Sunday, April 23, 2017

Product Review: Cave Tools Barbecue Chicken Wing Rack

Chicken wings! Next to ribs, it's one of my favorite snacks things to eat throughout the year. There's something primal and satisfying about holding a piece of cooked meat from its bone and tearing the flesh off. When the craving hits, I'll head over to the meat section at my local grocery store or buy wings at one of those chain restaurants. But for the best experience, nothing beats homemade chicken wings.

I've made chicken wings in all types of methods -- deep fried, oven baked, oven broiled, smoked, and grilled. There's a pro and con to every cooking method, and it really just depends on personal preference and what equipment is available. Personally, I love smoked wings because it's healthier than deep frying and plus I like the smoke flavor from the wood and/or charcoal.

I was intrigued by the Cave Tools Barbecue Wing and Leg Rack because I wanted to smoke chicken wings evenly and thoroughly. Typically when I would smoke/grill wings or drumsticks, I would simply place them directly on the grate -- but it would cook unevenly or be vulnerable to flare-ups when the drippings would fall down into the hot coals.

The unique feature of this rack is that it also includes a drip pan so that it can catch all the drippings during the cooking process. Since the drip pan is placed directly on top of the hot grate, I would suggest lining the inside with aluminum foil so that the drippings wouldn't evaporate so quickly. You could then put vegetables like chopped onions, bell peppers, or mushrooms. I'll definitely use foil on the next cooking session.

On this particular night using the chicken wing rack, I used some drumsticks that were on the small side so it took some trial and error to figure out the best way to hang the chicken upright without falling down. If you have bigger wings or drumsticks, then you could dangle using the bone -- as pictured on the box. After about 10 minutes, the wings/drumsticks turned out great. Cooked evenly throughout, golden brown on the outside yet still tender and juicy on the inside with a subtle smoky flavor.

If you're wondering what flavor wings -- lemon pepper. It is my all-time favorite flavor for chicken wings. Here is my simple recipe using one (or two) lemons:

- Grated lemon zest
- Lemon juice
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
- Marinade overnight

Cave Tools Barbecue Wing Rack & Drip Pan
The Dirty Smoke Rating (4/5 stars) - Highly recommended
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Cave Tools website (15% off with code WING15)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Recipe: How to Make Smoked Barbecue Beef Short Ribs

By Dru Chai

There is no shortage of options when it comes to selecting meat for a barbecue -- the grade, the cut, the source, the list goes on. I usually pay a visit to Costco or Restaurant Depot when I need to purchase meat in bulk to save on costs. For a more personal experience and wider selection of quality meats, I head over to The Butchery in Costa Mesa.

Needless to say, the Butchery is a carnivore's dream and a vegetarian's nightmare. They have just about every type of meat imaginable -- and they source most from quality, premier beef ranches such as Double R, 1855, and Snake River Farms. I had my eye on the dry aged steaks and the American Waygu ribeye, but it was the certified angus beef (CAB) bone-in short ribs that piqued my interest.

Typically, short ribs are cut in pieces so that it can be easily braised in a stew or grilled as "galbi" for Korean BBQ. This is sold at almost all grocery stores. I had never seen and uncut plate of short ribs, with three to five bones intact together. During my past visits to Texas, I was always in awe at the massive dinosaur sized short ribs at legendary spots like La Barbecue or Louis Mueller.

So I asked the butcher if they had an entire uncut plate of the short ribs, which I don't normally see at my local Costco or grocery store down the street. He disappeared in the back and came out with what I wanted! That is the best thing about going to a butchery -- you can ask for a specific cut (or uncut, in my case), and chances are that the butcher will oblige.

When I unwrapped the plate of ribs, I was in awe at the amount of marbling running through it. I honestly didn't think there would be this much fat. I decided to try to replicate the Texas style bone-in short ribs by applying a simple dry rub of pepper and kosher salt. I also used The Butchery house made smokehouse mesquite BBQ seasoning for an extra layer of flavor. I applied the rub liberally on each side, wrapped it up in foil, and let the ribs marinade overnight in the fridge.

The next morning, I loaded up my Weber Smokey Mountain smoker with chunks of hickory wood and stabilized the temperature at around 225 degrees F. I placed the plate of the ribs bone side down on the top rack, closed the lid, and went about my day as visions of juicy and succulent short rib danced in my head for the entire day.

Eight hours later, I checked the internal temperature at 195 degrees F and decided to take out the short ribs to rest and let the juices redistribute. Then the moment of truth -- I cut through one of the ribs and was in awe at what I saw, a beautiful cross-section of peppery bark, red smoke ring, pink smoked meat, and a massive layer of rendered fat running through the rib.

I took one bite and already put on my BBQ Certified Judging hat! The smoky flavor was subtle on the bark, but didn't quite seem to penetrate enough into the meat. It needed a pinch of sea salt to really bring out the beef flavor. The fat content for these particular set of short ribs was just too much. Everyone knows fat equals flavor, but only to a certain extent.

Smoked Barbecue Beef Short Ribs Recipe:

1. Buy a plate of uncut of short ribs from your local butcher (inspect, not too much fat)
2. Apply your favorite rub.
3. Marinate overnight in fridge.
4. Bring smoker temperature up to 225-250 degrees F.
5. Use wood that complements beef -- hickory, pecan, or oak.
6. Smoke ribs until internal temperature of 200 degrees F.
7. Take out ribs to rest and let juices redistribute.
8. Cut, eat, enjoy!