Every year about 30 of my family and friends go up to Michigan in the middle of July. The weather is amazing. Go to the pool or the beach during the day, wear a sweatshirt at night. The place is rustic. Not many frills, but it's a great time. Particularly if you like to eat food cooked on the grill. We rent five cabins each cabin has a grill. We line up the grills next to each other and about 5 of the 7 nights a few of us grill for all 30 people. Last summer we decided to have a rib off between my cousin, my dad and I:
Yeah, that's the three of us after many hours of grillin and a little too much chillin considering we posed for this pseudo Iron Chef type picture. Gotta love my Dad's farmer's tan!?! The rest of the riboff can be read by clicking the link below. It was quite the experience and well worth the read...
First off I have to mention a couple issues we had. My dad (Fool's Pappy) got an amazing "deal" on some baby backs. Well, they weren't baby backs. They were a little bigger than BB's and a little smaller than spares. Second. The membrane would not come off of these things. All three of us had issues. So we just scored them really well with a sharp knife to keep the membrane from making the ribs tough which worked quite well. And the biggest obstacle was the grills we were using. I mentioned this place was rustic. These grills are Uber Cheap Wal Mart Specials. They are not ideal for smoking at all. You'll see the pics in a minute and understand what I mean.
Now on to the Rib Off. So for the couple of months leading up to vacation we were talking about this Rib Off. All three of us were experimenting with different rubs, marinades, smoke woods, etc. My dad has some crazy Chipotle Rasberry Marinade he going to used. I used Mussleman's apple sauce and my cousin applied his mainly brown sugar rub the night before and wrapped in cling wrap. All viable beginnings to great rib endings.
But the night before my cousin is saying that he wants to skip the Rib Off and just grill the ribs and not have a competition. He's making excuses left and right and just wants to have fun. Dad and I aren't having any of that. Dad's got his marinade and I've got the apple sauce that I heard the guy who owns 17th street grill (and winner of the Memphis Rib Contest 3 different year) uses.
I also had my secret weapon. Someone told me about Penzey's spices the week before we headed out for vacation. I tell everyone that will listen that Penzey's are the best. They are far and away better than anything you can get at the grocery store. Part of the reason they are so good is they are much more powerful than anything from the grocery store and much less of the spices are needed. I did not know that little fact prior to using them for the first time during the Rib Off. More on that later.
My cousin and I used apple and my dad used cherry. All of the wood chunks were baseball size. My dad also soaked his cherry wood. My cousin and I did not. This is why I never soak my smoke wood. I really don;t use chips anymore and chunks just don't need to be soaked. Of the 5 grills we used one of them had the soaked cherry chunks. Guess which one:
Yeap, that would be Grill #4 with no smoke. And now do you understand what I mean about the grills being not well suited for smoking?
About 30 minutes into the process my cousin has to leave to go take care of something. I'd had a few at that point so I cannot remember what that was so Dad and I are cooking his as well as ours. So here I am, my cousin is AWOL, my dad has no smoke. I've got a perfect 235 degrees and billowing smoke rolling out of my grill. 30 minutes in and I think I've got it in the bag already.
But this is no short cook. There is plenty of time for the tables to turn. My dad settles in to pick up a few tips from the real master while we wait:
With no smoke for close to an hour from Dad's cherry we decide to throw all of his wood onto the grill (not in the fire) to essentially kiln dry it to get the moisture out so it will smoke when it is eventually added to the fire:
Of course Grillin Fools can't live by beer alone. We need to maintain our strength. During the process the rib tips were munched on as appetizers for us:
90 minutes in. Let's check the process. Dad finally has some smoke:
My cousin's ribs being attended to by us are doing just fine:
And here are my ribs:
About 2 hours in, my ribs are ready for the foil:
I placed them bone side down, slathered the top with syrup and for half of them added more rub to get a really nice bark. Then I sealed them up in the foil and back on the grill:
My cousin's are looking great:
And here are some of his foiled. Not sure why he didn't foil the one slab:
And my dad decides to add a little wine to his foil. I use the term "wine" loosely:
Someone told him the wine was really good. It was terrible. My dad really knows his wine, but he's dabbling in this boxed crap because every now and again someone rates one at 90 points. Not that one...That one was horrible.
BTW, remember me mentioning that we had to score the membrane on these ribs as the membrane just wouldn't come off? Here's what it looks like when cooked. Sorta looks like inverse cross hatched grill marks!?!?!
Here is my dad and cousin looking over dad's ribs:
Here are my dad's. Some sauced, some not:
Here I am tending to my Ribs. If you are a Cub fan look really close at my shirt:
Here are mine. The slabs on the right had more rub added for a really nice bark:
And here are the winning ribs:
That's right, my cousin who disappeared for about 3 hours won. He was there for 30 minutes to start and the final 30 minutes.
What went wrong?
Penzey's that's what went wrong
See, when someone like me who has used obviously very mediocre spices all his life gets a hold of Penzeys for the first time bad things can happen. Sorta like only driving a V6 all my life and then getting into an Enzo Ferrari and attempting to win a road rally without ever test driving the car. I did two rubs. And both were WAY too spicy for the crowd I was cooking for. I loved them. My Cousin's wife gave me the nod for best ribs as well as a few others who enjoy spicy food but for most of the people they were just too spicy. My idea of Chipotle spice is very different than that of Penzey's idea. I still say they are the best out there by far, I just wish I had a chance to test drive them first.
My Dad's were really good to me but he used that Chipotle Rasberry Marinade that happened to be very spicy as well. So, guess who wins? The guy who rubbed in brown sugar and slapped his ribs on the grill and I cooked them