How Can A Real Texan BBQ With Gas?!??
Hardly seems reasonable that a Texan is cooking with gas instead of charcoal or wood, does it? Well fear not. For grilling, the differences in taste are not significant. We're mostly searing the meat to lock in the juices and relying on the marinades and sauces to make the difference on flavor.
However, I will be the first one to admit that this is girlie man BBQ. Real Texas BBQ involves slowly cooking the meat for hours and letting the smoke from real wood add flavor. Forget pans of water with wood chips and all that BS. As far as I'm concerned, forget indirect cooking on a regular BBQ grill too. Real smoking demands the right equipment--a real smoker. Check out my brother-in-law's smoker, it's as good as good can be:
Now that's what I'm talking about!
Someday, I have got to get me one of those things!
Meanwhile, I have the next best thing: a custom Tejas Smoker:
It's a true, Texas-style, offset firebox smoker. The fire goes in the box on the right, and the smoke trickles through the round chamber and then on to the square smoking cabinet on the left and out the top. We almost always smoke with Mesquite wood, because it's easy to come by and we love the very smoky flavor it gives.
Below are some typical recipes we use with the smoker.
Jamaican Smoked Jerk Pork Tenderloin
The marinade is easy--combine all the ingredients in a blender. Slice each tenderloin in half and slice them lengthwise but don't go all the way through. We butterfly them to provide maximum exposure to the marinade and smoke.
Marinade the pork tenderloins in sealable plastic bags for 24-48 hours before smoking.
When you are ready to smoke, pull the tenderloins out of the bags, pat dry, and salt and pepper them well. Use a 2:1 ratio of black pepper to salt. No further flavor ingredients are needed since they've been marinaded. Reserve the marinade for basting, and also put some in a dish in your smoker to keep the air moist with the same flavors.
Get your smoker up to 250-275 degrees--that's the same as what I use for ribs. After rubbing the meat put it into the smoker for 2 hours. Check the color--it should be a golden mahogany.
During that time, make up the sauce as follows:
Add the scallions, onion, shallot, garlic cloves and ginger.
Saute in the vegetable oil. When translucent, add the spices.
Let it cook a little while longer to absorb the spice flavors. Then deglaze with the mix of vinegar, orange juice, and rum.
Add the remaining liquids, then the remaining solid ingredients.
Let it simmer down until it thickens. You can use a little corn starch if you need to get it to thicken more, but time simmering is better to reduce the sauce.
Getting back to our tenderloins, which have been on the smoker for 3 hours. Take a little of the sauce and the reserved marinade and combine 1/2 and 1/2. Thoroughly baste the pork loins in this mixture. A squeeze bottle is great for this.
Let smoke for another 15 minutes to 1/2 hour. Ideally, the basted on sauce should carmelize a bit.
When you decide it's time, mostly by look and touch, get out your foil. Throughougly sauce the outside of the pork tenderloins with the sauce (no marinade this time) and wrap them up inside the foil.
This will keep all the liquids inside and basically braises the tenderloins in the sauce mixture. Let them cook in the smoker this way another 2 hours.
When you decide they're about done, open one up and check for doneness. Keep them on until inner temps are about 140 F.
Serve with warmed sauce.
The Great Rib Smoke-Off
After being inspired by some ribs brought to a party I threw by my friend Frank Boyer, I decided I needed to do some serious rib research to up my game. I love to test recipes against each other, so the Great Rib Smoke-Off was born. I bought 6 beautiful racks of ribs, worked up 2 different rubs, and 3 different sauces to see what my guests at the dinner party and I would like best.
For my recipes, I did a fair bit of online research before settling on Aaron Franklin and Mike Mills as the BBQ Chefs I would start from. Franklin runs a BBQ joint in Austin, Texas, and had just written a BBQ cookbook that's been getting a lot of attention. Mike Mills is a legendary competitor at BBQ cook offs, and seemed like a great bet for more Kansas City-syle BBQ.
For the smoke-off, I tried Franklin's and Mills's BBQ rubs. Each was quite different--Franklin's was very minimal with few ingredients while Mills's had a giant ingredient list. The rub I normally use falls almost exactly in between in terms of complexity, so I decided not to try it at all. I'm glad I didn't as everyone felt that with no sauce, Franklin's simple rub came out the best. That's the rub I'll use going forward for most of my BBQ, at least the pork.
Franklin's BBQ Rub
This simple rub is all done by eyeballing it. Start with a 2:1 ratio of black pepper to salt--that's 2x back pepper and 1x salt. Franklin cautions against too much salt as he says it is really easy to over salt ribs.
Next, go through and add much smaller amounts of chili powder, paprika, granulated garlic powder, and granulated onion powder. For my 6 racks of ribs, I used 2 cups black pepper, 1 cup Kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon each of the other spices.
When it comes time to apply the rub, rub down the meat with copious olive oil to help the rub to stick. Then Franklin lights to put the rub in a shaker and shake it on so he can see there is an even coating on the meat.
Saucing it Up
Continuing on to the sauces, I made 3:
- My own Honey Chipotle BBQ sauce that I've made and guests have loved for years. I got the idea from a place in Santa Fe, New Mexico I don't even remember the name of.
- Aaron Franklin's Espresso BBQ Sauce. Al Roker claims this sauce was a real life changer for him!
- Mike Mills Apple City BBQ Sauce, which has lots of Apples.
We tried the sauces by themselves, and in that contest, Mike Mills Apple City BBQ Sauce took first place and 2nd was a tie between the other two sauces. Each sauce has a very distinct and different taste, but the Apple City BBQ sauce seemed more complex and importantly, it wasn't like anything the guests had tasted before.
Once on the ribs, things changed considerably though. 1st place tie when to my own Honey Chipotle Sauce and Franklin's Espresso BBQ Sauce. The complexity of the Apple City sauce was lost in the meat while the other two sauces just held up better.
Aaron Franklin's Espresso BBQ Sauce, Starbucks-Style
1 1/2 cups ketchup
Put everything but the coffee and brisket drippings together in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally. When satisfied, remove from the heat and stir in the coffee. Add brisket drippings to taste. Let cool, then transfer to container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Smoking Ribs, Franklin-Style
This was done a bit differently than the procedures I'd seen before, and it came out fabulously well. I used this technique for all the ribs. It really medls the sauce flavor to the ribs while protecting the sauce from burning.
You'll need to prepare a spray bottle to spritz the ribs with. I used 1/3 Apple Cider Vinegar and 2/3 Apple Juice in the sprayer. Also, preheat the sauce a bit and mix half sauce and half Apple Cider vinegar to keep it thin. Don't use all your sauce, just about 1 squeeze bottle of this mix was perfect for 6 racks of ribs.
Get your smoker up to 250-275 degrees--that's hotter than Mike Mills and a lot of others cook. After rubbing the meat put it into the smoker for 2 hours. Check the color--it should be a golden mahogany.
Spritz the ribs to get them wet. Then apply the sauce + vinegar mix. It's thin and should spread out over the ribs. to coat. Smoke 15 minutes, flip, sauce, and then go another 15 minutes in the smoker. Use a towel to handle the ribs so you don't tear the bark off with tongs.
When you decide it's done enough (mostly we're doing that sauce moreso than cooking the meat, get out your foil. Spritz the foil good, apply some sauce + vinegar mixture to the foil, then lay the rib rack on the foil. More sauce + vinegar on the up side, wrap it good, and put it back into the smoker.
It'll cook this way in the foil for another 2 hours. You should be able to tell doneness by how the ribs feel in the foil, how flexible the rack is. I found mine were perfect after those times, but open one up and use a toothpick to test.
When done, slice 'em next to the bone so all the meat is on one side and serve with more warmed sauce on the side.
Smoke Pork Tenderloin, Tuscan-Style
This recipe was originally intended for a Rotisserie, but I like using it when I'm smokinig Pork Tenderloins.
Ingredients (Per Tenderloin)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Combine the garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a mortar and pound it to a smooth paste, then work in the oil. If you prefer, you can also do this in a mini food chopper.
Using a sharp knife, cut the pork roast almost in half lengthwise. Open out the meat and cut a lengthwise pocket down the center of each side. Start and end about 1/2 inch from each end.
Spread half the herb paste over the surface and into the pockets of the meat. Bring the sides together and tie at 1-inch intervals with butcher's string so the meat resumes its original shape. Spread the remaining herb paste over the outside surface.
You can let the meat sit in this condition for up to 2-4 hours as a marinade, if desired.
Set up your smoker, with temps in the 240 degree range. Smoke until the internal temp of the pork is about 160F degrees. This should take 3 to 4 hours.
Transfer to a platter and let stand for 5-15 minutes. Then remove the string and cut the roast into thick slices.
I like to serve this pork loin with my Honey Chipotle BBQ Sauce on the side.
People are always surprised when I bring out the Smoked Tamales, but they love 'em. We have a nearby Tamale Factory that makes wonderful Tamales, so I almost always go get about two dozen whenever I plan to fire up the smoker. I put them in the smokebox far away from the fire and leave them in there to smoke.
Tamales are cooked by steaming, so the smoking process is very compatible. Leave them wrapped in their husks. Pull them out after a few hours and they're warm and have taken on a smokey flavor that everyone loves.
Smoked Alaskan-Style Salmon
Here's the brine recipe:
Put 1/2 quart of apple juice in a pot on the stove, bringing to low boil & then down to simmer.
Add to this:
After removing from brine, rinse each piece well, pat dry, and lay on paper towels.
Get out your smoker racks (you want to use a rack so the fish gets the smoke from all sides) and spray them with Pam so the fish won't stick too much. Put the dried salmon pieces onto the rack. Try to group them by thickness on the various racks. Keep the racks in your fridge overnight as the next day you will smoke them.
As you've probably guessed, you want to put the thinnest pieces the furthest from the heat and the thicker pieces the closest--that's why we divided them up. Use a meat probe in the center of your thickest pieces to monitor progress. Here's what you're shooting for on temps:
Keep smoker at 100* for about one hour.
Remove pieces as they go above 145* internal.
You should be done smoking after about 4 1/2 hours.
For even better results use the maple glaze below.
Maple Glaze for Salmon
1 cup pure maple syrup
All material © 2001-2006, Robert W. Warfield.