@GRMAGAZINE: The Complexity of Q

(Grand Rapids, MI) — Our friends Karla and Jay participate in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned competitions, so we knew exactly who to go to for “try this at home” advice on good ‘que. Realizing most home cooks do not have access to an expensive custom-built smoker, we asked them for recipes that only require a grill with a wood box or a smoker...

Karla shares this recipe for Foolproof Apple Butter Spare Ribs:

Preheat your grill to 235 degrees and load the wood box or smoker with wood (Apple wood recommended.)

Trim the excess fat off the ribs and remove the membrane from the back of the rack. (Sometimes using a dish towel or even a paper towel helps you get a grip on the slippery membrane.) Rub the ribs with your favorite dry rub and let them sit at room temp until the rub has moistened up and is shiny.

Smoke the rack meat side up at 235 degrees for three hours. Remove ribs and liberally brush the meat side with apple butter. Wrap them tightly in foil and return to the grill. Cook for another two hours meat side down. Unwrap the ribs and discard the foil. Glaze the rack with your favorite BBQ sauce and return to the grill for 30-60 minutes or until the ribs are done to your desired tenderness.

Suggested rub:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp kosher salt
3 tsp chili powder
3 tbsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2- 1 tsp cayenne (to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Suggested sauce:
2 cups ketchup
1 ¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp mustard
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 cup apricot nectar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp paprika
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne

In addition to competing for the MetalTek Meatheads—a team sponsored by her father’s Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company—Karla has formed an all-female barbeque team dubbed BBQtease. She cooks and eats more than her fair share of smoked pork butts, beef brisket, and ribs all summer long so Karla developed this recipe for pulled chicken as a healthy alternative to pulled pork or for “when you just want a smoky twist on an old favorite.”

Brine a whole chicken overnight in the following mix:
5 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup kosher salt
juice from two limes

Note: Smaller chickens will fit in a large Ziplock bag.

Remove the bird from the brine and pat dry. Rub the bird inside and out with your favorite dry rub. Put the chicken on the grill breast side down and smoke it at 275 degrees until the internal temperature is 170 degrees. This should take 3-5 hours depending on the size of your chicken.

Make sure to check the temp at both the breast and the thigh, making sure the probe is not touching a bone. (This is easy if you insert a leave in thermometer in the thigh about half way through the cooking time).

Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes and then remove all the chicken meat from bird. There’s not a real elegant way to do this - just use your hands and dig in there. Toss the pulled chicken with your favorite barbeque sauce and serve on buns with coleslaw for a leaner alternative to pulled pork sandwiches.

Karla and Jason share two final tips for home smoking: Don’t open the smoker unless it’s absolutely necessary—no peeking—and, most importantly, have fun!

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