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup of brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses

Cooking with chipotles!First thing you want to do is heat up some oil in a saucepan. Then add finely chopped onions, garlic, fresh chillies, and the chipotle peppers. Let them caramelize on low for about 15 minutes, then add the other dried spices and cook another 5 minutes.

Now you can add the A1, the vinegar, the ketchup, and the sugar. let it simmer until you get the desired thickness, and remember the sugar will make it thicker when it’s cold, so if you plan to primarily serve it cold, you should consider that.

Once it reaches it desired thickness, it is time to blend. The cool thing here is you can take out one or more whole chipotles, blend, taste and see how spicy it is. If it’s not hot enough for you, add inn chipotle(s) and blend again until it’s just right for you. How cool is that!?

My wife loves her new Dymo labeller...

Make your own craft beer mustard

Soaking mustards seeds in delicious beer!I am big into craft beer these days. I have a particular fondness for American style, hop-crazy IPAs and double IPAs. So I decided to try and make some mustard with an IPA twist to it. If you prefer, you can use other beers as well, I have tried some strong tasting stouts and had success with those too. Mustard is easy and fairly cheap to make, and since the whole process requires no cooking, tasting and adjusting while going along is easy! So why don’t you make your own mustard to go with those delicious smoked brats?



Time: 60 minutes work, 18-24 hours total incl. waiting
Skill Level: Easy

You’re going to need:

  • 200 grams of mustard seeds (a 50/50 mix of brown/yellow works fine)
  • A small bottle (12 fl oz/330ml) good beer, I like to use a hoppy IPA
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 1-2 teaspoons of chili flakes
  • 6 tablespoons of honey, maple syrup can also work well
  • 0.5 cup of good vinegar (I prefer white wine vinegar for this mustard)

How to do it:

  • The night before making the mustard, put all the mustard seeds and your beer into a DSC_1624bowl, mix well, and leave overnight. This will allow the seeds to soak up all the beer.
  • Once soaked overnight, put the mixture in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients, pulse until you’ve got the consistency you like. If the mustard is too dry for you, add some water if needed
  • Since this is a no cooking process, have a taste, and balance out with honey, vinegar, salt and chili to your tastes
  • If you put this stuff in sterilized jars, it will last you weeks/months. Your mileage may vary here.

Grilled duck breast with winter vegetables

Grilled duck breast with winter vegetablesDuck breast is my wife’s favorite dinner. I can only agree, it’s got that light gamy flavor, and the duck fat is widely known to be bacon’s only challenger in the world of fats. All the fat on a duck breast also makes it perfect for grilling – because fat takes up a lot of smoky flavors. This is a nice and quick weeknight or weekend dinner, nothing fancy – but man it tastes good!

Serving suggestion:
This time I served it straight up like this, just the duck and the vegetables, but adding a little red onion compote probably won’t get you a lot of complaints either – it goes perfect with duck meat. If you want a sauce a simple balsamic reduction works really well too.

Total time: 60 minutes
Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate
Grilling method/setup: 50/50
Grill temperature: About 170-200 degrees centigrade (340-400F)

You’re going to need:

  • Duck breast – one per person might be a bit too much, usually two filets is enough for 3 people
  • Some sweet potatoes and some parsnips
  • Lemon infused olive oil (or just mix up some lemon juice and olive oil)
  • Some lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes (make sure you get good ones with no chemicals and food starch as a binder)
  • 1 cup of wood smoking chips (I used cherry wood and it worked well. Pretty sure apple or hickory would work too, go read more about smoke wood here.)
  • An instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen, or a leave-in probe style thermometer

Perfect medium rare duck breast and crispy fat. Mmmm...How you do it:

  • Fire up your chimney starter full of briquettes or lumps of charcoal (this is basedon my 22.5″ Weber kettle, and your mileage and/or method may vary on other grills and smokers)
  • While the charcoal gets ready, score the fatty side of the duck breasts with a sharp knife. The goal is to increase the surface area of the fat to ensure crispy fat and ease rendering, so a fairly tight diamond/cube pattern is best. Make sure you don’t cut all the way through the fat and into the meat.
  • Peel and dice parsnips and sweet potatoes, and put them in a perforated grill pan (like this one for instance),on a griddle or even some foil. I highly recommend getting a perforated grill pan of sorts, it is a useful tool.
  • Once the charcoal is ready, fill up one half of the grill with the charcoal, and leave the other half to be the “cold/indirect” zone. Throw some cherry wood chips on the coals at once, because you want smoke going for real when you put the cold duck breasts on for the first time.
  • Here is a neat trick: Put the duck breasts on instantly when the coal is in place, on a cold grate. Starting the duck breasts carefully/slowly, renders a lot more of the fat off than going direct to high heat, and rendering is necessary for that crisp finish you want on the fat side. It also means fewer flame-ups later on. I usually leave them like this for 7-8 minutes, to let a bit of the fat melt off. If you put a drip pan underneath, you might even be able to catch some fat for use on the vegetables.
  • After rendering some fat off, put the duck on a plate off the grill while you grill vegetables, let it rest a while.
  • Using the vegetable grill pan, fry up the vegetables directly over the coalswith duck fat and/or olive oil, turning over often with a spatula so nothing gets burnt. Gloves are nice to have.Once the vegetable are nicely browned, move them to the indirect side and cook with lid on for 20-30 minutes, turning them over every 5-6 minutes to get even cooking. When they’re done I usually stash them in the kitchen oven on low to keep warm while I focus on the meat.
  • Winter vegetables waiting for the star of the showNow it’s time for the fun part, sear the duck breast properly on both sides over direct heat. Be aware, there will be flame-ups, especially when searing fat side down. Just move them around, burnt food is never tasty.
  • Once seared check the internal temp using a Thermapen or other instant read thermometer. I like my duck at 55C (131F) which is sort of medium rare. If you want medium go to 60C (140F). If the duck isn’t finished after searing, put it on the cold side, lid on, and let it have another short round before checking again.
  • Let the duck breasts rest for at least 7-@8 minutes before cutting them in thin slices and serving.
  • Enjoy!

Quick and easy summer food- Mussels on the grill!

Delicious fruits of the sea taste even better straight from the grill.

Delicious fruits of the sea taste even better straight from the grill.

Don’t have a lot of time, so thinking about skipping the appetizer? Don’t do that, just get yourself a net of fresh mussels and grill’em up. Here’s how:

This is so easy, and it’s perfect for those times when you’ve set up for direct cooking the main course. How about some mussel and tenderloin surf and turf? Or, you could serve the mussels as a starter with some homemade buns and chipotle mayo. Me and my wife made them for dinner, with a side salad with some fresh spinach and chickpeas. Delicious.

Total time: 10 minutes

Skill level: Beginner
Grilling method: Direct
Grill temperature: High!

You’re going to need:

  • Fresh, live mussels
  • Whatever you want on the side

How you do it:

  • Set up your grill for direct cooking, and wait until it’s all nice and evenly hot
  • Throw the mussels on the direct heat! No prep, no seasonings, no smoke chips. They make their own smoky, salty flavor, and to me it’s just perfect.
  • As the mussels open up, take them off the grill and put them in a bowl. The ones that don’t open up a lot, or at all, need to be discarded, or you could get sick
  • Enjoy!

BBQ 101 – Smoked Bratwurst

Smoked bratwurst is great "waiting food" if you've got some spare room and you're doing a long cook.

Smoked bratwurst is great “waiting food” if you’ve got some spare room and you’re doing a long cook.

So you’ve been grilling a little, and want to try your hand at low & slow style BBQ. This is the definitive place to start!

For a lot of people firing up the grill means hot dogs. Which is great. What is not so great, is that it all too often also means bland, cheap, mystery meat pre-boiled sausages with about 20+ ingredients in them. A good sausage should have three basic ingredients: Meat, fat, and spices (and a casing of course). No preservatives, potato flour or corn starch. No secret chemicals. And once you’ve tasted slow-smoked sausages that were uncooked when you started, you’re never going back to pre-boiled ones. Would you buy pre-boiled ribs? Pre-boiled pork butt? If you would, please step away from my blog. So, either make yourself some sausages, or head down to your local butcher or quality food store and get you some of the real stuff. They’re much more filling too, so instead of eating five, you might eat two. In this recipe I like to use raw bratwurst from my local sausagemaker / butcher shop here in Oslo, Strøm-Larsen. One of few places in Oslo that sell uncooked sausage.

Serving suggestion:
I serve these sausages with homemade hamburger buns, a creamy coleslaw,  some pickled gherkins, some homemade ketchup, some quality mustard and sometimes also a little red onion compote.

Total time: 90 minutes
Skill level: Beginner/Intermediate
Grilling method: Indirect, one-zone
Grill temperature: About 110-120 degrees centigrade (230-250F)

You’re going to need:

  • Quality uncooked bratwurst, chorizo or other uncooked sausages.
  • Some form of bun or bread
  • Condiments as mentioned above
  • Some lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes (make sure you get good ones with no chemicals and food starch as a binder)
  • 1 cup of wood smoking chips (I like to mix hickory and some apple or cherry for sausages, read more about smoke wood here.)
  • An instant-read thermometer like a Thermapen, or a leave-in probe style thermometer

How you do it:

  • Fire up your chimney starter with 20 briquettes or lumps of charcoal (this is based

    The setup for smoked brats. A great place to start when you're getting into BBQ style grilling.

    The setup for smoked brats. A great place to start when you’re getting into BBQ style grilling.

    on my 22.5″ Weber kettle, and your mileage and/or method may vary on other grills and smokers)

  • In the meantime, put a briquette basket on one side of the grill only, and a big water pan covering the whole middle part of the grill. Why water you say? The mass of water (I use a stainless steel pan from Ikea that holds about 4-5 liters or one US gallon) helps me maintain a steady temperature inside the kettle, because water stores (in this case) heat pretty well. It also helps the meat retain its moisture during the long cook by increasing the general moisture in the cooking environment.
  • When your briquettes are white hot, put them in the briquette basket you put on the one side of the grill.
  • Put two smokebombs (a handful of soaked wood chips wrapped in aluminium foil) on the briquettes. Putting them out towards the edge of the fire makes them last longer. Wait 5-10 minutes until they start smoking. Replace these as often as you please once they are smoked out. This is especially important the first 4 hours, after that the meat won’t really soak up the smoky flavours anymore.
  • Put the grate on, sausages away from the fire on the opposite side, put the lid on
  • Refill with wood chips when it stops smoking
  • The brats are ready to. Look at the fantastic coloration from the smoke. Oh man!

    The brats are ready to. Look at the fantastic coloration from the smoke. Oh man!

    After about 60-90 minutes sausages should be ready. If one of them bursts, you’re running too hot. Don’t do that. Use your thermapen to check the temperature, uncooked sausage HAS TO be cooked all the way through, ground meat is something you don’t serve rare. I usually take them off the grill when they’re at 85C/185F

  • Enjoy!

Quick tip: Build a two storey Weber kettle

Quick technique tip this time. I had a challenge couple weeks ago, was doing a bunch of low & slow stuff for my wife’s birthday. For about 40+ guests. Now, I only have one standard sized Weber kettle (and a Go-Anywhere, which isn’t really great for low & slow), so I figured I’d try and improvise. This is what I came up with, using the heightener ring from the rotisserie kit, an extra grate I always keep handy, some steel string, and an upside down beer can chicken holder.

20130531_140039This worked great, the rig helg up for the 12+ hours I needed for the cook, so all is well. The moral of the story is: Keep some stuff floating around your yard/house/apartment. It could come in handy someday. Also; keep extra rolls of tinfoil. Everywhere.
2013-05-31 20.10.56

Quick tip: Gloves for grilling and BBQ

With grilling and BBQ as with any other hobby, there’s tons of cheap and expensive, necessary and unnecessary stuff you can buy. Should you buy all of it? Probably not. I’m not exactly a cheapskate myself, but I hate wasting money on unnecessary stuff. I’ve tried a bunch of gloves for both the cooking part of grilling and BBQ, and for the finishing part (handling warm/hot meat like when pulling pork, chicken, or carving a roasts. So I figured in the interest of sharing, it’d be nice to do a post on gloves. Because you’re going to need gloves, that’s for sure.

Part 1 – Gloves for handling coals and utensils over a hot hot grill

Builder's gloves are perfect for handling hot grates and coals when you're grilling!

Builder’s gloves are perfect for handling hot grates and coals when you’re grilling!

I like to handle the coals manually when possible. I don’t pick up white hot coals and juggle them around, but it’s nice to be able to use gloves when adding just a few lumps to the grill, when moving freshly added coals around on the grill grate, and when moving grates and stuff around. I’ve tried some different setups for this. I tried the Weber long mitts. They great, but they are expensive, and they’re mitts. Gloves are much better for dexterity (that’s why we have five fingers, not a lobster claw. Just ask evolution). So I tried silicone gloves. They’re also expensive, hard to clean, so no go. I’ve come to a conclusion after testing different stuff. Leather builder’s gloves are awesome for this. Even here in one of the most expensive countries in the world, they’re about $5 at the local hardware store, ByggMax. They last about a year with my 2-3 times a week grilling, and the leather protects you quite well from heat. Good enough as long as you don’t plan on lifting white hot grates (use tongs for that) or juggling white hot coals around. When they get dirty, just keep them on and “wash your hands” in dishwashing liquid. Or buy another pair. Cheap, simple, and bulletproof!

Part 2 – Gloves for handling hot food items, like when pulling pork or carving a roast

Gloves for pulling pork and handling other hot foods!

Gloves for pulling pork and handling other hot foods!

The first few times I pulled pork, I used just the normal, thin, vinyl kitchen gloves I use when handling chiles (don’t ask), fish or raw meat. The gloves held up nicely, but after pulling two pork shoulders my fingertips we’re quite red and sore from the burns. Not a lot of fun. So I came up with a fix. Went to the gardening store, bought some gardening gloves, fabric, with a rubberized layer inside the hands, and put those under the vinyl gloves for insulation. It works like a charm. Pulling pork is much faster now, and my hands don’t get burned either. Gardening gloves can be reused again and again since they never touch any food directly, and are cheap to replace when you have to.

Quick tip: Beginners – how do I fire up my grill?

It's awesome, and it lets you talk about convection, which is always good.

a chimney starter is awesome, and it lets you talk about convection, which is always a good thing.

Every spring/early summer, my neighborhood, and all others around Norway and many other countries, fill up with the digusting smell of grill lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is horrible stuff. Here in Norway it’s actually very very similar to kerosene. It’s seriously something you don’t want coming near your food in any shape or form. So do everyone, most of all yourself and your family, a favor and go invest in a chimney starter. I’ve used the Weber one for years, it’s still holding up fine. It’s an ingenious device, that lets you fire up a bunch of lump charcoal or even briquettes in no time, using only some crumpled up newspaper with vegetable oil for a starter. It also saves tons of time, especially briquettes take a LONG time to get ready if you’re doing it down on the grill grate.

So in conclusion, a chimney starter is cheaper to run, more envorinmentally friendly, better for your health, quicker, much more awesome to look at, and it makes women lust for you. Only time I don’t use one is when I go camping, because it’s kind of big to carry into forests.

So, I’ll wait here, while you run off and buy yourself a chimney starter. There you go.

Just keep a ziplok style bag with newspaper and a few spoons of food oil in your BBQ stash.

Just keep a ziplok style bag with newspaper and a few spoons of food oil in your BBQ stash.

Now, this is easy. I usually soak a few crumpled up balls of newspaper or kitchen towel in some cheap vegetable oil or cooking oil (see, no poison!), as you can see on the picture to the left. Put them newspaper on the top grate of your grill or some other fireproof surface (never stone, concrete or cement surface, these can “explode” and crack because of the heat, see the picture below…), set your firestarter on top and fill it up with briquettes or lump charcoal.

After a couple more minutes, you're ready to grill!

After a couple more minutes, you’re ready to grill!

Sneak a match in there and fire up the newspaper. Because of the chimney shape things will happen quickly, so always keep an eye on the starter. Once the flames lick over the top of the chimney, you are ready to go. Put on your favorite BBQ gloves and pour them carefully onto the grill grate of your grill. Now get to cooking!

Here’s a shot of what happened when a guy put his starter on a concrete sidewalk. The concrete actually exploded, bits of white hot concrete flying everywhere. Fortunately nobody got hurt. So don’t do that.

Don't put your starter on cement, concrete or stone surfaces. They could explode, like this unfortunate chap found out!

Don’t put your starter on cement, concrete or stone surfaces. They could explode, like this unfortunate chap found out!

Quick tip: Roll’em Up!

Another quick tip for you. It’s hard to fit more than 4 baby back rib racks on a standard sized Weber kettle if they’re laying flat. Sure – a rib rack helps, but not a lot. This idea is cheaper, and it works well. Roll up the racks, use a wooden skewer to hold them in place, make sure there’s room for air (smoke..) between the meat, so don’t roll them too tight. The only downside I can see to this is that it makes glazing harder, but I managed to roll mine back out again for the glazing part. rolling ribs