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!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Product Review: Silverton Foods Apple Rum BBQ Sauce

By Dru Chai

Although most of the country is still dealing with Mother Nature's cold weather spells of rain, snow (even hail in Southern California!), it's never too early to start thinking about the start of BBQ season. Officially, it's always been Memorial Day weekend -- but who's keeping track anyway?

I've been whipping up new recipes, trying new products, and figuring out which BBQ competitions to judge. Recently I had a chance to try a few BBQ sauces from Silverton Foods. With unique flavors like Cherry Habanero, Apple Rum, and Orange Vodka -- I wanted to dig right in and figure out which meat to pair these sauces with.

Out of the three flavors, the Apple Rum sauce was my favorite because of the balanced combination of sweet, tangy, and juuuuust the right amount of spice. Because the sauce is more on the sweet side, it is the perfect complement with meats like chicken and pork. It would be great on a grilled chicken sandwich, a dipping sauce for chicken tenders or nuggets, wings, pork chop, and of course on spare or baby back ribs.

The same line of thinking can be applied with the other sauces too. They all lean on the sweet side, so I don't see any of the sauces as a good pairing with beef -- unless it's a lean beef cut that doesn't have that much fat and could use more flavor from a sauce. Think beef tenderloin. Pairing fruits with alcohol isn't a novel idea, but proper execution is essential. Silverton Foods does it well.

Dirty Smoke rating: 4/5 stars
Apple Rum sauce: Highly recommended
Check out the Silverton Foods website

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Eating Out: Famous Dave's BBQ Restaurant

By Dru Chai

I used to love eating out at "BBQ" restaurants. I write BBQ in parentheses because this was over 10 years ago, when I wasn't very knowledgeable about food and I thought Tony Roma's fall-off-the-bone and Chili's baby-back-baby-back ribs were the best thing ever. Over time I began to educate myself on food, cooking, and of course, BBQ.

BBQ chain restaurants serves its purpose, feeding the masses who don't necessarily care about the quality and tenderness of the meat. If a BBQ restaurant doesn't have a smoker in their kitchen, in my book that's not real and legit BBQ, which is cooking meat with nothing more than wood and smoke. The same thing applies to grilling. If a restaurant isn't grilling their steak over an open grill, then they might as well use a boring, conventional oven.

Several weeks ago, I had lunch at Famous Dave's, one of the largest BBQ chain restaurants in the country. Now, I'm not some big-shot food critic or self-absorbed food Instagrammer with thousands of lemming followers (and no, they're not bloggers no matter what they say). There are instances where a restaurant will invite me to one of their media events, but generally I like to keep a low profile, pay for my own food, and dine without any special treatment.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed my meal. I say surprisingly because it was my first time trying Famous Dave's and had really low expectations. Like, mushy-tasteless-nasty BBQ expectations. The thinly sliced brisket had some nice flavor, although it tasted more "roast-beefy" than brisket. The pork spare ribs were good and had a good amount of meat on the bones. They were not overcooked, and the bit of smokiness was a nice complement to the sweetness of the BBQ sauce.

Dirty Smoke rating: 3.5/5 stars

Famous Dave's BBQ
13122 Jamboree Rd
Irvine, CA 92602

Friday, January 27, 2017

Update: Should I Use Mustard Before Dry Rub?

By Dru Chai

Original post from July 22, 2011.

The other day, I was thinking about something. Why do some people slather a coat of mustard on their meats before applying the dry rub? Is it simply a method of improving the way the dry rub sticks to the meat, or does the mustard itself impart some type of flavor? Why not use something else, like olive oil, hot sauce, BBQ sauce, or heck, how about some maple syrup?

I did some research online, reading forums and articles, and the opinions are widely varied. Some are firm believers of the mustard coat, because it improves the hardening of the bark after such a long period of smoking the meat. The general consensus is that most people use mustard so that the rub adheres to the meat (which I've never had a problem with before). Mostly everyone said that you can't even taste the mustard when the meat is done.

Well there's only one way to settle things, and it's to see for myself. Many people I've seen on television only use mustard for pork butt/shoulder and spare/baby back ribs. Since all I have is a brisket, I decided to use that as my guinea pig (or cow, har har). I just took some plain organic yellow mustard that I had in the fridge and slathered it all over on both sides.

Then, I used a slight variation of my Dirty Smoke dry rub:

- Grounded black pepper (heavy)
- Seasoned salt
- Granulated garlic
- Paprika
- Cayenne pepper (very little)
- Cumin (very little)
- White granulated sugar
- Brown sugar

I put the dry rub on the top of the mustard-covered brisket, and honestly couldn't tell much of a difference if there was no mustard. The seasonings stuck onto the meat just fine. I wrapped it up in foil and it's in the fridge for now, waiting to be smoked.

UPDATE - January 27, 2017.

So after countless sessions of smoking ribs, pulled pork, and brisket over the past five years since starting this blog -- what's the verdict? The mustard mostly serves its purpose of making it easier for the rub to stick to the meat. That's it. In regards to flavor, if mustard is used on brisket or pulled pork where it requires a long smoke time, then the mustard will burn off and any mustard flavor will have dissipated. However, when used on chicken, which cooks relatively quickly, you will still see and taste some of the mustard -- depending on the heaviness of your rub and sauce.

What about creating a better bark? I've tried smoking meats with canola oil, mustard, or just the rub itself and the best thing you can do to create a better bark is to make sure that you completely dry the meat by damping with paper towels and leaving the meat to come up to room temperature before smoking. There are also various other factors that affect the bark, like the moisture inside your smoker, or type of wood used too.

So there you have it. The question of whether you should use mustard before applying dry rub has been answered. It really all depends on what you like and your preferences. That's the fun of BBQ -- there really is no "wrong" or right away, and you can experiment by trying new recipes and cook methods. What works for one person may not work for you, and vice versa. What has been your experience? Tell me in the comment section below.