Judged the first Smoking in the Foothills contest this weekend. Another great weather weekend, and a good turn out. The entries were a mixture of some good and not so good samples. Pork being the best category overall, with a few good chicken and brisket entries. Ribs were the most disappointing. We'll be finishing up the year in a couple of weeks at Shelby.
Back to back contests this month. And what a difference in weather from one week to the next. It rained the whole weekend, surely didn't need the AC this weekend. But I did need my new rain boots. The Friday night get together was canceled due to the rain. We ended up going to a seafood restaurant with Smoke This. Managed to place 6th in chicken, 8th in pork, and another team first(we have never done the People's Choice), 1st in People's Choice.
.Another great contest hosted by Tilly's Harley Davidson and Gary Moss. The weather was just like summer, so we had a chance to try out our new air conditioner. Man, it worked great! Friday night get together, hosted by Pickin' Porkers, one of the biggest crowds we seen. Lots of great food and fellowship. A cake for Killer Bees. We managed a 7th in ribs.
This weekend there were a couple of firsts for the team. 1. Trip to Floyd VA 2. First time Brian has done a contest by himself. I had to stay home with the dog to tend to some medical stuff going on.
Have to give a big thanks to Dean Wertz and his wife Karen for helping out in my absence. Karen ran the boxes for the team.
Friday night was food and fellowship with several other teams. Sharing grilled NY strips, potato salad, green beans, corn on the cob, cucumber salad, chicken and shrimp gumbo.
The mountains in the meadows of Dan were beautiful, and the weather was perfect.
Our chicken and ribs have done pretty good so far this year, not sure what happened to them in VA. We did manage a 4th in brisket and 13th overall.
Judged the second annual contest in Asheboro. Judging location was moved to a bigger space this year. Had a few good entries. Everything ran smoothly.
We had sweet treats of cookies and cupcakes afterwards. But we were really looking forward to the Dippin Dots we had last year.
Did a little cooking at home today. We cooked a variety of items this go round. 145 lbs of butts, 20 lbs of brisket, 3 racks of ribs, 12 lbs of chicken, 2 gallons of beans and a gallon of slaw.
Judged at Tryon this year, which is the first time we have been there in about 10 years. It was a little warm this year. The entries were mixed, a few good entries and plenty of just average to above average. It was great seeing some folks we haven't seen in a while.
There are few things more amazing than a juicy, perfectly cooked rack of ribs. They’re not the tidiest of foods to eat, but millions of Americans get their faces and hands covered in sticky glaze in the name of delicious barbecue flavors each year. They’re easy to prepare and absolutely succulent.
Before grilling ribs, you have to choose the type of rib you want to grill. There are essentially three kinds, although two are very similar. The first are baby back ribs or loin ribs. They come from farther up the pig, high on the back. They are meatier than their spare rib cousins, with a stronger meat-to-bone ratio. The spare ribs are from farther down the pig, on the sides, and are much longer than baby back ribs. While they’ll equal more meat, that’s generally a by-product of the cut being altogether bigger, which means the bones are also bigger and thus the meat-to-bone ratio is worse. And finally, there are St. Louis-Style ribs. These are really just trimmed spare ribs. Basically, the flap at the end of the slab is removed, along with the sternum and the meat connected to it, to make the slab uniform from one end to the other. The uniformity makes this cut popular with competition grillers, as the ribs cook more evenly and look better in the turn-in box than traditional spares or the more curved baby back ribs. By no means should you discard what is trimmed. These are called rib tips and are delicious.
Whichever rib you choose is up to you. Baby backs cost more but can be tenderer, while spares tend to add up to more meat, but also more bone.
No matter what ribs you choose, you must remove the membrane from the bone side of the rib before you think about any cooking. The membrane is chewy and will ruin a slab of ribs if left in place. This is usually the hardest part of the process, but with a little practice it can be accomplished in a few seconds. First, you must get a good grip on the membrane. Some use the tine of a fork, a chopstick, or even the blade of a butter knife to get under the membrane and get a grip. But the real trick is paper towels. With paper towels in hand, grab the corner of the membrane near the bone, grip it, and rip it. Literally just pull the whole thing back. It should come off in one piece, but if it doesn’t, grab the strip that remained with the paper towels and pull that section off as well.
On rare occasions the membrane just won’t come off. This happens, usually, with older hogs. Simply score the bejesus out of the membrane with a sharp knife. It’s not ideal, but it will reduce the chewiness a lot.
Time to season and grill. First, always season the ribs on the bone side first. Why? If the meat side is seasoned first, then when the ribs are flipped over to season the bone side, the seasoning will stick to the cutting board and leave a naked stripe of unseasoned meat down the middle of the slab. If you coat the bone side first, then when the slab is flipped over, the natural concave of the bones will keep the meat elevated off the cutting board and there will be no need to re-season the ribs.
To season, simply coat with a nice layer of coarse salt and your favorite rub on the bone side, then flip the ribs over and repeat on the meat side. I prefer to leave the ribs on the cutting board for 10-15 minutes to allow the liquid in the meat to soak into the rub. If the ribs go on the grill when the rub is still dry on the outside, the rub won’t really meld with the meat. Instead, it will be more like a bitter outer layer.
Ribs need to be prepared using the two-zone (or indirect) grilling method. What this generally means is charcoal and smoke wood one side and the meat, in this case ribs, on the other. The meat cooks slow enough to break down all the connective tissue, but doesn’t burn. Another version of two-zone grilling on a charcoal grill is the flank method, as my father calls it. With this method you place coals on either side of the grill and the meat in the middle. On the very popular kamado-style grills, the fire is made in the bowl at the bottom and a plate setter is inserted above the fire but below the grill grate. The ribs are placed on the grill grate and the plate setter deflects the heat away from the meat, producing the same desired indirect effect: the ribs cook for a long time, but don’t burn. On a gas grill, light the burners on one side and place the ribs on the other with the lid closed to achieve perfect indirect cooking.
The target temperature of the inside of the grill is 300 degrees F across all indirect rib-cooking methods. That sounds high to some people – most people go with 200-225 degrees F for longer periods – but try my hotter recommendation. I have been grilling ribs at 300 degrees F for close to a decade now and I thoroughly recommend it.
When grilling ribs, there is a simple truth as to how to determine when they are done. When the meat pulls back from the end of the bone one-third to half an inch, the ribs are done. Now, these are not fall-off-the-bone ribs. The bite is clean, but the bone doesn’t come out with a simple tug. For baby back ribs, it takes about two hours, but remember to watch the meat and not the clock. Two hours is just a guide to know when to be checking for that “pull back.” For full spares it’s 2.5 to 2.75 hours or so. For St. Louis-style, it’s somewhere in between. This all depends on the heat of the grill, weight of the ribs, weather conditions, and various other factors. So always watch the bones and not the clock. The clock is more of a guide than a rule.
Now for you fall-off-the-bone lovers, try the Texas Crutch method. Smoke the ribs for 90 minutes (the timing doesn’t really change whether they are spares, baby backs, or St. Louis-style) and then place the ribs on a big sheet of foil and add some liquid before sealing them in the foil. The liquid could be honey, syrup, barbecue sauce, beer, wine, or even butter or margarine. Place the foiled ribs on the grill for an hour. Inside that foil, the ribs are going to steam in the liquid and their own juices, hyper-accelerating the breakdown of connective tissues. When the hour is up, there will be significant meat pull-back and the rib bones should pull out with just a little tug.
Now is the time to take the ribs to the next level and bust out the blowtorch. This will take your cookout guests from saying, “I had some pretty good ribs this weekend,” to “You’re not going to believe the ribs I had this weekend. One word: blowtorch.”
There may not be a better conversation-starter in the world than a blowtorch. You could sneak out to the grill full of ribs just about ready to eat, not say a word to anyone, crank up that concentrated flame and everyone within audio or visual range will be standing right next to you asking, “What’s up with the blow torch?” To which you will reply, “Just some tip I picked up online. Watch and learn.” Remove the ribs from the grill before torching them, and be careful handling that tool.
Once you’ve blasted your ribs into a state of pure perfection, you’re ready to slice and serve. Now’s the time to sit back and bask in the glory of the praise handed down by your guests. Try to be humble.
Judged the 15th annual Hog Happenin this weekend. New this year, teams set up away from the court house, judging was moved to the church and HH got a new logo. Seems like a pretty good layout.
Had a couple good entries, 1 chicken and 1 brisket which was good, and 1 bbq entry that actually tasted like real bbq. The bbq was probably a backyard team.
This is the 3rd year for Jiggy with the Piggy, and we have done well every year. The weather was perfect this year. Awards were held in the GEM theater, and it is a gem too. Built in the 30-40's, glad to see it has been preserved.
Managed to finish this year with a 2nd in chicken and a 7th in ribs.
Not sure where our dessert came in, we didn't get those results. Looking forward to next year.
Candy is a team member, certified judge, table captain and IT person for the team. She joined the team in 1999 and assists the head cook.