Monday, May 25, 2009

Who Stole My Smoke Ring?

I had a pair of spare ribs so I decided to do a "throwdown" between two products, Big Bob Gibson's rub and sauce versus Billy Bones rub and sauce.I know what you're thinking, it's not fair, the Billy Bones side has TWO rubs and adds cherry preserves to the sauce. First, that is how I have been doing my spares when I want wet ribs (I use my own rub when doing dry). Second, who cares? I was just experimenting a bit.

I cut both spares St. Louis style. I seasoned one with a 50/50 mix of Billy Bones XXX Cherry Rub and Billy Bones Competition rub (aka "green label"). I seasoned the other with Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Rub. I stuck a toothpick in one of the ribs so I could remember which was which.

I smoked them together on the Big Green Egg using Full Circle lump, 1" x 3" hickory chunks (local), and some cherry wood chips. I ran it at 250f dome temp but it got a little higher a few times. I turned the cooking grate 1/3rd turn each hour (to keep from having the same part over the hot spots the whole time).I wasn't going to use foil (3-2-1 method), but after 4 hours got nervous that they weren't getting done fast enough to beat the oncoming storms, so I wrapped them in foil for an hour. When I took them out of the foil, I sauced the Gibson one with Big Bob Gibson's Championship Red Sauce. I hit the Billy Bones one with a 50/50 mix of his Original BBQ Sauce and cherry preserves that were chopped up with an immersion blender. I let them go for another 20 minutes and they were done. The rain started 10 minutes after they came off the cooker:)

They looked really good. The rib bones were sticking out just perfectly, which is a good indicator to me that they were going to be tender.Sliced them up and testing began immediately, no waiting for fancy trappings like plates.
They were BOTH VERY GOOD. I would have been happy with each on their own. But everyone agreed that the "toothpick" ones were just a tiny bit better than the other ones, because of the sweetness. So Billy Bones won out this time. What does that prove? Nothing. Just that my family was in the mood for sweet ribs on this day. (For the record, in Big Bob Gibson's BBQ book, Chris Lilly mentions that they add sweetners to their Red sauce in competitions as well.)
They would have scored will on taste and texture in a comp, but would have given up points on appearance for the limited smoke ring. I've run into this the past few cooks for butts and ribs. That's why I was extra sure to use bigger chunks of hickory this time and they were distributed throughout the coal. I did have a nice thin smoke throughout the cook.

The one thing I have been doing different is using a deep dish pizza pan as a drip pan. It has liquid in it to keep the drippings from burning/smoldering but now I'm thinking that this is putting too much moisture inside the cooking chamber, slowing the formation of a smoke ring. Thoughts from any of you fellow Eggheads or BBQ'rs?