So fire. Fire, the thing that makes us distinctly human. The control of it anyway. Their is not a one of us who doesn’t get lost in the campfire flames. Whose mind doesn’t start wandering within the dance of the embers? It is no wonder fire has been a part of the human race, as long as there has been a human race. It is no wonder that not long after we figured out the fire thing, we also figured out how to cook over the fire thing.
Meat… I’m guessing probably the first thing we as humans figured out how to cook over the fire thing and also to this day one of the best things we figured out how to cook over the fire thing. We cook a lot of meat around here. Probably about half of it over the fire. I love my electric stove and I love my cast iron skillets but there is a certain magic that one can create with an open flame and a good piece of meat. A magic that one only experiences after you have done it or experienced it. How and why is that possible. Well, it just is. A little background…
I learned to cook over an open flame as a Boy Scout long before I learned to cook in a kitchen. Probably why I still gravitate towards a cast iron skillet. 20 years hence I still prefer the open flame for certain types of cooking. Meat, certain cuts of meat especially.
Let’s talk about a few ways to cook over an open flame and how I generally do it. There are enumerable ways to cook with flame from the south american double fire method, both above and below, to the greek offset method to the southern American smoker. Personally, I tend to stick with two different methods in general. Offset smoking and direct heat, both of which I do over hardwood, no charcoal no lighter fluid. Let me give you a little explanation. My house happens to be situated in a hickory and oak grove. I use fallen limbs for fuel. They are a waste product. The limbs that fall get burnt as fuel for cooking delicious meals, if that isn’t sustainable I don’t know what is. I realize everyone isn’t as lucky, however if you do not have the local hardwood to burn as fuel use hardwood charcoal and forgo the processed lump stuff that major companies turn out. That stuff is full of all kinds of chemicals that you really don’t want to ingest.
As I write this the fire in my grill is burning down and getting ready for meat. Tonight I am going to be doing some Chuck Short Ribs. These are a hybrid cut of cheap meat. However, when done right they are really tasty and yield great bones for broth making. For the last hour or so they have been sitting out of the fridge with a dusting of rock salt, black pepper, garlic powder and red pepper sitting on them. In the next few minutes I will check the temperature on the grill and see if it is time to add them on. I cooked some thick Ossabaw pork chops earlier on a direct low smoking heat over pecan. Those came out pretty well, although I left them on longer than I should have. www.TheGrassRootsFarm.com provided some amazing meat, your’s truly just over did it a little. Reminder, almost all grass-fed or pastured animals are going to cook quicker than your run of the mill industrial varieties.
So the short ribs are cooking. Not going to take long now, especially since I like them rare to medium rare as I do most beef. I know many people who prefer medium and higher, personally I just don’t understand it. You lose flavor, texture and as science has started to prove, you increase the bad effects of the meat, if you believe that sort of thing. My soon to be mother-in-law will only eat well done beef and I apologize to the cow every time I cook beef for her. To each their own, I guess. Me, I like to know that what I am eating was, at a time, actually cow.
So give or take 15 minutes have elapsed since I abandoned my post at the keyboard. Much as has transpired. Short ribs have been grilled, country style pork ribs (actually shoulder cuts) have been prepped, yet not another drink has been fixed. The beef ribs grill fast, well somewhat fast 350-400 for about 10-15 minutes or until they hit a temp of around 130-135.
The country style ribs are going to go a little slower. I’m letting the grill cool down since I will be doing these on direct heat as well. Currently they sit in a dry rub of garlic powder, black pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and allspice awaiting transition to the grill.
For the country style ribs, which for those of you who do not know, country style ribs are not actually ribs. They are cuts of the pork shoulder. As such, they generally require a slower lower heat to render the fat through the meat. I try to cook them in a way similar to pork shoulder or picnic. That is fat side up at a low temp although I will not cook them nearly as long as a whole pork shoulder. These particular country style ribs have very little fat, actually quite a problem when cooking, they, more than likely will be a bit tough and chewy. By placing them on the top rack of the grill over direct heat I will try to combat that, by allowing a lower cooking temp and hopefully allowing what fat there is to render through the meat.
After the country style ribs cook down I may add some actual ribs to the grill. We will see how the fire looks at the time. If you haven’t noticed I like to batch cook. That is, get a good fire going and then cook several things in order as the fire hits different stages. This does a couple of things but mainly, it allows me to cook several meals at one go over the same fire thus decreasing prep work and allows me to work through a lot of meat at the same time. Currently, I only do meals for myself and the fiance, however, with this method I could easily add another 4 to 5 people and not increase my prep work or cooking time one bit given the grill space I have.
The country style ribs have been cooking for a bit, about 30 minutes at around 300 degrees and currently sit an internal temp of around 145. I like to get pork like this to around 185 or 190. It ends up being much more tender and falls off the bone , if there is a bone. Some people prefer 145 or 155. That is all well and good and perfectly safe to eat. However, that results in pork that you have to actually use a knife to cut and well.. I don’t like using a knife on pork. I prefer the fork only method, where the meat falls apart. Therefore, I’ll be cooking the country style ribs to around 185 or so. These are cooking for later meals so I won’t cook them to the 195 or so that I would if i was going to eat them tonight. This allows a little lead way for reheating so they will not dry out.
Country Style Ribs are still cooking. Currently at an internal temp of around 165. Another 20-30 minutes or so at the current temp of 275 and they should be good to go. Now I need to decide if I am going to throw a pack of ribs on there as well. I have a pack thawed that came from Morning Glory Farm but I don’t know that my heat is right. I prefer a bit lower heat, direct and in the 200-250 range for ribs. However, I think I will go ahead and prep then with just a touch of salt, black pepper and red pepper and wait it out to see if my fire dies down enough. That way I go ahead and clean out my meat drawer of all the cuts I have thawed for the week and I don’t have to think about starting a fire in the grill for the rest of the week. More work at one time equals less work for the rest of the week. You can go ahead and thank Tim Ferriss for the concept. I’ll excuse myself now and go prep ribs and check on the country style ribs…
So I might have forgotten how much opening processors paper makes me happy. For those of you who have never experienced it, let me walk you through what I am talking about. When you pick out meat at the grocery store it usually comes in a styrofoam backed cellophane packaging. You see the meat as you grab it out of the case. Well, when you get meat from a producer or a processor, in this case a producer (Morning Glory Farm) it comes sealed in plastic inside of which is good old fashioned butchers paper. Once you get through the plastic, it is like opening the best Christmas present ever, inside lies meat, however outside of the cut, you don’t know exactly what meat is inside until you open it up. In my particular case today, it is ribs, an interesting cut of ribs, not exactly baby backs and not exactly Kansas City style either. Somewhere in the middle, roughly 6-8 inches wide and spanning roughly 20-24 inches long. Once hit with a little salt and black pepper, garlic and red pepper (notice a theme here) they go on the grill as well, fat side up now that my grill has cooled to around 225-250. They will cook for a couple of hours max. Some people say throw ribs on the grill slam four or five beers and then come back and check them out. Me personally, I’ve found that ribs differ just as much as humans. Some cook quick, some take forever, not that I have ever cooked a human. Just that ribs are as different as humans. Whatever, nevermind you get the point. I like to check mine after about 30-45 minutes to see how they are progressing. This gives me an idea of how long they are going to take to cook. I’ve cooked a rack of ribs in as little as an hour and as long as eight, all depends on the pig and the fat content, etc. These ribs being pastured pig, I expect them to cook somewhat quicker. That being said, I’m gonna go check them out…
So the beef ribs that finished earlier are amazeballs. freaking fantastic. I had to sample one. Cull the herd if you will. I’ll it admit it was the smaller and weaker of the pack. Doesn’t matter it was awesome. Can’t wait to hit a couple more at breakfast in the morning, paired with some farm fresh eggs from right down the road, courtesy of Morning Glory Farm.
So you might be wondering at this point, who the hell is this guy? Am I reading some weird ass cross between Anthony Bourdain and Hunter S. Thompson. Well, actually you might be, I have no peacocks and I’ve never been a heavy drug user but I would like to think somewhere in the middle is where I sit. So now back to the meat. Country style ribs are still slow cooking over a mix of pecan and hickory and the pork ribs have been added to the mix as well. As has a snifter of 1792 Bourbon and a dasher of ice in my Klean Kanteen. I think it might be time to end the night here, as I go take the country style ribs off the flames and allow the ribs to marinate in the smoke for another hour or so. You’ve now experienced as close as possible the goings on of a night of cooking at the Country Boy house. Now go home, get the fuck outside and cook some animals.
Nuggets are for prospectors not human food.
Stay real and stay rural and I’ll catch you next time.
FYI. A little post script, the both the country style ribs and the pork ribs turned out fantastic. The pork ribs finished in about 2 hours.