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My Halloween nightmare Baby Backs

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
On Halloween Day, I decided I wanted to cook something on the Weber. It was a toss up between apple dumplings and Baby Back Ribs. The ribs won. I already had them in the fridge and in my mind, they required the least amount of work.

I started with 2 racks, both approx 2.5 lbs. In butcher lingo, that is 2 and a half down. I opened up the packages and placed them on wax paper. By this time, my charcoal chimney had been started and was nearing dumping time. I had a foil pan on the charcoal grate to catch drippings and the charcoal was going to be banked on the opposite side.

Back to the ribs. I sprinkled them liberally with Magic BBQ Seasoning that is available at Food Lion. It's a great rub and I highly recommend it. Then I cracked a 5 pepper blend over the rub. I did not rub the rub into the meat. Today I was following advice from a competition team that I've been reading about.

I then opened a bag of dark brown sugar and generously packed it down on top of the Rub and pepper. After about 10 minutes, the brown sugar began to melt and it locked in the rub. At this point, I sprinkled some rub on again and cracked pepper. It seems redundant, but it does make for a very nice presentation that you'll see in a moment.

When the charcoal was ready, I poured it onto one side of the grill and let it ash over. When it was ready, I sprinkled some hickory chips that had been soaking over the top of the coals to produce the smoke. I transferred the ribs to the grill, over the drip pan and closed the lid.

It was at this point that everything went wrong. I pulled out my Maverick ET-73 remote temp probe and inserted the probe and wire and turned on the transceiver. When I went to turn on the remote receiver, it would not turn on. The ON/OFF switch would not stay in the On position. I messed with it for about 3 minutes, still not knowing what kind of temp I had going on in the kettle grill. Looking at the picture here, I would have used about half of that charcoal now.

I hopped in my truck and made an emergency run to K-mart, only to find that all their grilling stuff is mostly gone, moved to the back room on October 1st to make room for Santa's Toy land. Now I have no problem with Christmas stuff coming out early, but if it means I can't buy grill accessories, charcoal, wood or a replacement thermo, then Santa is pissing me off. This is Florida I keep thinking to myself. We grill and smoke meat year round.

Note to self, find a good BBQ retailer and quit using superstores that haul out seasonal stuff 3 months in advance. Need a Valentines box of chocolates, no worries, they'll be on display day after Christmas. Halloween candy? Look for it the day after Labor Day.

By the time I got back and held my hand over the exhaust vent, I decided the fire was too hot. I nearly completely closed the bottom tri-vent in my Weber and lifted the lid. In the first hour of smoking, the brown sugar had already caramelized and was darkening even more. I decided to let fire die down slowly, and was able to hold my hand over the top vent for 5 seconds or more. I would let this continue until the first two hours were up.

After two hours, I decided to foil the ribs to ensure moisture. I was sure I overcooked them when my thermometer broke down. In fact, the only reason I'm blogging about these less then perfect ribs is to let my readers know, that things can and will go wrong. I foiled the ribs and sprayed apple juice into the foil packets and sealed them. Apple juice normally works great as a moisturizer when you have a slow cooking fire.

I on the other hand, had a hotter fire then I realized. The apple juice caramelized and burnt, sealing the foil ends. I had to rip them open only to discover that the sugar from the rub and the apple juice had left burnt spots on the ribs. What started out as a treat to a few of my neighbors, ended up on my cutting board and free to anyone that wanted them.

I will not attempt to slow cook on the Weber again until I can either replace the thermo or get my current one fixed. Funds are tight, so who knows when that will happen again. I can't keep an eye on any temps now. That's not good when temp control is so important in turning out good food outdoors.

In the next couple of weeks, I'll be discussing techniques and tips on my blog rather then cooking. I hope to be up and cooking again soon. It sucks when fairly new equipment breaks down. It sucks harder when it is the only one you had and you can't afford to replace it.

I'm open to any suggestions or feedback as to what you guys would have done to handle this situation.
post #2 of 17
Sorry to hear about the rib disaster. I guess you got a trick for Halloween and not a treat.

For this exact reason I have multiple thermometers. Cant wait to see your rebound smoke.
post #3 of 17
That was like a tragic story, sorry to hear about things going so wrong.
All you can do now is learn to never let it happen again.
I think you need to smoke yourself a few racks of ribs to make you feel better about things.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
I'm not smoking anything until I get a couple of thermometers...
post #5 of 17
I use the remote probes all the time and like them but I don't trust electronics 100% So I always back them up with some plain ole oven thermometers sitting right on the grill beside the meat.
Usually One on each rack. They will never let you down. I usually have three of them stuck in there somewhere. They cost about $5.00 each so I can afford to have a bunch of them sitting ready in a drawer if I need one.

Geeze that was some nice Qview you had going till the disaster happened. After waiting thru a 5 1/2 hour smoke anticipating some yummy ribs then to have that snached away, I'd a cried my widdle eyes out.
Thanks for the lesson on caution. points.giffor that at least. PDT_Armataz_01_01.gif
post #6 of 17
Sorry to hear about the bad luck ribs, that sucks... They look good in the pictures...

Sounds like if it weren't for bad luck you'd have not luck at all...
post #7 of 17
I would suggest not packing on brown sugar, or any sugar like that in the beginning of the cook. Save it for foiling time.icon_wink.gif
post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the points and the sympathy on this thread. As for the brown sugar, it shoulda been OK if my temps were low. I watched a video from a Royal Oak competition team and from the rib or two I did get that was somewhat edible, the brown sugar pack adds a lot of great flavor and I'll do it again, just with a thermo.

I'm going to get rack thermos. That seems to be the best way to monitor temps on my Weber rack and in my SNP. I figure I can buy 3-4 for $20. Thanks for that advice.

The QVIEW that looks so great is after the ribs were on for only 1 hour. At that point, I just about cut off air from the bottom dampers...

Lessons learned:
  1. use watered down apple juice in sprayer to reduce sugars
  2. have back up thermos ready before any cook!!
  3. seriously reduce the number of coals for an indirect Weber smoke.
  4. Apologize to the few neighbors that did eat the ribs and offer the correct version at a future party to redeem credibility on the grill
Again, thanks for the points I was given and for the kind words. I only posted this to let others know that things can and will go wrong, no matter how long you have been cooking outside.

I'll post this article again when I do it right the next time. Thanks for reading!
post #9 of 17
What he said. PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif

post #10 of 17
From looking at your pictures it appears you have about twice the amount of charcoal as is needed to slow cook on the webber. I have the same Webber kettle and have made the same mistake with ABT's on it. It doesn't take much coal to get a good temp in a Webber.
post #11 of 17
Too bad and I'm finding out all about thermometer problems myself today. I have a batch of jerky in right now (my first time making it) and found out after the smoker was all loaded that my thermo seems to be having issues. It was reading 100* and it's clearly not 100* outside - more like upper 60s. I brought it inside, boiled water and found that the thermometer was indicating about 30* higher than it should be. Now, this is no ET-73, it's just a tru-temp, but it has always been accurate. I tried a new battery and same deal. I guess I need a new probe (and some more thermometers)!
post #12 of 17
Hope things go better for you next time Racey!
post #13 of 17
I know that some people are successful at slow cooking on the Weber...but it just seems like such a small space and the meat is so close to the fire that so much can happen. I've cooked ribs successfully on the Kellte at higher temps for about 1.5-2 hours...but never low and slow.
post #14 of 17
I thought I might be the first to notice this....but someone else chimed in


That amount of charcoal will keep my thick steel plate HUGE offset cruising at 235° for 2 hours before I have to add about 10 unlit coals (once the temp starts to drop).

I agree with your position on not trying this again until you have new electronics - but still, to me it looks like way too much charcoal for a Webber. Just a thought - as I don't have a Webber Kettle anymore so I'm not an expert.

Oh - and I too have seen the video you mention. That comp. team looked like they put out some mightly fine ribs! I was going to try the same deal next time I do ribs - coating w/ brown sugar. Once again, as long as you can monitor your temps and keep them just below 250 - should be no problem with burning the sugar.

Sorry about your que-gone-south...but good luck next time!
post #15 of 17
Sorry about your receiver. Just curious, the ET-73 has also has the readout on the on transmitter. Couldn't you have just kept an eye on that? Sure it's less convienent than sitting in the La-z-boy and watching the reciever, but it should've still worked.

Go here...
and send them an email. They've always treated me very well. My guess would be that they'll ask you send it in for repair or replacement. But since you won't be cooking for a while the timing should be good for you.

Try to address your email to Elizabeth. She was very prompt and professional.
post #16 of 17
Man I'm sorry for your delimma with the ribs. You mean you have been smoking without a thermo meter. They are a must around my smokers.
post #17 of 17
Regardless of the outcome, I'm just glad that so many people understand that they don't have to have all manner of expensive gear to smoke anything. I started smoking things on my gas grill long before I knew anything about smokers that weren’t large, massive side box jobs meant for commercial applications. I was able to learn about smoking times/temps and techniques all on that grill and so many times people were simply amazed when they found out that I wasn’t actually using a smoker, just the grill with an accurate thermometer and a separate meat thermometer (cheap little analog job).
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