One of the things I love the most about real BBQ is the deep richness that comes from slow, low cooking in a smoker. Sadly, as I live in a first floor flat without any kind of outdoor space (apart from a windowsill and that is hardly going to accommodate a big fat Weber), I have been unable to indulge in such antics.
However, I have been toying around with the idea of using my stove-top smoker to infuse the meat and then my conventional oven to finish the cooking and I have to say I think I’ve come up trumps. When you use a proper cold-smoker you need to keep a tray of water near the meat to help keep it moist and control the temperature of the smoke – otherwise you’ll end up some charred, dry unpleasantness that will make you sad. Now, I know that you can put metal hot-smokers in the oven but I didn’t want to go down that road for a two-hour cooking session as there is nowhere to put a tray of water that would benefit the process. Nor did I want my oven to smell like a bonfire for the next few weeks (smoky cake anyone?) so I decided to use the hot-smoker on the hob and then transfer the meat to a baking dish and put liquid in that before covering the whole lot and cooking at a low temperature for a good couple of hours. Simple.
I used a rub based on the excellent Pitt Cue Co recipe – I would have followed it exactly but didn’t have all the ingredients – and let the meat sit overnight before smoking. After finishing in the oven I have to say the results were fantastic! Although there wasn’t exactly the smoke ring through the meat that is the sign of proper BBQ, there was a bit of char and a good ‘bark’ (if you eat enough BBQ you’ll know what I mean) and, above all, there was a glorious smoky flavour that ran through the whole thing. It was quite staggeringly good. I’m going to make it again. Probably rather soon. So, here we go….
Note that the following quantity makes a large amount of rub but it keeps really well in a sealed container for a few weeks. Also, make sure you remove the thin membrane on the ribs – if you turn them so the curved side is down, use a sharp knife to carefully separate the membrane from the meat and then pull the whole thing off. It may or may not come off in one go. And yes, it is alarmingly satisfying.
Finally, if you haven’t got any liquid smoke don’t worry – it works fine with just water. Or bourbon. Or both…
For the rub:
- 5g fennel seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 50g dark brown sugar
- 1/2 onion powder
- 50g fine sea salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 rack baby-back ribs (membrane removed)
- 2 tsp liquid smoke
- a glug of bourbon
- 100ml water
- BBQ sauce for glazing
First, make the rub. In a dry pan lightly toast the fennel, cumin, pepper, and coriander until they begin to smell amazing then remove and allow to cool. Blitz with the rest of the spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.
Next, prepare the ribs. It is worth making sure they will fit easily in your smoker – you may find you have to cut the rack into portions but that won’t matter. Having removed the membrane from the rack, rub the whole lot generously with your, er, rub, cover, and put in the fridge overnight. If you have space put the ribs on a wire rack to let any liquid drip out but it’s not a disaster if your fridge is too mini.
The following day, remove the ribs from the fridge and pat them dry with some kitchen paper and allow to come back up to room temperature.
Prepare your smoker – I used oak chippings but any decent strong flavour will do – put the meat on the rack in the drip tray over a handful of chippings, put the lid on and place over a high heat until it begins to smoulder and then turn your hob down low. Cook the ribs for 30 mins then remove from the smoker.
While your kitchen is slowly turning into a smoky den (make sure you have all your windows open!!!), put a small wire rack in a roasting tray and add your liquids to the bottom. Pre-heat your oven to Gas mark 2/150c.
When your ribs are smoked, put them on the rack and cover the tray with foil then put in the oven for at least two hours, checking occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary.
After waiting patiently and smelling the increasingly awesome aroma that will be filling your kitchen, remove the tray and have a look at the meat – the outside will flake away and the meat should be tender and easily come away from the bone.
Glaze with BBQ sauce and finish under a hot grill to add an extra layer of gloss and decadence.
Eat without delay with pickles and any other BBQ delights you may have. I found some burnt ends kicking about so I had them too….
NB – I got the burnt ends from Bodeans who supply excellent pre-cooked BBQ packs to take away…