Smoking Again (and recipe for BBQ Rub)
I’ve started again. My wife makes me do it outside and when I come in she complains that I reek of it. I can’t help myself, really. I give it up every year, usually around November, but I start in again about May. I’m not particular about what I smoke. Sometimes it is the cheap stuff other times I splurge on something really special to smoke. Part of the attraction, I think, has to do with the ritual. There’s quite a bit of paraphernalia that goes along with it.
I suppose I smoke because I grew up around it - my stepfather was a smoker. I remember sitting with him on the front patio watching him smoke and longing for the day when I was old enough to smoke just like him. I’m sure my boys will be smokers too and I’m already teaching them the basics. If all goes as planned, they should be smoking by the time they are twelve.
Before you call Child Protective Services, I should probably let you know that I’m talking about smoking food. A perfect warm-weather Saturday for me is spending up to ten hours smoking a brisket or pork shoulder at about 225 degrees, using a combination of lump hardwood charcoal and water-soaked hickory and mesquite woods chips.
The home front is not the only place where my obsession emerges. When I spot a BBQ restaurant I open the car windows, no matter what the temperature is outside, and administer the smoke test. If I can’t smell smoke, I drive on. I know lots of places have these high-dollar indoor smoking systems that don’t emit any outdoor olfactory smoke signals, but call me old fashioned - I want to smell the stuff from three blocks away.
I’ve also been known to get sidetracked when visiting another neighborhood either paying a social call or running an errand. If my smoke-hound nose picks up on a scent, I’ll cruise the neighborhood until I find the origin.
There is a lot to smoking - keeping the temperature low, refreshing the fire, adding wood chips, mopping whatever it is your smoking, and lots, lots more. It can be an all-day affair with large items like brisket, pork shoulders, and whole turkeys. Smaller items like ribs, fish, and chicken cook much more quickly. Last weekend I smoked several chicken breasts and they were ready in about an hour.
Another important component is the seasonings put on the meat prior to smoking. I prefer what is called a dry rub. Over the years I’ve experimented with several variations and I’ve finally settled on one that works great with brisket, chicken, and especially pork - ribs and shoulders. This stuff is magic - like pixie dust for pork. I’ve also used this rub indoors when roasting meats and it works very well.
If you’re not a smoker all ready, I urge you to give it a try. If you don’t know how to get started, drop me a note or give me a call and I’ll be happy to help. In the mean time, whether you are smoking or not, you may want to try my soon-to-be-famous All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub.
Soon-to-be-Famous All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub
1/4 cup brown sugar*
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
3 tablespoons smoked black pepper**
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix all this together and rub it into ribs, pork shoulder, or whatever else you are putting on the grill. After applying the rub, let the meat cure for at least an hour. Overnight is even better.
*Lately I’ve been making this with sugar substitute. Usually the baking version of Splenda. It changes the flavor profile a little bit because the Splenda is more like white than brown sugar but using it makes this carb free.
**Note, the smoked black pepper is not a necessity. Regular pepper will do, but the smoked stuff really adds a layer of flavor. It is available online from Marshalls Creek Spices.
Published in quality newspapers during the week of May 17, 2010