A few weeks ago, I attempted to make an absurd amount of ribs, really as a challenge to myself and because I’ve started to realize that you can only take so many pictures of brisket before they all start looking the same. Really though, I had no business making that many.
I got six racks of ribs from CostCo (they come in sets of three). I also got a handy dandy rib rack from Amazon. Around noonish on the day of the cook, I seasoned them with a brown sugar-based rub that I had sitting around from the last few times I made pork.
I also made a sauce based on Franklin’s recipe. Turns out I had all of the ingredients at home.
I thought I was largely set with the awesome, shiny piece of metal that I had ordered. The initial plan was to use the rib rack as designed. Because of the temperature difference in height and distance from the coals, I planned on rotating the ribs from the back to the front while simultaneously flipping them upside down. This would supposedly get the racks to cook relatively evenly.
In theory, I should have had no problem fitting all six racks on. A 22-inch grate (minus the side with the coals) should be able to fit the ribs with about 2-inches each.
Unfortunately, I neglected to consider how freaking floppy uncooked ribs are; the one closest to the heat was hanging precariously over the fire. The immediate solution to this was to fold the ribs in half and jam the ends into the rib holder. I unfolded them once they cooked a bit and firmed up.
It rapidly became apparent that cooking ribs in a vertical position was not ideal — the four to five-inch width of the ribs sitting vertically saw a pretty ridiculous temperature difference. At grate level, my thermometer was reading 175 degrees, well below the ideal 225. However, by sticking a second thermometer three to four-inches down from the top vent was showing somewhere around 250. I ended up deciding not the boost the heat since the difference was so large.
It really ended up not making a difference either way. A somewhat random thunderstorm began rolling in and I made the executive decision of finishing in the oven.
I set the oven temp to around 290 to pick up the pace a bit; the overcrowding in the Weber had likely slowed down cooking for a bit. That effect was likely to be replicated in the oven as well.
The ribs ended up coming out around 196 degrees. I would have liked to keep them in longer, but people (i.e. Laura) were getting antsy. Despite the previous tribulations, they turned out alright. I brushed some of the sauce on, but couldn’t caramelize it since I was inside. Apparently, it’s a bad idea to grill indoors.
Overall, they were okay. There was a bit of variation on the doneness of the racks — some had a bit more pull than others, though that wasn’t completely unexpected.
Ironically, and to my great consternation, everybody collectively only ate about three racks. I had actually been worried that there wouldn’t be enough food and had planned six racks for 12 people (half a rack per person). This was likely caused by the great amount of food that had been snacked on as the meat continued to cook in the oven. I ended up giving at least one whole rack away over the weekend.
If anything, this cook has highlighted some capacity issues that I’ll likely be having into the future. With attendance reaching around 10+ and the apparent need for more horizontal space, I’ve been contemplating the purchase of a larger Weber Smokey Mountain. It also seems to be easier to use than the Kettle. Unfortunately, I spent my tax return on a Vive a few months ago.
To be honest, I’d be okay with sticking with the Kettle as long as it can fit a full packer brisket. We’ll find out if that’s the case this weekend.
In Other News
Since it has been more than a month since my last update, I figure I should squeeze some new developments at the bottom here.
Around mid-July, I signed up as a member of the Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS). After waiting for a few days, they mailed me a membership card, a “fancy” certificate and their newsletter. The organization mainly does competition barbeque, something that I’m not particularly interested in at the moment. (The headline story on one of the more recent newsletters was something about kale becoming an approved garnish).
What does interest me is my newly attained access to Restaurant Depot. And when I say interested, I really mean more excited than anybody should really ever be about a store that sells restaurant supplies.
Restaurant Depot is a nationwide wholesaler for restaurant supplies (in case you couldn’t figure that part that out). You usually have to own a restaurant or some other business to get a membership. However, KCBS issues what amounts to a membership in the form of infinite one-day passes — essentially you print out a sheet of paper that the depot reception desk is supposed to look at along with your membership card.
The place is awesome, as per a trip I took on Wednesday.
As it turns out, I didn’t even need to whip out my fancy KCBS membership. The lady at the front desk issued a temporary membership after looking at the one-day pass.
Restaurant Depot closely resembles a CostCo that is simultaneously on steroids and MDMA. There are no shopping carts; the only carts they have are thin versions of the moving trolleys that they have at places like Home Depot. And pallets are just randomly placed as workers in forklifts move them around as you try to avoid being run over. From what I gather, you sometimes have to ask them to forklift stuff down from higher shelves so that you can reach them.
I made a bee-line for the beef section and immediately praised the cow gods; USDA Choice packer briskets were priced at $2.97 per pound. I picked up one weighing in at just under 17 pounds for around $50. To put that into perspective, previous briskets from CostCo have cost up to $5 or $6 per pound — and that only includes the flat, usually topping out at around 10 pounds. Other small butcher shops I’ve been to have had whole packer briskets for up to $10 per pound (though they’re likely higher grade and/or come from local farms.) I paid $35 for my KCBS membership.
Restaurant Depot also has cuts that I haven’t been able to find elsewhere. For instance, I saw that they had beef short ribs from the plate, something that I’ve been looking for. In addition to the brisket, I picked up a hilariously large roll of butcher paper, which I’ve been dreaming about for quite a while now.
I should be all set for the barbeque this weekend. It will be the first time I’ll be cooking a full packer brisket, so we’ll see how it goes.