One of my favorite holidays is Independence Day. In addition to being an annual reminder of the values of democracy and liberty that our country was founded upon, it gathers people to celebrate our nation over fireworks and barbeque.
Though I’ve been wanting to buy a smoker ever since I tried my friend’s smoked tri-tip, I was not sure I wanted to make the $200 investment when I’d possibly be moving across the country next year for medical school. As a frugal alternative, I bought a Weber charcoal grill off Craigslist for $35 and decided to try my hand at smoking some baby back ribs during the fourth of July.
After watching a few instructional videos and reading a few articles on smoking meat with a kettle, I decided to prepare my grill in a standard two-zone set-up. I placed unlit charcoal in the chimney’s top compartment, stuffed the bottom compartment of the chimney with rolled newspaper, banked a pile of unlit charcoal on one side of the grill.
While I was waiting for the charcoal to light up, I seasoned the ribs liberally with a home-made dry rub and coated it with a southwestern mustard sauce. After about 20 minutes, I poured the lit charcoal over the unlit charcoal and placed apple hickory wood chunks on top. I then placed the top grate back on the kettle and placed a half-full water pan above the lit charcoal. This water pan helped keep the ribs moist as they cook.After the kettle heated up, I placed the ribs on the top rack on the side opposite of the charcoal. I then covered the grill and angled the top vent towards the meat so the steam could rise over it.
I smoked the ribs for three hours, checking their progress each hour.
During the last 5 minutes of cooking, I brushed a cocktail of barbeque sauce and apple cider vinegar over the ribs. It was essential to do this near the end, to avoid burning the sugar in the sauce.After three hours of hickory wood smoke, we were rewarded with ribs with a distinct smoke ring. The ribs paired well with the signature Costco Sweet Vegetable Kale salad kit and corn on the cob.
Smoking is a fantastic way to cook ribs. However, it requires a kettle, an indifference to smelling like a smokehouse, and a lot of patience. Overall, I consider this experiment a moderate success. While the ribs had great flavor, I found them slightly tougher than I’d like. In the future, I definitely want to invest in a thermometer to have better gauge of the temperature of the grill.
I want to challenge you to cook using a new modality and share with me your results. And if you decide to smoke some tri-tip, please invite me over.