KC 77 - Ribbed for your Pleasure

Sometimes, we just have to let Title Jon have his fun. Anyway, Hello There! And welcome to Kitchen Catastrophes! We just wrapped up basically almost 2 weeks of Hawaiian content, so let’s come back to the mainland, and continue to enjoy the bounty of summer! Today’s recipe is gonna be a food we’ve touched on before, using a METHOD we’ve used before, but we kind of brushed over both of them. So let’s talk about Smokers, Ribs, and, you know, whatever my mind wanders into, because, I’m gonna level with you, I am a little out of it right now.


Jon, mentally unbalanced? Say it ain’t so.

Fuck off, Title Jon. Geez, you give a guy a condom joke, and he stabs you in the back a minute later. There’s a lesson to that. God only knows what it is, but there we go. But, yeah, I’m a little out of it. I actually have been for a few weeks, but I’m starting to feel pretty good! IF you don’t want essentially a couple hundred words of livejournal, just jump to the next section. My feelings won’t be hurt, mainly because I’ll never know!

For those who stayed, it’s actually all pretty easy to understand. Just over a month ago, I went to Leavenworth for 2 weeks to help out Site Otaku Joe Seguin. It was a fun time: we hung out, drank; I spent an evening hanging out with Alan, we drank; Charlie, who was featured in a post back in the Facebook note days, came and hung out, so we drank; JJ and I watched 9 hours of Agents of SHIELD in 2 days, and we drank. All in all, it was a stirring trip that left a stinging in my liver.

Maybe a morning cider will ease the pain. 

I came back to a kind of cramped schedule: I got home Sunday, unpacked Monday, 4th of July was Tuesday, and then I had to leave town for the weekend on Friday. So I had 2 weeks of travel, then a week of discombobulation, and then I was finally home and free; except, by that point, three of our chicks had turned out to be roosters. Which we discovered when they started crowing.

And when you’re sleeping twenty feet away from them, through an OPEN HALLWAY, trust me, they’re LOUD. And they would start at like, 7-8 in the morning. This, I know, is not a time that garners a lot of sympathy, but just look at it from my view for a second: in a perfect world, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I like to sleep from about 1-2 AM to around 9 AM. So every morning, for 2 weeks, I would be forced awake 1 to 2 hours before I was ready, by essentially rhythmic, animal screaming. You can understand this was uncomfortable.  

But, as I write this, the chickens are spending their third night outside, and so far this weekend, there’s been no ill effects. I'm even ashamed to admit we're updating a little late today because I slept in until noon, so happy am I that my mornings are no longer cacophonies of crows. We’ll talk more about the chickens Thursday, but for now, know things are looking good. So smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and let’s get cooking!


Smokey The Bear is a worrying mascot, when you really think about it.

Now, I’m not certain whether or not I’ve ever discussed this appliance in my home, because my brain is like a fine-mesh sieve: It remembers the big things, or stuff with the right little craggly edges, but anything small and unremarkable is going to slide straight through. How many days have I worn these socks? I don’t know. Did I make plans for next Thursday? Someone will remind me. My memory is so notably bad that, when I popped into My Documents to see if I HAD made a post using the smoker before, I ended up spending 15 minutes straightening up my files (I haven’t been consistent with naming, and made a few number errors) then read an article about under-discussed issues the mentally disabled suffer, and then started watching a YouTube video before going “Wait, wasn’t I doing something?” All that occurred in the middle of this paragraph!

In my defense, I basically automatically click any and all Adam Ruins Everything videos I find.

BUT, in case I haven’t covered it: my house has a smoker. Well, technically we have a “Pellet Grill”, where wood pellets are ignited and deposited to provide heat and smoke for the food, but honestly, the distinction is solely based on the method of providing smoke, so we can basically ignore it. (There is some contention that a raw wood smoker provides more smokiness to meats than a pellet smoker, but, again, it doesn’t change the GOAL of the devices.) This should come as little surprise, given my repeated statements of my family’s love for food, and the less-discussed love of the outdoors, a topic I don’t talk about because, in all honesty, I have little interest in it. I don’t mind camping or hiking, but I’m an Eagle Scout. I did enough of that in my teens. It’s not novel or particularly fun for me. It’s just slightly worse sleeping/walking, with better views.  

Anywho, my hatred for the wilds is not the topic for the day, the SMOKER is. Now, we’ve talked a lot about what, exactly, the difference between grilling and barbecue is. But we haven’t really talked about Smoking, so here’s a crash course: smoking is old-school barbecue. Cooking Low and Slow, imbuing flavors and melting connective tissues are all things handled in classic hot-smoking ventures, such as what we’re doing today. Smoking does have some additional tricks, like Cold-Smoking, where there’s actually no cooking at all, simply the imbuement of flavor, and holy shit, I didn’t think imbuement was actually a word.

So, we got ourselves a swanky little smoker, what are we going to make with it?


We’ll have to Communicate through Hambone.

 Now, this recipe, like many recent developments at my house, is the product of…a questionable and frankly irritating method of production my mother uses, and, to a lesser extent, I indulge in, what I have internally taken to calling “creative chore conscription”. Essentially what will happen is my mother will have an idea or impulse, typically formed by some new stimuli. “I see pork ribs are $2 a pound. We like ribs. Maybe we should have ribs for dinner sometime this week.”

“That sounds fine,” I mutter, staring at various frozen chicken parts, not fully listening.  “How much do you want?”

I walk over, grab the ribs, and put them in the cart.

The next morning, she will ask “So, how are you going to cook those ribs for dinner tonight?”

The astute will notice that I never agreed to cook these ribs. I definitely didn’t agree to do so FOR TONIGHT. I didn’t even enthusiastically agree to the meal. But because I was present when she had her idea, now it’s my responsibility. So now I have to go research recipes for ribs, AND, face constant criticism for my methods NOT being like what she intended, or ‘taking too long’ to put a plan together, again, FOR SOMETHING I HAD NO INTENT OF DOING UNTIL YOU DECIDED IT WAS MY JOB.

"Bet you're starting to MISS our crowing, aren't you, Jon?"
No. Not even a little bit. 

 Communication frustrations aside, ribs are pretty easy to make, and the recipe I used was particularly notable. Taken from my smoking idol Steven Raichlen, it was a recipe for smoked pork spareribs with a “5-4-3-2-1” rub. What does that mean? Follow me on a magical journey to discover its hidden secrets!

It’s the ratio of ingredients. That’s it. Journey over.

The journey to Spice Mountain.

But, yeah, that’s what makes the rub recipe easy to remember: it’s 5 tablespoons this, 4 tablespoons that, 3 tablespoons the other thing, etc etc. This specific version was sugar, paprika, salt, lemon pepper, and granulated garlic. A recipe I immediately just ripped apart. I mixed brown sugar and white sugar, sweet and smoked paprika, and actually discovered we DIDN’T have Lemon Pepper mid-production, so I just zested a lemon and mixed it with ground black pepper.

And once you’ve mixed the rub together, you’re basically half done with the actual work of the recipe. Because once the rub goes on, the directions are “open your smoker every hour to do 30 seconds of effort until done.” Before the rub does go on, though, you gotta peel your ribs. If you’ve never worked with ribs before, you may not know this, but overlaying the bone side of the ribs is a thin membrane that doesn’t really cook too well. It binds the ribs together, and prevents you from getting flavor on the bottom half of the rubs. Luckily, it peels off like a band-aid once you get it going.

"Like a meat band-aid" is a strangely off-putting description, despite all band-aids technically being meat band-aids. 

Rip it off, rub it on, and toss your ribs right in the smoker, and now you play the waiting game. It’ll be about 5 hours before they’re ready. Every hour, you’re supposed to mist the ribs with a mixture of apple cider and bourbon. We used Brown Sugar Bourbon, because we’re a decadent people. But, after five and half hours of work, how does it look?

Basically the same as at 4 hours? 

The ribs were…fascinating, in a way. The bark was crisp and solid, the meat almost hammy in how it tore. There was a slightly weird flavor, likely the result of the lemon zest, or the paprika mix-up. But over all, they were a great success.





Steven Raichlen’s Kansas City-Style Sparerib, with an Washington twist



2 racks spareribs (each around 3-4 pounds)


5 tablespoons sugar (which kind? I didn't know so I used both.)

4 tablespoons sweet paprika (I mixed sweet and smoked, because I didn't have enough sweet)

3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)

2 tablespoons lemon pepper 

1 tablespoon granulated garlic


3/4 cup apple cider

1/4 cup bourbon



1. Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs.

2. Place the sugar, paprika, salt, lemon pepper, and granulated garlic in a bowl and stir with your fingers to mix. Generously sprinkle the rub on both sides of the ribs, rubbing the seasonings onto the meat. You can cook the ribs right away, but you’ll get a richer, more complex flavor if you let the ribs cure in the refrigerator, covered, for at least 2 hours, or as long as overnight.

3. Using a funnel, pour the cider and bourbon into a spray bottle. Shake the bottle to mix.

4. If you are using a smoker, set it up following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat it to low (225°). When ready to cook, place the racks of ribs in the smoker. bone side down. Smoke the ribs until cooked through, 4 to 5 hours. Be sure to maintain your smoke supply: refill the pellet box, or toss in more wood charcoal when needed.  Start spraying the ribs with the cider-bourbon mixture after 1 hour and spray them once an hour after that

If you are grilling using the indirect method, look up Kansas City Style Spareribs on Google, because it's a huge block of text, and also I don't feel like stealing more from Raichlen then I can attest I did. 

5. When the ribs are done, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/2 inch and will be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. The exterior will be dark, almost black, but not burned.

6. Transfer the racks of ribs to a  cutting board. Cut the racks in half or into 2-3 bone portions. Serve the ribs with your preferred barbecue sauce.