What’s For Dinner? Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs


SlowCookedSmokedBabybackRibs

UPC’s Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs

I’ve been slowly but surely refining my basic process for cooking up a “Smoked” meat dish, in the comfort of your own home using a slow-cooker or crock pot. I consider these ribs to be the final proof of the process for that. So the good news (other than that I had a delicious dinner, and loved every minute of it) is that I can finally document my “Slow-Cooker Smoked” process and start to build some recipes around it. Keep your eyes peeled for this in the future as I intend to be sharing many of these recipes with you!

As far as this recipe is concerned, you could do this using the “Smoked” process which I will document separately, or you could do these in a more “traditional” slow-cooker process. In fact, this recipe will work well for a grilled meal as well. All you would do is change this recipe slightly to do the final cooking on the grill rather than in a slow-cooker. Also, since a grill is quite a bit hotter than a slow-cooker, the cook time for grilling these will be somewhere in the neighborhood of between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the temperature you use. A higher cook-time will give you a faster turn around. It will also sear the outside of the ribs more, which may be preferable. A lower temperature and longer cook time will encourage the use of sauces and other flavors to change the flavor of the ribs.

Slow-Cooked Smoked Babyback Ribs; What you’ll need:

  • 1 large rack Babyback Ribs
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar (you can use a flavored one too, if you have one)
  • 1 cup water (filtered, please!)
  • Spices: Turmeric, Sage, Sea Salt

Serves: 2 (depending on the size of the rib rack; and how good it is!)
Cook and Prep time: 1.5 days.

1. In a pan or on a griddle, thoroughly brown the ribs on both sides. Do this using high heat – you want the outside to be browned, but you don’t want to cook the meat on the inside much, if any.

BabybackRibs_Browning

See the red showing on the edge of the ribs? Brown the outside quickly, but don’t cook the slab of ribs.

2. Put the ribs, spices, and oil and vinegar in a marinating container and put it away for a day.

3. About 6-8 hours before meal time, dump the ribs and marinade all in to a slow cooker or crock pot and turn it on to low.

4. Serve and enjoy!!

BabybackRibs_Spiced

For Grilling:
Instead of slow-cooking for 6-8 hours, slow cook for 1 hour. Then finish cooking on the grill on high heat for 20-40 minutes, brushing the marinade onto the ribs to keep them moist.

To do the “Smoked Slow-Cooked” Version:

  1. BabybackRibs_SmokingPlatformSave the bones from your last ribs in the freezer (or you can buy some bones from your local butcher – most have some for sale; If you buy, I’d cook these up at least once for some Bone Broth first!).
  2. Follow the slow-cooker instructions steps 1 and 2 above.
  3. Before above step 3: Thaw and arrange the bones across the bottom of the slow-cooker so that the meat will be lifted up above the marinade liquid.
  4. Return to the slow-cooker step 3 instructions, though this time drizzle the marinade over the top of the meat several times during the 8-hours of cook time.

This is a fascinating idea that I’ve been playing around with since this post, many months ago. What happens is the marinade will heat up, evaporating the liquids, and will effectively steam the meat slab suspended above it. If that were all that happened, this would be somewhat different than it ends up being. At the same time, the oils in the marinade allow the slow-cooker to over-cook the bones that were left in the bottom of the pan, letting them caramelize and smoke the meat above it. The intentional overcooking of the bones making the smoke, along with the flavors in the marinade, combine to create the same effect as using a smoker, while allowing you to do the whole thing relatively safely in your own kitchen.
As a note on this: I did recently find a crack in my crock pot, and it’s entirely possible that it was doing this that ruined it. Even using the Low heat setting will result in a lot of heat being funneled in to the slow-cooker, and since there’s not a lot of liquid in there to absorb the heat (that’s kind of our intention) it will end up causing the pot itself to heat up quite a lot. Of course, the benefit to this is that the bones on the bottom, since they’re touching the pot, will heat up a lot and smoke the meat. And it’s delicious! On the other hand, I suggest paying extra attention to the crock pot; keep it away from walls and potentially flammable stuff on the counter, and only do this when you’re home to monitor it regularly.

Questions:

  • Do you like smoked/cured meat?
  • Have you ever smoked your own meat?
  • Will you be trying the slow-cooker smoked meat steps/process that I’ve outlined above?
  • What kinds of meat would you be most interested in smoking?
  • Do you have a smoker? How often do you use it?
  • What kinds of sides would you serve with this meal?
  • What kind of dessert would you serve with this meal?

Crock-Pot Smoked Beef – First Try!


PulledSmokedBeef

This has been a LONG TIME COMING! I first stumbled on this a while back, and wrote about it. I accidentally left a pork-roast in the slow cooker all day without any of the normal water-adding ingredients to help it cook properly. I came home, smelled the smoke, and immediately realized what I had done. Fearing the worst, I looked in to my slow cooker to find a wonderful gift waiting for me! It turns out, I did leave something in the slow cooker to mitigate the direct heat on the pork roast: I left Beef Short Rib bones, which I had expected to add their valuable nutrition content to the stewing process. Instead, they crisped slowly, giving off a slow-burn of smoke and water vapor to “smoke” the pork roast. And it was amazing!

I inadvertently did it again a week ago when I left the kitchen to make a “quick update” to one of my posts while cooking. I had a handful of carrots underneath some steak, cooking on a low temperature. Well, my “quick update” ended up taking more than an hour, and I completely forgot about the food! I know, it’s embarrassing… But even Chefs make mistakes! Trust me when I say: we don’t get every recipe right every time. We just have the dedication, perseverance, and passion to keep trying after we mess something up! Well, when I finally got back to my food, the carrots were crisped, but the beef had a delicious smoked flavor – it was amazing!

But this time, I did it completely on purpose! Here’s what I did:

  • 8 Beef Short Rib Bones
  • 2 lb Beef Shank Steak (grass-fed, of course!)
  • 1 inch Ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 Apple, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Black Pepper (thick coating)

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedGingerI arranged the short-rib bones on the bottom of my crock-pot so there was a fairly even surface across the top. I wanted to ensure that as the shank steak started to cook, it wouldn’t sag down to the base of the crock, gaining direct access to the heat. I want as much of the heat as possible to go in to the bones, causing them to crisp and release their smokey water vapor to slow-cook the beef in.

On top of the bones, I spread the sliced ginger out, giving an even coverage. This is important. Ginger is an amazingly versatile spice, and can add some of the extra flavoring that you might normally expect from a smoked meat. It gives it some of that smokey flavor in the sharp spicy flavoring of the ginger. Also, it will help to retain some of the water content in the meat, so that it cooks off the water more slowly.

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedApplesOn top of the ginger, I spread out one layer of the apples. As you can see from the picture, I’m not terribly concerned with the bone portion of the shank steak – it’s the meat that I want to ensure proper moisture to. In a smoke-house, this is done by adding water to the smoke, but in a crock-pot or slow-cooker, you don’t have the space to really play with the smoke. Or, at least, I don’t yet have the experience to design the cooking-process like that. Soon, though, I hope! Anyway, the apples helped a LOT!

PulledSmokedBeef-PreCookedPepperI added the coconut oil in two discreet gobs on each steak. Location, in this, is essential! I carefully placed the coconut oil where it is so that as it melted, it would have a lot of surfaces to work with before draining off the side of the beef. As I said: location is key. The more work it has to do to drain off the beef, the longer it will be there adding it’s flavor and moisture back in to the beef during the cooking process. I’m not making jerky here – so I don’t want my final product to be all dried out. I want it cooked, but smoked! Finally, the spicing.  Using a pepper grinder, I applied a thick layer of pepper over everything. That black-pepper flavor is one of the key ingredients in replicating a smoked meat!

PulledSmokedBeefThe results?

I loved the final product. The beef was delicious, full of flavor, and moist enough to really enjoy! I haven’t decided yet if it was a good thing or a bad thing that it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the crock. I ended up pulling it mostly apart and serving it like a “Pulled Beef” dish. Perhaps the cut of beef is important here? But the flavor and texture were spot on, and it steamed away on my plate as I looked at it. There is definitely more work to be done. This, as much as I enjoyed both the process and the results, is definitely not a finished product. But I have succeeded in starting the process. And the final product, whenever I manage to get there, will be excellent!!

Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. There needs to be water in the process (somehow) for this to work.
  2. The success of this attempt notwithstanding, somehow I need to make something in the crock pot thoroughly crisp. And I have to select that something with care.
  3. I can’t wait to try again!!!

Questions:

  • Have any of you ever done anything like this?
  • What are your results? Do you have suggestions on my process? How about flavoring?
  • Which cuts of meat do you generally try to us? Does cut matter for the final product?

I look forward to your responses! And I hope all of you go ahead and try something similar to this – it was an experience worth the effort! And the final product was definitely tasty!

Slow-Cooker Smoked Pork Roast


SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated2

When does a horrible mistake turn out to be an astonishing success? Well, if I was hiking along, minding my own business, and fell down a small hole discovering an un-claimed gold mine, that would count, right? This time is different – but not that much!!! I set up my evening meal in the crock-pot this morning, before heading to work, as I often do. Upon returning home, I smelled the delightful smell of smoked meat as I approached my apartment. I thought to myself: “Huh, I wonder who ordered something smoked?” as I unlocked my door. Was I greeted with a cloud of thick, dark smoke, and my smoke alarm going off incessantly? No! Instead, I was greeted by the smell of freshly smoked meat, as though someone had smoked some pork for me, somewhere else, and brought it by 20 minutes earlier for me to enjoy!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Sliced1

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you!! I didn’t believe it myself!!! Now, don’t go rushing out to try this yourself. This requires a significant amount of “tweeking” before it will be a proper recipe, easily followed by the non-lucky. You thought I was going to call myself “good” didn’t you? Worry not – I give credit where credit is due. And in this case, credit is due to Lady Luck, and no one else!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated

What I did:

In preparing my dinner for today, I decided that I wanted to have some of the wonderfully delicious pork roast which was sitting in the freezer waiting to be eaten. I pulled it out and dropped it on top of the Beef Short Rib bones left over from my recent Beef Short Ribs – Apple Pie Style. As a note: I rarely throw anything away. So if there is leftover anything from any of my recipes, I always find a way to use it!

So I dropped the pork on top of the ribs, planning to put some vegetables and some water and spices in as well, to cook it up like any other roast. While I was heating up the slow-cooker, I started breakfast, and completely lost track of the slow-cooker. Needless to say, I left the house without adding any of the vegetables or liquids to the mix.

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Sliced

How did it work out?

Well, your guess is perhaps as good as mine. I will definitely be trying to replicate this soon, and if it works, you will see a Recipe Post from me soon! Be that as it may, here is what I think happened: Since the slow cooker was on the lowest “cooking” temperature, I think that the pot heated up slowly enough not to crisp the bones. The pork juice dripped down on the bones, providing just enough moisture and oil/fat to over-cook the bones, but keeping the temperature enough under control to stop them from crisping (which would have caused the smoke alarm to go off, and all sorts of other not-so-fun things).

The Smoke flavor you expect from a smoker was provided, in large part, because the slow-cooker is a nominally contained environment, and the little bit of liquid provided by the pork was able to evaporate, carrying the very-over-cooked bones’ flavor up in to the pork.

What didn’t work: Because I didn’t plan for this, the meat was (while astonishingly delicious!!) overdone and dry. This is a problem that experienced smokers are familiar with, and have processes in place to make sure that it’s not a problem. So, I will be thinking about what vegetables and other additives (including location, and arrangement) to put in the crock pot to ensure that the meat is moist and delectable when it comes out!

I will most definitely be trying this again!

And if it works out (which I am REALLY hoping that it does!) I will be sharing it with all of you. Imagine: The “Urban Paleo Chef’s Guide to Crock-Pot Smoked Meat”! I can’t wait!!!

Feel free to post in thoughts, comments, and ideas! I am definitely interested in hearing what you all have to say, how you would recommend making sure that this works again, and what you all would try to make it happen!

SlowCookerSmokedPork-Plated1