Texas Bar-B-Que. Having moved from Texas 15+ years ago, I miss that distinct flavor of meat slow cooked with mesquite hardwood. I am not a pit master, nor do I profess to know very much about the nuances of barbecue. It is an American culinary art form in the truest sense and I have nothing but the utmost respect for the art of barbecue and, man, I sure love to eat it!
I was recently in Texas and got the opportunity to work and cook with Louis McMillan of McMillan’s Bar-B-Que in Fannin, Texas. Mr. McMillan is a barbecue pit master and he’s the real deal. He’s been in business since 1972 and his place was named one of The 50 Best BBQ Joints . . . in the World! by Texas Monthly Magazine. His brisket is otherworldly tender, moist and fall a part delicious.
McMillan uses a combination of oak, pecan and mesquite hardwoods in his barbecue pits. The flavor and the tenderness of his barbecued meats is so good that it doesn’t require sauce. In fact, McMillan serves his barbecue with only a small ramekin of sauce on the side in case you wants to dip.
When I got home, I was pretty fired up to test my newly acquired skills. I had oak and olive hardwood on hand that I use for my Bull Outdoor pizza oven and recently scored a box of mesquite hardwood chunks the last time I was at the warehouse… I was set on wood. I know that I usually write recipes oriented for gas grilling, but this is bar-b-que and clearly a job for the Bison charcoal grill.
I used a chimney starter and a couple lumps of mesquite hardwood charcoal just to get things rolling and set up the grill for indirect heat. Once the charcoal had ashed over, I added it to the side of the grill that I wouldn’t be cooking on and left the grate off over the fire for easy access. The wood was added next – the oak and olive were about 3-inches in diameter by about 10-inches in length, the mesquite was a lump a little bigger than my fist.
I simply seasoned the ribs, about 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon per rack, with Bull All-Purpose Rub and placed them on the indirect side of the grill. I closed all of the top vents and tried to keep the temperature hanging around 225ºF as much as possible. The temperature was checked every hour and I added another lump of mesquite if the temperature had dipped below 200ºF. I also basted the ribs every hour with a cider vinegar mop (recipe below), except for the last two hours so the ribs would form a nice crust.
The ribs smoked for about 5 hours total until the meat had shrunk back from the bones. I transferred the ribs to a sheet pan, covered the pan with foil and let them rest for 30 minutes before cutting apart the individual ribs… the waiting was torture!
I have to tell you that these were some pretty AMAZING ribs! Great smoke flavor – you can see the pink smoke ring at the edges of the ribs… no sauce necessary. I tried as much as possible to cook in the style of Mr. McMillan – no drip pan, no humidifiers – just ribs and smoke – it sure paid off!
I can see how the men and women pit masters on the barbecue circuit get hooked… I wanted everyone to try these ribs! Serve barbecue sauce on the side for dipping.
Cider Vinegar Rib Mop
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup prepared mustard
Juice from 1 lemon
6 to 8 shakes of Tabasco
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons dried marjoram leaves, crushed
Whisk together all ingredients until combined. Use for basting ribs and other cut of slow-cooked barbecue pork. WIll keep covered in the refrigerator for one week
Cheers and Happy Grilling!