Sunday, April 24, 2011

BBQ Rib Class at Dead End BBQ

We're fortunate to have Dead End BBQ in Knoxville, TN.  Not only do they make fabulous bbq and the best brisket in Tennessee, each year Dead End BBQ presents a series of barbecue and grilling classes.  They bring in the established names with world champion pedigrees like Mike Davis and Chris Lilly.  But they also include equally talented local gurus like Billy Bob Billy of Holy Smokers Too.  This year they have added grilling dynamo, Robyn Lindars of and to conduct one of her women's grilling clinics that Alexis will be attending.

The classes are first rate.  They are taught in the comfortable covered patio area at Dead End BBQ.  It seats 32 so it's the perfect size for a class.  Big enough to accommodate you but small enough to ask questions without having to shout.   The exceptional staff wait on you the entire class, a notable difference.  Your drinks are kept full and the tables bussed constantly.  One of my favorite amenities is the overhead camera and large screen TV so everyone can see what the instructor is doing when prepping something on the table.  

Yesterday I took the rib class taught by co-owner George Ewart.   George is a funny guy - when I walked in, he kidded around and asked if I was going to be able to learn anything from the class since I'd just been to Kingsford University.  Learn I did!  Here are some of the highlights of the day.

First off, we got to try a new appetizer they are going to offer - Pond Gap Pups, named after the local part of town.  They are de-friggin-licious, seriously.   From what I could tell, Pond Gap Pups are small hush puppies with some bbq rub and a little pulled pork in them.  In flavor, they are kind of like a cross between a hush puppy and those sausage cheese balls.  Perfect bite size flavor bombs.  I'm going to have to kidnap the rooster and pig mascots from the patio until George tells me how they make them.

George discussed strategies behind making a good bbq rub.  If making a rub with brown sugar,  spread it on a tray dry it out in a 150f oven to get the moisture out of it first, before adding to the rub.  I hadn't heard that before but I will definitely be using that tip from now on.  Then we each made a batch of dry rub.

On of the most hands on classes I've had, loved it.
Next, George compared and contrasted the types of pork ribs, discussed sourcing options, and showed how to cut a St. Louis style rib. I picked up a tip on using the 4th rib as a guide, I always just went by feel.
George playing a loin back harmonica!  Kidding - juxtaposition.
Then it was time for us all to practice removing the membrane. 

Time to rub our ribs.  Here's a simple tip, yet it is the biggest thing I walked away with because this little step helped me make a sweet rib that I like.  Normally I don't like sweet ribs.  Before putting the rub on, dust the rib with black pepper.  I've always just let the pepper in the rub suffice.  But this helped contrast the sweet at the end.  This one tiny detail made a big difference for me.

Rubbed up and ready to go into the smoker.

While our ribs smoked, George talked about smoking pork.  One thing I didn't know is that there is a vein that should be trimmed out because it is tough and won't render.  It is above the bone on the non-fat cap side.  Here George demonstrates how tough it is by holding up the 8lb butt with it.

Then we got to have some pulled pork.  There is no better bbq than pork right off of the cutting board will still hot.  
Ever reheat pork and it dries out?  Warm a little honey to get it less thick, add a little BBQ rub to it and stir it into the pork.  

Next we all pledged allegiance to the brisket....

Just kidding, George was talking about where it comes from.  Brisket is George's specialty and he gave us the "up and downs" of brisket.  An "up" comes from a cow that was in excess of 1000 lbs, a "down" is less.  They have found the "downs" have worked better for them and have more marbling.  Another thing I learned is that I need to be more aggressive in my trimming on my next brisket.   Then we sampled one of the smoked briskets, dipping in the mouth watering au jus that was juiced up with George's secret.  What?  I can't tell you.  Go take the class :)

Finally it was time to foil the ribs.  I haven't foiled ribs in over a year, I've been smoking them naked with good results.  But yesterday we used a version of the butter/margarine-honey-brown sugar method that a lot of comp teams have used.  

Apparently, the stress of teaching the class was too much because George went bananas.  

He shared a dessert recipe with a highly technical name - Banana Thing.  He smoked a mix of bananas, brown sugar, and cinnamon until they were syrupy like this. (15-20 minutes at 275f...ok Howard, it was 274, ha ha)

Then he put them in pieces of puff pastry, brushed them with butter and put them back in the cooker until the pastry has cooked.  Then a simple drizzle of chocolate sauce.  

I don't eat sweets so I relied on Howard Pollock to be my Taste Correspondent.  After he finished groaning in approval and licking his fingers, he said that they were excellent.

We each made a glaze for our ribs.  You want me to put HOW MUCH of that sweet stuff in my glaze?  Really?  Oooookay.  Then we painted our ribs with the glaze.

Finally they were done around 2pm.  

I bit into my rib and was surprised at how much I liked the flavor profile.  It is a sweet rib that I actually enjoy.  This is good because I have always cooked ribs differently for my family (they like sweet) than I did for myself.  Now I have one that can make the whole family happy.

I had a great day at Dead End BBQ and even this old dog learned a few new tricks (actually 3 pages worth, I didn't share all or most of them here).  Thanks to George, Robert, and the staff at Dead End BBQ for a fun and educational Saturday.  It is well worth the cost of the class, I recommend them to anyone interested in BBQ, whether you are a competition cook or just a back yard enthusiast.

May 22, 2011 - Mike Davis of Team Lotta Bull.  George said registering for this class gets you entered to win a Yoder smoker.  
June 18, 2011 - Robyn Medlin-Lindars of will teach a LADIES ONLY grilling class. 

[Standard Disclaimer] - I have no affiliation with nor do I receive compensation from Dead End BBQ.  Although I do plan to extort the Pond Gap Pup's recipe from George and Robert.