Saturday, April 25, 2015

Grilled Baby Back ribs

My preferred method of making ribs is to cook them in a smoker. Second to that would be slow-roasting them in the oven. Grilling is not a cooking method that one associates with baby back ribs. Truth be told, if you just went out and slapped them on the grill, the meat would have the texture of tire rubber. The "low and slow" method does wonders for ribs, rendering the fat, dissolving the you that great "falling off the bones" meat. So how do you that on a grill? The secret, my friends, is aluminum.

Aluminum foil, that is. After using a rub on the ribs, you double seal them in sheets of aluminum foil. The seal is air-tight. So while the fat renders and the collagen dissolves during the cooking process, those liquids have nowhere to go. The moisture is held in the packet, which causes the ribs to braise. The braising process yields that tender, sweet pork meat that we all so love and cherish.

Now a little word about the rub. I have tried hundreds of rubs. The one I always come back to is Famous Dave's Rib Rub. It is absolutely spectacular. I make sure I always have at least six bottles on hand, because I go through it like wildfire. If you're smart, you'll buy up a whole bunch on your next trip to the grocery store and keep it in your pantry. If you'd rather make it yourself, I have shared Dave's rib rub recipe below (makes 6 cups).


Famous Dave's Rib Rub
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup garlic seasoning
1/4 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup lemon pepper
1/4 cup onion salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons coarse ground black pepper
2 tablespoons whole celery seeds
1 teaspoon crushed cloves
1 tablespoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash original blend

For the Ribs
2 racks baby back ribs, about 2 pounds each
1 cup wood chips (hickory preferred)
1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce

  1. Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).
  3. Cut each rack crosswise in the middle to create two smaller racks.
  4. Season each half rack evenly with the rub. Using eight 18-by-24-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, double wrap each half rack in its own packet.
  5. Place the ribs on the grill over direct medium heat and cook for 1 hour, with the lid closed, occasionally turning the packets over for even cooking, making sure not to pierce the foil.
  6. Remove the packets from the grill and let rest for about 10 minutes. Carefully open the foil packets, remove the ribs, and discard the rendered fat and foil.
  7. Drain and add the wood chips to the charcoal or to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions, and close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, return the ribs to the grill, bone side down. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until they are sizzling and lightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes, turning and basting once or twice with the sauce. Remove from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut into individual ribs and serve warm with any remaining sauce.

Wine pairing: A big California Zinfandel. A Rombauer Zin if you love fruit bombs!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Gaucho Ribeye

"I always thought filet mignon
 was the steak to beat, but the
 fat content in a ribeye is fantastic."

*Neil Patrick Harris*

When it comes to steaks, make mine a bone-in ribeye every single time. I just love the deep marbling and the luscious taste of fat on my tongue. While it is said that the bone helps to contribute to the robust taste of this cut of beef, truth-be-told is that I live to hold the bone in my fingers and gnaw off every little shred of meat until the bone is bare.

The rub I am sharing with you today comes from Argentina...the beef capital of South America. The Argentines take their beef and grilling very seriously. Accordingly, this is one seriously delicious rub. And when I grill, I'm going to cook the ribeye over charcoal and a little wood smoke. But this is not going to be any ordinary wood smoke. Meet my secret weapon:

What you see before you are chunks of oak. But these chunks of oak do not come right from the tree. These oak chunks are from the barrels that were used to age Cabernet Sauvignon. So not only does the steak get infused with the oak scent, it also gets infused with the scent of Cabernet Sauvignon. And believe you can really taste the wine in your steak. You can get these spectacular wood chunks here:

If you are going to go full-in for the Argentine experience, you must wash down your steak with a Malbec from Argentina. The grapes thrive in the high-altitude districts like Luan de Cuyo and Uco Valley. Malbec is a deep magenta color and your tongue will enjoy the flavors of black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, cocoa, coffee and tobacco leaf. It's a spectacular wine at a very reasonable price.


For the Steaks
4, bone-in ribeye, about 16 ounces each and 1 1/4 inches thick

For the Gaucho Rub
5 tsp Kosher salt
2 TBS black pepper
2 TBS mild red chile powder
1 TBS garlic powder
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary


  1. Combine rub ingredients and mix thoroughly. Apply rub to both sides of meat, coating well. Wrap steaks in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours).
  2. Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat.
  3. When coals are white hot, add 3-4 wine chunks to fire. Then place steaks on grill. Cover grill and cook for 6 minutes. Then flip steaks, cover grill and cook for 5 more minutes. *
  4. Remove steaks from grill and tent with foil. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes, then serve.
*The cooking times noted here are for a medium rare steak. For steaks of different sizes or different degree of doneness, go here:

Wine pairing: Argentine Malbec

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Smoked Tri-Tip Roast

I absolutely love this cut of beef. There are two tri-tip roasts on each cow. They come from the bottom of the sirloin area. It's a small triangular muscle that weighs in around 2 pounds. It's a very, very lean cut, but it has extraordinary big-beef flavor. I like cooking it as a roast, but in many parts of the country and in Europe, the roast is cut into steaks (again, because of that great, big-beef flavor).

Costco used to carry tri-tip on a regular basis. Then last year it inexplicably vanished from the stores. So lately I make the trip to Byerly's or Cub to pick up a tri-tip. This cut is incredibly easy to grill or roast in the oven. See here: In fact, those are the only two ways I have cooked them for years. But yesterday I decided to cook the roast in my Cookshack electric smoker. Look what I got after just 45 minutes:

The hickory smoke-infused meat was absolutely astounding. It took that great beef flavor to the power of 10. I served it up with some charred corn on the cob ( And then we washed it down with a big fruity Zinfandel. What a meal!

1, 2 lb. tri-tip, trimmed (see raw photo above)
½ tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder 
1 tbsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. brown sugar
½ tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. soy sauce
2 ounces hickory wood (chunk, not chips)


  1. Combine all ingredients (except meat and wood) and mix to form a paste.
  2.  Rub the mixture all over, pressing it into the meat. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 
  3. Preheat your smoker to 275°F. Unwrap the meat and place it on the rack. Smoke-cook for 45 minutes. Remove meat, tent with foil and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then thinly slice on the bias and serve.

Wine pairing: California Zinfandel. A Turley if you're really lucky.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Grilled Burger with Bacon, Blue Cheese and Red Onion

I'm firing up my grill on an almost nightly basis. I find it simply astounding that charcoal and mesquite can add so much flavor to food. Last night I made grilled lobster: Tonight I'm all in for steak with lone star rub:

I was shopping at Costco on Thursday and I picked up some gorgeous beef chuck roasts for just $3.99 a pound. I use these chuck roasts to make my own ground beef. I just use my food processor to coarsely grind the meat. Making ground beef this way has two enormous advantages.

The first big advantage is flavor. Chuck roasts have a higher fat content than store-bought ground beef and fat equals flavor. The second advantage is hygiene and handling. Store-bought ground beef is made up of various body parts from multiple animals. That's why the label says you have to cook it to 165º to kill all the bad stuff.

But the chuck roast I just bought is intact and from a single animal. And because I am handling the grinding myself, there's no bad stuff being added. Therefore, it is safe to cook this meat to medium rare. That 35º difference between 165º and 135º makes for a much juicier burger. This recipe is from Jamie Purveyance and serves four.

4 slices bacon
1½ pounds ground chuck
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium red onion, cut crosswise into 4 slices, each about ⅓-inch thick
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 hamburger buns, split
Dijon mustard
4 leaves Boston lettuce
4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese, such as Gorgonzola


  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain the bacon on a plate lined with a paper towel.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat (400° to 500°F).
  3. In a large bowl mix the ground chuck, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and then gently form four patties of equal size, each about ¾ inch thick. With your thumb or the back of a spoon, make a shallow indentation about 1 inch wide in the center of each patty to prevent them from forming a dome as they cook. Refrigerate the patties until ready to grill.
  4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Brush the onion slices on both sides with oil, and then grill over direct medium-high heat, with the lid closed, until charred and caramelized on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once or twice. At the same time, grill the patties over direct medium-high heat until cooked  (about 6 minutes), turning once. During the last 30 seconds to 1 minute of grilling time, toast the rolls, cut side down, over direct heat.
  5. To assemble the burgers, spread the tops and bottoms of the rolls lightly with mustard and then top each with lettuce, cheese, a patty, a strip of bacon, and an onion slice. Serve warm.

Pairing: Wine drinkers should opt for a nice, Oregon Pinot Noir. That wine is extraordinary when paired with the bacon, beef and cheese. But, all things considered, it's hard to say no to an ice cold pilsner beer with any grilled burger.