Thursday, October 6, 2011

Uncle Jack's Campin' Barbecue Ribs

Uncle Jack
That's right kids, it's time to gather 'round and let your old friend Uncle Jack show you how he barbecues ribs on a portable charcoal grill. Move in close, kids.

Not that damn close, jeez.

Timmy, your nose is running and you're creeping me out.

Jeremy, get your hands out of your pockets. What are you playing with in there? Cripes.

Brie . . . Jeezus, Brie, who names their kid after a cheese? . . . bring me that bottle of wine, will you?

Now settle down and watch how Uncle Jack does ribs.

We're going to make a rub. Here, I use fajita seasoning, paprika, some crushed red chili pepper, Saigon cinnamon, dry mustard, salt, freshly-ground black pepper, and garlic salt. Have a sip of wine.

I put a half-rack of room-temperature ribs into a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and sprinkle both sides liberally with the rub. Then press the rub into the meat through the plastic. My fingers get dirty enough when camping, so I do what I can to minimize goop. 

(Not shown: The bone side of the ribs has a tough membrane that needs to be removed before the ribs are rubbed. Basically you insert something like the probe on a meat thermometer or similar pointy thing under the membrane between two ribs to start the peeling job, then complete the job by pulling the membrane off with your fingers. But it's slippery, so I grip the membrane with a paper towel when peeling. It's a sticky job and I didn't want to get the camera all gummed up so I took no photo. )

Drizzle about a tablespoon of honey on both sides of the meat before closing the bag. It's going to marinate for about a half hour while I get the grill started and make the mop. And now is a good time to have a sip of wine.

Using heavy-duty foil, make a drip pan to go under half of your $19 portable charcoal grill. Heap enough charcoal on the other side to fill it.

I used charcoal lighting fluid to start the file. I'd-a preferred to avoid petrochemicals when cooking, but I need to build or find a smaller chimney-style starter than the ones I see in the stores. They are just too bulky for my needs. Anyway, I used the the lid as a windscreen to let the fire get a good start. Once lit, a sip of wine is nice to have. 

While the coals get started and the meat marinates, I make the mop on the stovetop. In a mason jar I have salt, apple cider vinegar, and butter. A saucepan with an inch or so of water makes a nice bain-marie. ("Bain-marie" is a term from alchemy and it's pretty much a double boiler, but sounds fancier; Wikipedia has a nice writeup about this much-maligned process.)
After about 30 minutes and a few more sips of wine, the coals are going well. Spread them out and put on the grill, place the ribs over the drip pan, bone-side down, and stick in oven thermometer.  The ribs will be slow-cooked for somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours, and the temperature wants to be between 275 and 350. Cover the grill and have another sip of wine. 

Controlling temperature is no Swiss picnic when it's windy, I can tell you. Here, I have about a 3/4'' opening on the windward (left) side. Every five minutes, check the oven thermometer and adjust the size of the opening as needed to try to keep the temperature in the target range, and have some more wine. 

After 45 minutes and many sips of wine, baste both sides of the ribs with the mop. With the ribs still bone side down, re-cover, and keep cooking, checking temp as you go along. Re-mop every 15 minutes while making sure that the wine glass never goes empty. A second bottle of wine might need to be opened right about now. 
Somewhere between an hour and a half and two hours, (or one to one-half bottles of wine) depending on temperature, the ribs will be protruding about 1/4'' out of the meat, indicating that the meat is done.  

We're going to want some barbecue sauce at this time. 

Brush the sauce the ribs and sear them directly over the coals, about a minute per side. 

Bon AppĂ©tit! Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy some lip-smackin' ribs. 

One final note: the composition of the rub, the mop, and your barbecue sauce are up to you. I used the stuff I had on hand. 

So until next time, this is your old friend Uncle Jack, telling you to have fun trying this recipe, and to be careful with fire when camping in the woods.

Goddamn it, which one of you little bastards spilled my wine?!?


  1. "I'd-a preferred to avoid petrochemicals when

    Who wouldn't? But you can buy fire-starters made out of wood chips that work very well. At least they do for me.

    BTW I think "Cookin' Outdoors With Uncle Jack" would be a great show for one of those huntin' and fishin' channels.

  2. (Pauses to fix picture captions -- blogspot's editor is far from WYSIWYG).

    I'll check out those wood fire starters.

    Yeah, a cooking show! Graham Kerr and Julia Child would have nothin' on me when it comes to mixing wine with food.

  3. I posted another camping recipe a few years ago to my Google Blogger blog. Google cancelled that service and provided no way to migrate posts to their blogspot replacement. However, it has been archived. Behold, my Campin' Pizza Margherita recipe at:'pizzamargherita

  4. The wood-chip fire igniters are held together with paraffin, which of course is a petroleum product, but they don't stink like the liquid stuff.

    Back in the day milk cartons used to make great fire starters, but they don't coat 'em with wax anymore so they no longer work.


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