Tag Archives: BBQ

Barbecued Ribs

Barbecued Ribs


For a lot of people real barbecue means barbecued ribs. But the Holy Grail of tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs eluded me time after time… sure, they tasted great, but the meat didn’t fall off the bone the way I expect of a good rib. I cooked my ribs “low and slow”– several hours on low heat. What was I was doing wrong?  I did a little research online, and discovered the “3-2-1″ method (more about that below). Eureka! Tender, fallin’ off the bone ribs.


  • 1 Rack Spare Ribs
  • Wood chunks for smoking- apple and hickory work well.

Dry Rub Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 Tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp. Thyme
  • 1/2 Tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/4 Tsp. ground celery seed
  • 1.4 Tsp. cayenne pepper

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. black pepper
  • 1-2 Tsp. Tabasco sauce
  • 1 Tsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tsp. Worchestershire sauce

Special Utensils:

  • Smoker or charcoal grill

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite). If I was making ribs for 4 people, I’d make 2 racks of ribs.

Mix up dry rub ingredients and rub thoroughly into the ribs. Refrigerate and let the spices work their way into the meat for several hours, overnight ideally.

Fire up the smoker and soak the wood chunks in water . There’s more info and pictures on that in my Smoked Turkey post. If you don’t have a smoker, you can use a charcoal grill– just put the coals on one side of the grill, put a pan on the other side to catch the drippings, and cook the ribs over the pan for slower, indirect heat.  Close down the vents to lower the heat– the temp should be around 250 degrees for “low and slow” barbequing. Add coals every couple hours. Add new soaked wood chunks every hour or two, enough to keep the ribs constantly smoking.

So here’s the “3-2-1″ method: we cook the ribs over low heat for 6 hours. The first three hours, we cook the ribs uncovered so they soak up the smoke flavor. Then we seal the rack of ribs up in foil and cook for two hours. This causes the meat to steam in its own juices and tenderizes it. This is the secret to getting the meat to fall off the bone. Take the foil off and cook uncovered for the last hour to get the outside crispy.

Sometime during that 6 hours of cooking time, get the sauce ready– cook up the onions and garlic in olive oil until they’re just starting to carmelise and turn golden brown (but don’t burn). Add the tomato paste and mix in the rest of the ingredients. Stir on low heat, simmering the sauce for 1/2 hour to an hour, letting all the flavors mix. If the sauce is too thick add a little water, or pour a little of the beer you’re drinking in there.

Brush on the sauce around a half hour or so before the ribs are done. Take the ribs off the grill carefully, so they don’t fall apart too soon, and serve. Enjoy!




Grilled Shrimp Kabobs

Shirmp Kebabs

Shrimply Delicious (sorry)

Memorial Day was blazin’ hot, 90+ degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Finally some real summer weather! We spent the afternoon at the beach, so we needed something quick and simple to grill when we got back. Shrimp kebabs are the ticket for quick and simple. The marinating takes a little prep, but it’s easy to get ready, throw the marinating ingredients in the refrigerator and spend the afternoon at the beach.


  • 40 jumbo shrimp
  • Any combination of red, yellow, orange, green bell peppers
  • 1 onion
  • 3-4 Finely diced Garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice from one lemon or lime

Special Utensils:

  • Some type of skewer

Serves 4

Marinating kebabs

Marinating kebabs

Mix up marinating ingredients. Chop peppers and onions into kebab-sized pieces. A tip on marinating kebabs: marinate before skewering- put the pieces in a plastic bag and pour the marinade in. Marinate for a few hours. Put the kebabs together after. It’s a lot easier that way.

After the shrimp and veggies marinate, assemble them on the skewer, 8 kebabs, 5 shrimp to a kebab, and throw them on a hot grill. Turn over after 3-4 minutes on each side, and they’re ready to eat! Serve with your favorite sides- I made some rice and grilled asparagus, Enjoy!


Smoked Barbequed Turkey

Smoked Turkey

I always get one of the legs

We had family over for Mother’s Day, so I decided to smoke a turkey. Turkeys are pretty cheap per pound, and smoked turkey is a real crowd pleaser. This recipe takes time though- it sure ain’t a candidate for the “Quick Meals” category.

There are two ways you can smoke a turkey- the long way and the really long way. The really long way is to make a brine and steep the turkey in the brine overnight. Brining makes the turkey meat moist, juicy and delicious. If you choose to brine you’ll want to choose a turkey that has not been injected with a brine-like solution of turkey broth, salt, sugar and a few other ingredients. Check the label and make sure it’s nothing but turkey. Amish turkeys are typically unprocessed. If you want to skip the brining step, just go ahead and get a turkey injected with the brining solution. Why would you want to do the brining yourself if you can just pick up a pre-brined turkey? You can add seasonings to the brine you make yourself, and add your own signature extra flavor. This is the path to true barbeque mastery.

Ingredients (brine):

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1/2 gallon water with lots of ice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 Tbsp. thyme
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Ingredients (Turkey and rub)

  • 10-14 lb. turkey
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tsp. thyme
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. brown sugar

Special Utensils:

  • Smoker
  • Meat Thermometer

If you’re doing the brining step, on the day before you’re going to grill, boil a 1/2 gallon of water with the rest of the ingredients in a large stock pot for 10 minutes or so. Let it cool to room temperature. This is important- don’t put the turkey into brine that is too warm. It’s important to keep the turkey at refrigerator temp. Rinse the turkey off well and if it’ll fit in the stock pot, put the turkey in there and add the other 1/2 gallon of heavily iced water. If the turkey is too big, any other clean container will do- 5 gallon bucket, large plastic bag, as long as you can fit it into the refrigerator. Let the turkey steep in the brine overnight.

Soaking wood for smoking

Soaking the apple and hickory wood

On turkey smoking day, get an early start because it will take at least a 1/2 hour per pound to cook the turkey through. Soak the wood chips or chunks you’re going to use for smoking for an hour before the turkey goes on the heat. I used a mix of apple and hickory wood. Remember, as I said in the Applewood Smoked Spice Rub Chicken post, you can use many different types of hardwood, but never pine or any evergreen wood. Fire up the charcoal, and while waiting for it to be ready, take the turkey out of the brine and dry it off with some paper towels. Mix the rub ingredients together and coat the turkey. Get in between the skin and the meat where you can- like in between the skin and the breast meat, there’s a pocket you can get the rub in there. Get the inside cavity of the turkey too.


Me old trusty smoker

So this may come as a surprise, but in order to smoke a turkey, it really helps to have a smoker. You could use a regular charcoal grill, like a Weber kettle grill, as long as you keep the heat indirect and have a water pan under the turkey. But the hard part will be adding wood and fresh charcoal every 2 hours. A smoker like the trusty old one I use in the picture has a little door at the bottom to add coals and more smoking wood. It doesn’t have to cost a lot- I picked this one up at a yard sale for $10- it had only been used once. It’s held up for several years now. The middle of the smoker has a pan for water. This is important because it keeps the cooking temps cooler and the evaporating water adds humidity to the smoke, helping the meat to not dry out. You can also add apple juice or wine to the water pan. People also soak the smoking wood in wine to add flavor, but I’ve tried that in the past and I don’t think it really adds any noticeable flavor. I’d rather save the wine for drinking, so I just use water these days. Email and let me know if you disagree!


Only 6 to 8 hours to go!

So put the turkey in the smoker, insert the meat thermometer into the center of the breast,  add wood chips or chunks, and settle in for a long wait. When you no longer see much smoke, add more wood. Keep an eye on the temperature reading on the smoker. you want to keep the cooking temp low and steady– if it spikes up it may be some of the smoking wood drying out and catching fire. I keep one of our kids’ squirt guns handy to put out the fire and bring the heat back down again. Add fresh charcoal every two hours and mix it in with the old charcoal.

When the turkey internal temp reaches 165 remove, slice it up for your guests, grab yourself a turkey leg and enjoy!

Perfectly Grilled Filet Mignon

Medium Rare Filet Mignon

Seared outside, perfectly pink inside

Yeah, that’s right, you read the title correctly. This is serious stuff, so there’s no room for false modesty here. I’m going to show you how to grill filet mignon cuts of steak perfectly, every time.


  • 4 Filet Mignon cut steaks
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh coarse-ground pepper
  • Soaked Hickory Chips (optional)

Special Utensils:

  • Barbeque Grill
  • Meat thermometer

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Serves 4

Get the charcoal started if you’re using a charcoal grill. While the coals are getting ready, take the steaks out of the refrigerator and sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper. Filet mignon cuts of steak are so good I like to keep it real simple with the seasoning. The steaks should sit out at room temp for up to a half hour before they go on the grill (but meat shouldn’t be left at room temp for any more time than that).

Charcoal Grill

Coals on one side only!

If you want nice branded grill marks, make sure the grill has been well-heated over the coals. When the coals are ready spread them out in a one-coal deep layer one one side of the grill only- this is important. Using a gas grill? I highly recommend charcoal, but if you MUST use a gas grill you’ll just fire up and preheat the burners on one side then.

Filet Migons on the grill

Searing up nicely

Now put the steaks on directly over the coals (or the hot side if you’re using a gas grill). Cover but leave all the grill vents open. We want a lot of heat. Turn the steaks over after a few minutes. Turn twice each side on diagonals if you want that “steakhouse commercial” grill mark look.  We want to get a good sear on the outside of the steaks.  We don’t want to burn the outside, just give it a good dark-brown sear. Why is a good sear so important? It’s not to seal in the juices, as some people think. It creates flavor . . .

Science Alert: Searing the steaks causes a process called the “Maillard Reaction”, a chemical reaction between sugars and amino acids in the meat when exposed to high heat. This creates dozens, maybe hundreds of delicious flavor compounds. THAT’s why a good sear is so important.

Once the outside has a good sear, close the grill vents halfway. move the steaks to the cooler side of the grill, and cover up again. Cooking quickly on the hot side and letting the steak finish more slowly on the cooler side is what’s going to give you the perfect seared outside and pink medium-rare throughout inside. Insert a meat thermometer in one of the steaks. If these were thinner cuts we could just test the doneness by touch, but with thick filet cuts a meat thermometer will make sure they’re just right. And “just right” for me is medium rare. I used to say the rarer the better, but these days I think medium rare makes for the best flavor and texture. And as I said in the Steak Au Poivre post, anything more than medium rare is just a crime against the steak.  I like to throw a handful of hickory chips that I soaked in water for a half hour onto the coals at this point. Not necessary if you don’t want to, but it gives the steaks a nice added smoky flavor.

So when the meat thermometer is EXACTLY at 125 degrees (140-150 degrees for medium/medium well if you really have to) take the steaks off the heat and let them rest for 5-10 minutes. Resting the steak is important because it allows the meat juices to reabsorb back into the muscle fibers of the steak so it stays nice and juicy. If you start cutting the steak up too soon those juices will just run out onto your plate.

Serve with your favorite vegetable and side (I did grilled asparagus from the applewood smoked chicken post and simple baked potatoes). Enjoy your perfectly grilled steak!


Applewood-Smoked Spice Rub Chicken with Grilled Asparagus

Spice rubbed chicken on the grill

Spice rubbed chicken on the grill

Finally we got some summerlike weather here in Michigan! It was in the 80s this past Sunday, and so the barbequing season begins. Now, I’ll barbeque and grill outside all year long, but it’s definitely more fun to be standing around the grill in shorts and a t-shirt, cold beverage in hand, than freezing in the cold with snow blowing around.

We love to barbeque and grill, and I’ve done a lot of it. In the coming summer months I’ll be doing my best to impart the tricks and techniques I’ve learned about the fine art of grilling and barbeque over the years. Why do I keep saying grill AND barbeque? Grilling is cooking food directly over high heat, while barbequing is cooking food slowly with indirect heat. Then there’s smoking, which is similar to bbq, which can also involve smoke, and is also done on low heat, sometimes lower than bbq. Each method has its place-you’d grill a steak, you’d barbeque or smoke a larger cut of meat like a brisket or a roast.

In the future I will do posts on taking all day to slow-smoke a couple whole chickens, a pork shoulder or even a whole turkey. But I didn’t have a lot of time this particular Sunday, since we were doing chores outside all day, and boneless chicken breasts were what we had on hand. This blog is about using what you have in the time that you have, so I decided to do a spice rub using the boneless chicken, and do sort of a cross between grilling and bbq/smoking. This post can serve as a “BBQ 101″ course for inexperienced bbq’ers. The advanced courses will come later…


  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 8 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. hot red pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 Tsp. Black pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp. Garlic powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 Tsp. Cumin
  • 1/4 Tsp. Coriander
  • 1/4 Tsp. Celery seed

For asparagus:

  • 1-2 Lbs. Asparagus
  • 1 Tbl. Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Coarse ground pepper

Special Utensils:

  • Barbeque Grill
  • Meat Thermometer

Serves 4

Spice Rub

Aye, there's the rub

I usually just wing it when I mix up a spice rub, but this time I decided to try the “classic” spice rub ratio of 8:3:1:1. That is, 8 parts brown sugar, 3 parts kosher salt, 1 part chile powder and 1 part every other herb and spice you want to add. Which in the ingredients list above translates to: 8 tablespoons brown sugar; 3 tablespoons salt; 1/2 tablespoon of some very spicy Indian chile powder I have plus 1/2 tablespoon less spicy Chipotle chile powder to make the first “1″ in the ratio; then for the second “1″ in that ratio there are fractions of teaspoons of the herbs and spices to make one tablespoon (1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons). If that’s too much math, just remember:

8 parts sugar | 3 parts salt | 1 part chile powder | 1 part anything else

I was skeptical of the amount of sugar in the ratio, seemed like way too much sugar. It turned out good, but in the future I might cut down the salt a little. It’s easy to add too much salt to a dry spice rub, so try to use seasonings that don’t have salt added. Use garlic powder, not garlic salt…celery seed, not celery salt. That way you can control the salt you do add. Or cut back on the kosher salt a little if you do use seasonings with salt added. The Old Bay seasoning I used has salt in it, so that may be where I overdid it.

The herbs and spices are what I chose this particular time, but feel free to try your own mix of whatever you like, or whatever you have on hand. Use whole spices instead of powdered whenever you can and grind them when you need them- the spices stay fresh a lot longer in their whole form. I put whole cumin, coriander, celery seed, and whole black peppercorns in an old electric “spinning blade” type coffee grinder with the thyme and oregano, and ground it all up.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken

Rubbing it in

Put the rub on a plate and roll the chicken around until it’s nice and coated with the spices. Then put the rubbed chicken in the refrigerator and let the rub spices mingle for an hour or two, if possible.

Now we get the grill ready- clean up the grate and dump out any old charcoal ash from last time. I used my Weber kettle grill for this job. What’s that… can you use a gas grill, you ask? No, you can’t.

Okay, you can, but I’m not a big fan of gas grills, and I don’t think the results will be as good. When it comes to the smoking part, I’ve heard you can put wood chips in foil rolled up with the ends open to let smoke out, and put the foil-covered chips directly on the heating element. But I don’t know how well that works, never tried it. On some types of gas grills you might not be able to do it at all.


Firin' up the coals

Fire up the coals- I use that charcoal chimney thing you see in the pic- it works great and you don’t have to worry about getting any lighter fluid taste in your food this way. A note about charcoal: some bbq purists only use real solid-wood charcoal, instead of the pressed-and-formed “briquette” style charcoal I’m using here. I’ve used the real charcoal before, but it’s expensive and doesn’t stay hot too long in my opinion. A good quality briquette style charcoal seems to give a good long consistent heat, and I compensate for the lack of flavor you get from real charcoal by liberal use of wood chunks or wood chips mixed in with the coals.

Applewood Chunks

Soakin' the wood chips

Add water to wood chips. You can buy wood chips or chunks pretty much wherever barbeque supplies are sold, or you can use most types of seasoned hardwood if you happen to have it, like maple, oak, hickory, and fruit-bearing woods like cherry or apple. DO NOT use any pine or evergreen wood for smoking- the pine sap is toxic, or at least very bad tasting. I used some seasoned wood from an old apple tree that fell down on our property a couple years ago- I miss the tree, but I’m making sure it didn’t fall down in vain.

Charcoal and applewood

Charcoal and applewood

When the coals are ready, spread them out over half the grill, drain the water from the wood chips and spread them on the coals. Put the chicken on the side of the grill without coals, so it is indirect heat, as in BBQ, but the grill will be hot enough so the chicken won’t cook too slowly. Put the grill top on and adjust the air vents to about 2/3 open. Turn the chicken after 5 or 10 minutes, make sure it’s not cooking too fast. We want it a nice golden brown, not blackened. If it does seem to be scorching a little on one side, or if the wood is on fire, close the air vents more until things settle down a little. Put a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the biggest chicken piece. You don’t have to use the thermometer, but it’s really easy to overcook boneless chicken breasts- there’s no such thing as medium-rare chicken and we want to be safe, so people tend to err on the side of caution. The result is dry, rubbery chicken. The thermometer will let you take the chicken off the heat when the internal temperature is 165 degrees- safe enough to kill any bacteria, but leaving the chicken nice and tender and juicy inside.

While the chicken is cooking, get the asparagus ready. Wash and remove the tough inedible ends of the stalks. An easy tip for doing that instead of cutting the ends off is, grab a handful of asparagus and just snap off the ends-they’ll break off at the natural point where you’d want to cut them. Roll them up with some olive oil and add coarse-ground pepper and kosher salt.

Grilled Asparagus

Grillin' up Good

When the chicken’s almost done, put the asparagus on the grill directly over the heat. You can put it right on the grill, you’ll just have to be careful not to let too many fall through the grate (you’ll lose one or two, no matter how careful you are). I used a veggie-holder grill thing you can see in the pic that works nicely. Keep a close eye and roll the stalks around often so it doesn’t burn on one side. it’ll be done when it’s a little blackened and shriveled-up looking. Grilled asparagus ain’t the most attractive looking way to prepare it, but it sure is tasty this way.

Serve with a side like a simple baked potato and enjoy!