Most glorious mum-in-law flies in — not on her broom — about once a year. Her favorite food on the planet is pork ribs. In fact, her favorite meat is pork. Ya just gotta love an Iowa farm girl.
Clockwise, from the top, St Louis cut spare ribs, shoulder (butt), and rack.
The ribs (20 hours @ 134°F), shoulder (48 hours @ 140°F), and rack (10 hours @ 134°F) were all sous vide well in advance, ice bathed, then stored in the fridge awaiting their smoke-filled finish. This is one of the greatest things about sous vide: once fully pasteurized, and as long as the bag isn’t opened, you can safely keep it in your fridge for several weeks.
Each piece of meat was liberally salted in advance of the water bath. That’s it. Nothing fancy here. I simply wanted to see what salt alone would do.
Always being interested in the science of cooking, I did some research on the smoking bit too. The result of that was a few simple things 1) charcoal for heat, 2) wood for smoke (I used dry oak chunks), 3) wait for blue smoke (the nearly invisible kind), 4) meat goes in cold and wet. Pretty simple stuff. For those interested in a shitload of details, go here.
Science works. Check out that smoke ring! Believe it or not, the ribs were in the smoker for only 40 minutes. I pulled them out of the fridge, out of the bag, left a bunch of gelatinous goo on the surface, and put them in the smoker. No added rubs, spices, or fussery.
The rack of pork took another 30 minutes (70 minutes total time) and I pulled it when internal temps hit mid 150s. The rack was about 108 when I pulled the ribs, so I gave it 30 more minutes, which turned out to be just a little long. I was shooting for mid 140s.
Fat inhibits the smoke ring’s penetration, but you can still see the pinkish hue. Due to the sous vide cooking, these were amazingly tender, juicy, and quite flavorful. Again, there is nothing on these but the salt applied when they went into the bag.
And finally, here’s that pork butt. This was in the smoker for 125 minutes. The blade bone pulled right out. You can just see the pinkish hue where that fat has pulled away from the meat. I had a helluva time keeping this from falling apart when I removed it from the smoker. Internal temp was 177°F.
I had a little trouble keeping the temp in the smoker stable. It was cold (low 50s) and raining here in Hunt Valley, MD yesterday. I put the meat in when it was a pretty stable 250°F. It hit a peak of 300°F.
Even with the short smoke times, the coloration was a deep mahogany, smoky taste was good without being overpowering, and considering the only seasoning used on any of these hunks of pig flesh was salt, the pork flavor was front and center. When it’s this good, there is no reason to cover it up.
Most glorious spousal unit and most glorious mum-in-law declared this a victory. There were clean plates all around!
Honestly, I truly don’t mind when the old girl — at a very spry 89 — flies in for her annual week-long visit. It is always great to see her AND it gives me a wonderful excuse to cook loads of pork.