“Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire – with the head, legs and internal organs.” – Exodus 12:9
No, you did not land on the wrong site. You are still on 196 flavors. This week is barbecue week. And who says barbecue, says the South (of the US) and more particularly the Bible Belt region where BBQ got its fame.
Even if barbecue is synonymous with traditional American cooking today, it was actually born before the discovery of the New Continent.
The first traces of grilled meat date back to about 200,000 years ago and were found near Mount Carmel, Israel. Experts have found the tools and bones left by the early hunters. Judging by the burn marks on the bones and the size of the animals, the scientists concluded that these men were the first to experiment with what would become the barbecue as we know it today.
Much later, during their expeditions that would lead to the discovery of the New World, Spanish explorers discovered a tribe called “Taino” in the Caribbean. The Taino used a cooking technique that consisted in having the meat on a wooden rack suspended over a fire. This slow meat cooking method had the advantage of keeping the food at a safe distance from the ground and therefore away from animals.
This technique, called barbacoa by this tribe was brought to Europe by the explorers and the word was later adapted in all languages.
Traditional American barbecue is popular throughout the Bible Belt. The “BBQ belt” stretches east to west from the Carolinas to Texas, and from Kentucky to the north to deep south.
BBQ is almost a religion in the United States and every state boasts their regional specialties.
North Carolina: the east of the state is known for its whole hog served with vinegar and pepper sauce. In Lexington (west), pork shoulders are popular and are served with a red BBQ sauce including tomatoes.
South Carolina: whole hog is also popular but it is served with a mustard-based sauce called “Carolina Gold”.
Tennessee:in Memphis, dry and wet rubs are used, mainly on pork ribs. Pulled pork is served with tomato-based BBQ sauce.
Kentucky:barbecued lamb is popular and is served with a Worcestershire-based sauce.
Missouri:St. Louis is best known for its St. Louis cut ribs. The city is also known for pork steak that is served with a vinegar tomato sauce. Burnt ends, which are double smoked caramelized hunks of brisket originated at the other end of the state, in Kansas City.
Texas: There are several traditions in this huge state that is often synonymous with BBQ. German and Czech immigrants influenced Central Texas with a focus on brisket, sausage and beef ribs. To the east of the state, the more traditional pork and sauce take center stage. In West and southwest Texas, cowboys and Mexicans influenced BBQ techniques with more direct grilling with a wider range of meats such as beef, pork and chicken.
Texas is where I am taking you today for traditional Texas style beef ribs.
Several rib cuts may be used, mainly short ribs and back ribs. You may choose your favorite cuts as the grilling techniques are similar.
Rib meat is composed of muscles that work a lot and therefore include connective tissues and sinew that are delicious but are almost inedible and rubbery if the meat is not cooked properly.
There are several techniques to make the meat more tender, such as French braising, Korean galbi, tenderizing the meat before cooking it or also smoking and indirect slow cooking.
This is the last method that we will discover with today’s cowboy recipe, starting with the spice rubs and sauces. There are as many dry rub and sauce recipes as Texan families. Here are just a few rules:
The spice rub, also called dry rub, is applied to the meat a few hours before grilling (even better, the night before) so that the meat absorbs the flavors.
The sauce that is used in Texas is actually two different sauces: mop sauce and sopping sauce.
Although mop sauce goes back well before the 60s, it was made popular by Chef Walter Jetton. Indeed, when President Johnson invited guests for a large barbecue, he called on his favorite BBQ pitmaster Walter Jetton to cook for hundreds of people. Grilling was done on a huge open BBQ outdoor measuring approximately 40 square feet. To retain the moisture in the meat, he used to baste it with sauce with the help of an actual mop.
Mop sauce (or mopping sauce) is a fairly liquid and unsweetened sauce. It is generally used throughout the grilling of the meat.
Sopping sauce, on the other hand, is thicker and is a mop sauce to which are added ketchup or tomato sauce and sugar (or molasses).
In my recipe, I have used only one sauce (sopping sauce) with which I slathered the meat in the last hour of grilling.
I cooked this dish for my best friend Paul and his girlfriend Nathalie who visited Los Angeles last month. Paul is a big carnivore like me. So this cowboy recipe was a real treat for us. That evening, I served the beef ribs with baked beans and cole slaw. An excellent recipe to prepare when you have the time and which will satisfy big eaters. #dietstartstomorrow
- 8 beef ribs (back ribs or short ribs)
- 4 oz wood chips (oak, hickory or applewood)
- 2 tablespoons chili powder (or paprika)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper , freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 dried red pepper (optional)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup ketchup
- Mix all the ingredients except ketchup in a food processor or blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add ketchup.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat.
- Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
- The day before, prepare the dry rub by combining all the spices.
- Cover the beef ribs with the dry rub.
- Lay the ribs in a dish, cover with foil and let stand overnight or at least 4 hours.
- The next day, place the wood chips and water in the smoker box or place wood chips in a foil pouch and poke the pouch to let the smoke out.
- Light the grill on one side until the temperature reaches 225 F.
- Place the smoker box over the fire.
- Place ribs bone side down, well spaced, on the side of the BBQ where there is no fire so that the meat is grilled with indirect fire.
- Grill the ribs for at least 4 hours or more, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 203 F.
- During the last hour of grilling, baste the ribs with the sopping sauce 2 or 3 times.
Serve with coleslaw, baked or potato salad.