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Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em | Memorial Day Beckons

The Boucanier: Patrick J. Momany (inset) and a fine rack of smoked ribs. - Courtesy photos/Pat Momany
The Boucanier: Patrick J. Momany (inset) and a fine rack of smoked ribs.
— image credit: Courtesy photos/Pat Momany

Patrick J. Momany, local BBQ-extraordinaire, new guest columnist to What's Up, waxes poetic on the virtues of smoked ribs on Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a day for family and friends to gather and remember those servicemen and women who have sacrificed to keep us free. There is no better event around which to gather than a BBQ and no better food than ribs. I'd like to help you prepare the best ribs possible while we remember the fallen veterans of yesterday and our heroes of today.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

You may not own a smoker but you can still smoke.

Most grills can be converted to be a smoker with just a few simple tricks. The key is to remember that to smoke properly you have to cook with "indirect" heat. Meaning simply, don't put your ribs directly over your fire.

Another don't — and even far more important — is never, ever, pre-boil your ribs.

The only thing you achieve is to create a tasteless rack and some great pork stock. Never eat a boiled rib. You can identify boiled ribs by the gray fat and cartilage. If anything, use the Texas foil method. A true smoked rib will have white/cream -colored meat with a smoke ring of 1/16 to ¼ inch.

A couple tricks for converting grill-to-smoker are:

1. On a gas grill - turn only one unit on. Purchase a cast-iron pellet pot that has a cover or use a No. 10 envelope-sized aluminum pouch, pricked with a toothpick once or twice, filled with your favorite pellets. Do not soak the pellets. You can use fruit wood chips, soaked if you prefer, instead of the pellets.

2. If you own a Weber kettle, you'll need to use an 8- by 16-inch aluminum or steel flat cookie pan to keep the coals compartmentalized to the outer edge and another sheet pan placed on top of those coals. After placing approximately 20-25 heated coals into the compartment, add a good handful of pellets on top. This will generate immediate smoke and should keep the temperature around 225 degrees (keep it there). Depending on the style of rib you are smoking — baby back, St. Louis or spare — the time should be between three to six hours. Don't look at them for at least the first hour or two. Every time you look, add 15 minutes to your time. You will have to add charcoal and pellets every hour or two. Leave the pellets off the last period. Remember you do not have to see smoke to get the smoke flavor.

Rounding it out

Use a good dry rub without much salt. I have found there's no need to rub hours/days before smoking. Just go ahead rub and smoke. If you are smoking pork spare ribs you may want to cut the breast bone off, a technique I've coined as the Kitsap Cut.

Trim some of the excess fat, but not too much. Doing so will make for a better product and quicker smoke while preserving the most amount of meat.

You will know when they are done when they have Sweated (become completely moist), ¼ to ½ inch of bone is showing and finally, when you pick up the rack halfway down the small end and the rack bends to just about 90 degrees and it starts to break, you'll end up with very tender but firm competition rib. So always remember SBB - Sweat, Bone and Bend.

If you'd like more information or to ask a specific question go to my blog at or stop by my shack to shoot the bull ... or pork.

Patrick J. Momany, boucanier, is the owner of TaTu BBQ, LLC located at 11133 N. Maine Ave, Kingston. He is currently raising money to travel to Germany to feed wounded U.S. troops on the Fourth of July. For more information call him at (206) 979-4686.

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