America's Test Kitchen: Indoor Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich

[Scroll down to view recipe and video]

When people think of bbq, they often think of ribs, brisket, beer can chicken, etc. One of my favorites when it comes to bbq is pulled pork which is not to be confused with carnitas (Mexican pulled pork). Eating pulled pork sandwiches with some tangy bbq sauce is just heaven for me. Who doesn't like a pulled pork sandwich?

America's Test Kitchen Indoor Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich
Classic BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich served with a pickle
I especially love it when one of my coworkers would bring pulled pork for us whenever we have a potluck in the office. He is lucky enough to have one of those big green eggs which he uses to smoke the pork shoulder for several hours. The smoking process cooks the meat low and slow so that it cooks properly and the collagen has time to break down making the meat moist and tender. Not only that, but the pulled pork has an added smoky flavor to it. The problem with smoking is properly maintaining a low enough temperature since you don't want the temperature too high which would overcook your meat. Also, most likely you'd be smoking it outside for several hours. This could be a problem for some people since winter is just around the corner and grilling/bbqing/smoking is just not as fun when the weather isn't warm. I know the Neelys (from the Food Network show Down Home with the Neelys and known for their good bbq) have a pretty good recipe for pulled pork, but it's a good thing America's Test Kitchen (season 11, episode 11: Southern Fare: Reinvented) shows us that we can still make some good pulled pork in the comfort of our own home. What's great is that we can still obtain the smoky flavor without the smoking process with the use of liquid smoke. I mut say that that liquid smoke is a great invention.

If you don't know, pulled pork usually comes from pork shoulder or pork butt (often called Boston butt). And no, the pork butt is NOT the same as the pig's butt if you were wondering. It's a completely different cut altogether that comes from the upper portion of the shoulder. It's an inexpensive cut, but when cooked properly (usually low and slow), it can turn out to be quite flavorful, tasty, and tender. I ended up using a three pound boneless pork shoulder when making this recipe. I think 3 pounds is considered small when it comes to pork shoulders, but I would definitely use a bigger cut anytime I had to make this for a party or family get together.

Shredded BBQ Pulled Pork
Pork after being pulled and ready to be eaten.
The bbq sauce that goes with the pulled pork is actually pretty good because you're using the juices that came from the pork as a base for the sauce. When following this recipe, I hate to admit it, but sometimes I don't make the corresponding bbq sauce. I'm not going to lie - I get extra lazy sometimes. On those occasions when I don't make the bbq sauce, I just use a bottle of my favorite store bought bbq sauce which is Sweet Baby Ray's. I like Sweet Baby Ray's because it doesn't have that "medicine" and artificial flavor that other barbecue sauces have. Whether you made bbq sauce or are using a bottle of sauce from the grocery store, I definitely use a lot of it and a little bit more when adding it to the pulled pork. I like my pulled pork sandwiches to be very juicy and slathered in bbq sauce. It's a pulled pork sandwich. It's supposed to be messy!

I do like adding sliced pickles to the pulled pork sandwich or eating a pickle on the side with the sandwich. I also like coleslaw in my sandwich or at least some cornbread, baked beans, mac & cheese, or collared greens on the side. I find the crunch from the cabbage to be a nice contrast to the tenderness of the pork. I usually just buy coleslaw from the store deli if I'm making pulled pork sandwiches since I haven't found a good slaw recipe that works for me unless there's someone out there that has a good recommendation. Anyone know of a good coleslaw recipe? Anyone? Bueller? Lastly, bread selection is key to a good pulled pork sandwich. I've tried hamburger buns, brioche buns, and sliced bread (I prefer wheat bread over white bread though) which work well. I don't like the hard, crusty breads like ciabatta because it's too heavy/doughy and I like a softer bread for a pulled pork sandwich. I do, however, like using King's Hawaiian bread rolls for pulled pork sliders. I find that King's Hawaiian rolls have a sweet flavor that really complements the bbq sauce. These sliders work well for tailgating if you prepare the meat the night before the big game. Basically, just choose a bread that you like and whichever bread you do choose, toast it on the side where it was cut if using a roll or hamburger bun. I like bread toasted in this fashion - it's toasted on the side where the pork is and it is still soft on the other.

FlavorFool's Notes

- Sometimes I don't bother making the homemade barbecue sauce if I'm short on time. I end up using Sweet Baby Ray's barbecue sauce instead.
- I like using King's Hawaiian rolls to make pulled pork sliders.
- I used another recipe for the gravy since it has been in the family for decades.
- I like using Tapatio hot sauce.

Indoor Pulled Pork with Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce
America's Test Kitchen - season 11, episode 11, Southern Fare: Reinvented
serves 6 to 8

Pork
1 boneless pork butt (about 5 lbs), cut in half horizontally
.5 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1 cup plus 2 tsp table salt
.25 cup yellow mustard
3 tbsp plus 2 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp ground black pepper

Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce
.25 cup light or mild molasses
1.5 cups ketchup
1 tbsp hot sauce [I like using Tapatio hot sauce]
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
.5 tsp ground black pepper
.5 tsp table salt

Instructions

1. FOR THE PORK: Dissolve 3 tbsp liquid smoke, .5 cup sugar, and 1 cup salt in 4 quarts cold water in a large container. Submerge pork in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hrs.

2. While pork brines, combine remaining 2 tsp liquid smoke and mustard in small bowl; set aside. Combine paprika, black pepper, cayenne, remaining 2 tsp salt, and remaining 2 tbsp sugar in second small bowl; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub mustard mixture over entire surface of each piece of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with spice mixture. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with sheet of aluminum foil, sealing edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast pork for 3 hrs.

4. Remove pork from oven; remove and discard parchment and foil. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet into fat separator and reserve for sauce. Return pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender, and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1.5 hrs. Transfer pork to serving dish, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 mins.

5. FOR THE SAUCE: While pork rests, pour .5 cup of defatted cooking liquid from fat separator into medium bowl; whisk in sauce ingredients.

6. TO SERVE: Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 cup sauce and season with pepper and salt. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.


Video: America's Test Kitchen Indoor Pulled Pork

America's Test Kitchen: Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey & Gravy for Thanksgiving

[Scroll down to view recipe and video]

Thanksgiving, or otherwise known as the Super Bowl of dinners or the Big Thursday, is probably the biggest holiday in my household - bigger than Christmas, 4th of July, and even Groundhog Day combined. It's big because it's centered around a feast, and people naturally gravitate toward food. Food is what brings people together in both social and communal settings. For example, you can easily be the most popular person at work by putting a candy jar on your desk for people. In addition to the mashed potatoes, yams, pumpkin pie, apple pie a la mode (pie with a scoop of ice cream), stuffing, broiled salmon, chicken pot pie, cranberry sauce, the main attraction of Thanksgiving dinner (or lunch) is, of course, the turkey. It's a good thing America's Test Kitchen (season 11, episode 15: Thanksgiving Turkey) shows us that we

don't have to be Julia Child nor be intimidated in preparing the main dish in this Fall feast. You may even want to make this turkey for a Christmas eve dinner as well since it's only a month away from Thanksgiving. Not only do we get to learn how to make the turkey, but we even get to see how to make the stuffing and gravy as well. If you don't have time to do the stuffing from scratch, you can always just use Stove Top Stuffing. Nothing beats stuffing slathered and drowning in gravy.

America's Test Kitchen Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey and Gravy for Thanksgiving
America's Test Kitchen Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey & Gravy
ATK Carved Thanksgiving Turkey
Carved Thanksgiving Turkey
I chose the Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey & Gravy as opposed to other turkey recipes (ie a frying a turkey) because it most resembles the turkey I grew up eating during Thanksgiving. This turkey definitely gives me a sense of nostalgia with memories of Thanksgivings past. Now I've only made this using an 14 pound turkey just like what is shown on America's Test Kitchen. I know that every turkey is different, but when you have the responsibility of making the turkey for Thanksgiving, I'd rather not leave anything up to chance. I figure using a 14 pound turkey would help minimize the odds of messing up this gobbler and, thus, having a disaster of a Thanksgiving. If you need a larger turkey or a smaller bird for your gathering, then by all means go for it, but just make sure you adjust the thaw and cooking times accordingly. Speaking of thawing your bird, please allow enough time (can be up to a few days) to thaw your turkey. I just cannot stress that enough. When it comes to preparing the turkey for Thanksgiving, thawing the turkey is often an overlooked step in the whole process. I've heard horror stories in which people thought they had given enough time to thaw the turkey, but ended up with a cooked turkey on the surface with a raw and/or frozen center.

I never thought of roasting the turkey on its breast in the oven. Although I've seen it done before, I just never put it to practice until now. It does make sense though to do so since the breast (the white meat) easily dries out easily. And if you're a dark meat person like I am, you definitely don't want the white meat to be so dry that it would have the texture of sandpaper as your chewing. I do like how in America's Test Kitchen they use salt pork. The pork gives it a nice, "meaty" flavor. However, I skipped the salt pork simply because it's not something that was on our Thanksgiving turkey growing up. One of these days, I'll probably try it using bacon instead because it's more readily available and I always seem to have a pack of it inside my refrigerator. I would think that bacon would work just as well because bacon is one of those magical ingredients that makes everything taste better. Add bacon to your omelets, burgers, sandwiches, and even chocolate and it'll just make it taste a whole lot better. I also used a different recipe for the gravy which has been in my family for a long time. A quick tip to get the skin of your turkey to be nice and crispy is to rub some butter in between the skin and flesh before roasting in the oven. As the temperature rises in the oven, the butter will melt, naturally basting the turkey with fat and allowing hot air to crisp the skin to a gorgeous golden brown.

If this is the first time preparing a turkey, I highly suggest testing this recipe in a practice run prior to Thanksgiving. That way, you'll be better prepared for the big day and can anticipate possible trouble along the way. You definitely don't want something to go wrong with the main dish during Thanksgiving and a house full of hungry guests. Now that'd be very embarrassing! And remember, you'll be sure to have plenty of good leftovers for Black Friday shopping (only if you haven't overdosed on tryptophan) and even the next few days, so you can make turkey sandwiches, turkey pot pies (chicken pot pie but using turkey instead), or turkey and dumplings (instead of chicken and dumplings). If you plan to start your Christmas shopping bright and early the next day, these leftovers could easily sustain you for the Black Friday deals in your area. You definitely need the energy to fight the Black Friday crowds to find the best deal in town.

FlavorFool's Notes

- I didn't use salt pork, but I'm open to the idea of using bacon instead.
- Definitely roast the turkey breast side down if you want tender and moist white meat. This sounds unorthodox, but it definitely works allowing the white meat to soak up the juices.
- I used another recipe for the gravy since it has been in the family for decades.
- Rub some butter in between the skin and flesh of the turkey to get a crispy skin.

Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey & Gravy for Thanksgiving
America's Test Kitchen - season 11, episode 15, Thanksgiving Turkey
serves 10 to 12

Turkey
1 (12 to 14 lb turkey), neck and giblets reserved for gravy
3 tbsp plus 2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
12 oz salt pork, cut into 1/4 inch slices and rinsed [I left this out]

Stuffing
4 tbsp (half stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the baking dish
1.5 lbs (about 15 slices) white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 12 cups)
2 celery ribs, chopped fine
1 medium onion, minced
Ground black pepper and Kosher salt
1 tbsp minced fresh marjoram leaves
2 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp minced fresh sage leaves
1.5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
1 36-inch square cheesecloth, folded in quarters

Instructions

1. For the turkey: use your fingers or the handle of a wooden spoon to separate the turkey skin from the meat on the breast, thighs, legs, and back; avoid breaking the skin. Rub 1 tbsp of salt evenly inside the cavity of the turkey, 1.5 tsp salt under the skin of each breast half, and 1.5 tsp salt under the skin of each leg. Wrap the turkey tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 - 48 hrs.

2. For the stuffing: adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until the edges have dried but the centers are slightly moist (the cubes should yield to pressure), about 45 mins, stirring several times during baking. Transfer to a large bowl and increase the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

3. While the bread dries, heat the butter in a 12 in. skillet over medium/high heat; when the foaming subsides, add the celery, onion, 1 tsp pepper, and 2 tsp salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and brown slightly, 7 - 10 mins. Stir in the herbs; cook until fragrant, about 1 min. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the dried bread; add 1 cup of the broth and toss until evenly moistened.

4. To roast the turkey: combine the baking powder and remaining 2 tsp salt in a small bowl. Remove the turkey from the refrigerator and unwrap. Thoroughly dry the turkey inside and out with paper towels. Using a skewer, poke 15 - 20 holes in the fat deposits on top of the breast halves and thighs, 4 - 5 holes in each deposit. Sprinkle the surface of the turkey with the salt/baking powder mixture and rub in the mixture with your hands, coating the skin evenly. Tuck the wings underneath the turkey. Line the turkey cavity with the cheesecloth, pack with 4-5 cups stuffing, and tie the ends of the cheesecloth together. Cover the remaining stuffing with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Using twine, loosely tie the turkey legs together. Place the turkey breast side down in a V-rack set in a roasting pan and drape the salt pork slices over the back [I didn't use salt pork].

5. Roastthe turkey breast side down until the thickest part of the breast registers 130 degrees on an instant read thermometer, 2 - 2.5 hrs. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Transfer the turkey in the V-rack to a rimmed baking sheet. Remove and discard the salt pork. Using clean potholders or kitchen towels, rotate the turkey breast side up. Cut the twine binding the legs and remove the stuffing bag; empty into the reserved stuffing in the bowl. Pour the drippings from the roasting pan into a fat separator and rsever for gravy, if making.

6. Once the oven has come to temperature, return the turkey in the V-rack to the roasting pan and roast until the skin is crisp and golden brown, the thickest part of the breast registers 160 degrees, and the thickest part of the thigh registers 175 degrees, about 45 mins, rotating the pan halfway through. Transfers the turkey to a carving board and let rest, uncovered, for 30 mins.

7. While the turkey rests, reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Whisk the eggs and remaining half cup broth together ina small bowl. Pour the egg mixture over the stuffing and toss to combine, breaking up any large chunks; spread in a buttered 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Bake until the stuffing registers 165 degrees and the top is golden brown, about 15 mins. Carve the turkey and serve with stuffing.


Video: America's Test Kitchen Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey (part 1)

Video: America's Test Kitchen Old Fashioned Stuffed Turkey (part 1)

Secret to Saving at Starbucks Coffee

Everyone loves a good cup of joe because offee is one of those things that we dare not give up and cannot live without day in and day out. Admittedly, coffee is definitely a big thing in our everyday lives: we love coffee the first thing in the morning as a pick me up (who doesn't love the smell of coffee as you're waking up), we love it with dessert, and we love having it in social gatherings. Whether you like Starbucks (see my post on the first Starbucks), Peet's, Phillz, Seattle's Best, McDonald's (hopefully you took advantage of their latest promotion), Dunkin' Donuts, or a simple mom and pop cafe, here are some tips that will help you save more money when ordering coffee. I hate to say it, but unless you're a coffee connoisseur, most people don't even know what they're drinking when they pay their local cafe a visit.

Starbucks Coffee Based in Seattle, WA
Starbucks Coffee (based in Seattle, WA)
If you need an extra kick in the morning or if you're interested in maximizing the amount of caffeine you're getting, make sure to order a light roast as opposed to a dark roast. Although dark roasted coffee beans (ie French roast, Italian roast) are roasted longer, they actually have less caffeine than light roasts (ie Java). Light roasts have more of their natural flavor whereas the oil in dark roasts start to surface and there is more of a chemical reaction in the roasting process that alters the bean's makeup and decreasing the amount of caffeine.

Peet's Coffee & Tea based in Berkeley, CA
Peet's Coffee & Tea (based in Berkeley, CA)
I know it's quite difficult to order a hot cup of coffee on a hot day, so the alternative is to just order an iced Frappuccino instead. Although Frappuccinos do taste great especially on a hot summer day, they are mostly made of ice and actually contain very little coffee. As a result, there is a huge profit margin for Frappuccinos. You just don't get as much bang for your buck when ordering a Frappuccino. You're almost better off ordering an iced tea.

Lastly, this last tip probably affects me the most. When I go to Starbucks, my "go to" drink is usually a cappuccino (equal parts espresso shot, milk, froth), but this applies to those people who like cappuccinos and/or lattes (espresso shot with more milk and less froth). When ordering a cappuccino or latte, don't bother ordering a large (or venti at Starbucks). When you order a large latte/cappuccino, all you get is extra steamed milk to fill in the extra volume for your larger cup. Unless you order a double espresso shot in your large (venti) latte/cappuccino, stick to the medium (or grande) size so that you don't get a diluted latte. You'll end up paying extra not for more coffee, but for more milk rather. And remember at Starbucks that the sizes from small to large is short, tall, grande, and venti. If you're like me, I tend to forget.

Free McCafe Coffee at McDonald's

Attention everybody! Due to slow sales (and not to mention its declining stock price...stock ticker symbol MCD), McDonald's, America's favorite fast food chain, plans to offer free McCafe coffee to customers. I guess sales of Big Macs, their iconic burger, have been down with more Americans wanting to eat healthier and with healthier options more readily available.

Free Coffee at McDonald's
Free Coffee at McDonald's
McDonald's plans to give away free coffee during the breakfast hours which usually ends around 10:30 am starting today thru September 29. You can definitely get your caffeine fix for free everyday for 2 weeks! Now the coffee at McDonald's may not be as good as Seattle's very own Starbucks or Peet's coffee, but you definitely can't go wrong when it's free and you need that one cup of joe that will get you started in the morning. Who doesn't like the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning? It sure smells better when it doesn't cost anything! Although people think of burgers and fries when it comes to McDonald's as opposed to coffee, McDonald's coffee has actually improved in the last twenty years when they used to come in those small white Styrofoam cups. So the next time you go to McDonald's for an Egg McMuffin for breakfast, do yourself a favor and order a free McCafe coffee to go with it. Get it now while this promotion lasts!

Secret to Getting More at Chipotle Mexican Grill

When I'm in the mood for quick, fast food type unauthentic Mexican food, I don't go to Taco Bell nor Baja Fresh. No, I tend to go to everyone's favorite un-Mexican Mexican restaurant for Americanized tacos and burritos. Here's the backstory to Chipotle: Chipotle Mexican Grill which was founded in Denver, CO in 1993 (somehow the Mile High City just doesn't scream Tex Mex the way a more Southwestern locale would). Anyway, the word "chipotle" means smoked chili. The company is worth approximately 19 billion dollars and in fact McDonald's once held a majority stake in the company. Chipotle uses approximately 97,000 pounds of avocados a day which translates to a whole lot of guacamole. Now here comes the fun part.

Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill
What I have to tell you can give you more food for the same price which could potentially mean more savings for you. In Chipotle, you can order a vegetarian, carnitas (Mexican pulled pork), steak (carne asada), barbacoa, or grilled chicken burrito (a) or a burrito bowl (b) for the same price (see below). The primary difference is that a burrito bowl does not include a flour tortilla as its vessel to hold food the way a regular burrito does. As its name indicates, it uses a bowl.

Chipotle Chicken Burrito
(a) Your standard burrito at Chipotle

Steak Burrito Bowl from Chipotle
(b) The burrito bowl at Chipotle
Okay, now here comes some math. The average weight of a chipotle burrito is .634 pounds whereas the average weight of a burrito bowl is 1.082 pounds with all else being constant (ie same proteins, toppings, etc in both the burrito and burrito bowl). You don't have to be a math major to see that 1.082 pounds of Mexican goodness is better than .634 pounds for the same price. This is huge since ordering a burrito bowl gives you at least 70% more food, and this is already taking into account the lack of tortilla in the burrito bowl too! This difference in weight is probably due to the fact that a burrito has a limited amount of space for its contents in the flour tortilla. So next time when you're feeling really hungry and have a hankering for some fake Mexican food, order a burrito bowl instead of a regular burrito to get more bang for your buck. Also, don't be afraid to ask for something on the side whether it's the salsa, sour cream, cheese, or guacamole. They're always willing to accommodate your request by putting a condiment in a small container for you. That and even though the line may be long, the Chipotle employees do a really good job moving the line along in a very efficient way. On a personal note, my standard burrito bowl configuration is the grilled chicken burrito bowl with brown rice (instead of the cilantro lime white rice), black beans (instead of pinto beans), extra fajita vegetables (onions and green peppers - they don't normally offer this to you but don't be afraid to ask), both mild tomato and medium tomatillo-green chili salsas (sometimes the hot tomatillo-red chili salsa on the side), cheese, sour cream, corn, and romaine lettuce. I do like guacamole, but I don't like having to pay extra for it. If I'm not terribly hungry, I would often just eat half of the bowl and save the other half for another meal which makes it out to be no more than $4 per meal. What you can also do is order from the secret menu. Just like In-N-Out, Chipotle has a secret menu where you can order a “Quesarito” (burrito made using a cheese quesadilla instead of a regular flour tortilla as the wrapping), nachos (chips with the usual Chipotle fillings and toppings piled on), or a single taco (instead of having to buy the standard set of 3 tacos).

Fun Food Fact: National Chicken Wing Day

It was this day in (July 29) back in 1968 when the very first chicken wing was served and that is why today is National Chicken Wing Day. The story goes that Anchor Bar owner Teressa Bellissimo decided to fry up some chicken wings with some butter and hot sauce when her son and his college friends wanted a late night snack after a night of drinking. Because they were in the city of Buffalo, NY, the name buffalo wings stuck and that's when the almighty buffalo wing was born. I guess that's why chicken buffalo wings are a common staple and appetizer found in many bars and restaurants across America. Buffalo wings are definitely great when paired with a nice, tall glass of your favorite beer - lagers, stouts, ambers, ales, etc. If it weren't for Mrs. Bellissimo, we wouldn't have a Wingstop or a Buffalo Wild Wings. If you love buffalo wings like I do, then you should check out America's Test Kitchen's recipe for some good buffalo wings! Keep this date in mind when football season kicks off. Many people in the United States are sure to consume many wings when watching NFL or college football games.

July 29: National Chicken Wing Day
July 29: National Chicken Wing Day

Fun Food Fact: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

Does anyone know what day (June 12) it is today? It's National Peanut Butter Cookie Day! Yes, that's right, peanut butter cookies, the blue collar workhorse, of cookies has its own day and it's today. Peanut butter cookies will almost always have that distinct criss cross pattern made by a fork on top of each cookie. You ever wonder why that is? And no, it's not a Twitter hash tag. I'm pretty sure peanut butter cookies predates any form of social media for you folks born in the 21st century. The reason why you would make that pattern on a peanut butter cookie is because the dough for peanut butter cookies is quite dense such that it does not spread easily in the oven during the baking process unlike a chocolate chip cookie for example. To fix this, someone decided to press down on the cookies using a fork before baking in order to flatten the cookie and help it spread, and that was when history in baking was made.

June 12: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day
June 12: National Peanut Butter Cookie Day

Grill It! with Bobby Flay: Korean BBQ Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)

[Scroll down to view recipe and video]

Korean Style Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)
Korean Style Beef Short Ribs (Kalbi)
Now that the weather is warmer, now is the perfect time to be outside and being outside means we can do some grilling as mentioned in my previous post regarding some bbq pork spareribs. Instead of your typical grilling of, say, steaks, burgers, or pork spareribs, I decided to go with something a little more exotic with a Korean flair. I decided to grill up some Korean-style barbecued beef short ribs which is more commonly known as kalbi and sometimes referred to as Hawaiian short ribs (you can order these at any L&L Hawaiian Barbecue restaurant). On Bobby Flay's show, Grill It! (not to be confused with Bobby Flay's other bbq shows like BBQ Addiction and Boy Meets Grill), on the Food Network he has a guest named Judiaann Woo (episode: Short Ribs). She shows Bobby Flay (the one and only Boy Wonder at the grill) and us how to make kalbi. Kalbi, kimchi (pickled cabbage), and bibimbop (a rice dish mixed with meat and various vegetables) are probably my favorite Korean dishes. You can see from the video below that kalbi is not that difficult to make. It's very easy to prepare and easy to grill up, and everyone seems to enjoy these ribs every time I make them.

Flanken Cut Korean Short Ribs from the Asian Market
Flanken Cut Beef Short Ribs purchased from the Asian Market.

Beef Short Ribs for Kalbi
Beef Short Ribs for Kalbi
To make kalbi it is absolutely crucial that you have the right cut of beef. You can't get just your normal run of the mill beef short ribs. You have to get beef chuck flanken-style ribs (also called LA ribs) which contain the rib bones and are cut lengthwise such that you get a cross section of several ribs in each slice as opposed to the English cut where it is sliced between each bone which is what we're more accustomed to. Each slice is about a quarter to a half inch thick and about 8 to 10 inches in length, and they are usually prepared by braising or cooking in liquid. You can usually find this cut of meat in a Korean or Asian market like Ranch 99 (sometimes my local Safeway would actually have it); otherwise, you can probably ask your local butcher to cut it in this fashion.

Thin Slices of Flanken Beef Short Ribs
Thin Slices of Beef Short Ribs cut Flanken Style

Beef Short Ribs in English Cut
Beef Short Ribs in English Cut Fashion
The recipe provided has pretty much all the ingredients that you would expect from a marinade for kalbi: brown sugar, soy sauce, etc. I did add a few more ingredients after I consulted my friend who makes kalbi all the time and who is Korean, so making these ribs are in her blood. What she does is that she adds sesame seeds to the marinade. Not only that, but she toasts the sesame seeds on a skillet and crushes them in a mortar and pestle. Toasting the sesame seeds and crushing them in a mortar and pestle releases more of the natural flavor and aroma of the seeds. What I like to do is to toast additional sesame seeds to set aside and garnish the short ribs along with the green onions once the ribs are done and ready for plating.

Untoasted Sesame Seeds
Untoasted Sesame Seeds

Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing your kalbi.
Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing your kalbi. Note the darker color of the toasted sesame seeds.
My friend also recommends using a kiwi if you don't happen to have an Asian pear. The reason why she uses a kiwi (or Asian pear) in this recipe is not only that it adds a certain level of sweetness, but it also acts as a tenderizer to soften up the meat. Definitely mash up the kiwi to form a paste or use a food processor to puree it when incorporating it into the marinade. Short ribs in itself is an inexpensive piece of meat, but making kalbi is very forgiving in that you can grill it up and it won't be tough after marinating for several hours. Also, when chopping the onion for the marinade, definitely chop the onion finely (or run it through the food processor as well). I find that the smaller the onion pieces, the more flavor is imparted into the meat.

Because these short ribs are quite thin, it doesn't take long for them to fully cook so be sure to not overcook them, yet you also don't want them to be rare. Even though they can get overdone quickly, these short ribs are, as mentioned earlier, rather forgiving. Sometimes you like to get a nice carmelized char on the surface because the burnt edges of the meat give you an added flavor which you can easily attain when grilling over an open flame. I first tried this recipe in our stove top grill, but I would imagine it would be just as good if you did this on an outdoor grill (your standard Weber kettle grill would do just fine). Because these ribs are very easy to prepare and cook, it's an ideal dish to bring for picnics, camping, and even tailgating at football games.

Marinating your kalbi for a few hours
Marinating your kalbi for a few hours.

FlavorFool's Notes

- I like to add toasted and crushed (in a mortar and pestle) sesame seeds to the marinade.
- Save some uncrushed toasted sesame seeds to go along with the green onions as garnish.
- I like to use a kiwi if I don't have an Asian pear available. The kiwi or pear adds a little bit of sweetness to what is otherwise a savory dish.

Kalbi - Korean Barbecued Beef Short Ribs
Grill It! with Bobby Flay - season 1, episode 7, Short Ribs
4 to 6 servings as a main course

5 lbs Korean (flanken) style beef short ribs
1 cup brown sugar, packed
.25 cup mirin (rice wine)
.5 cup water
1 cup soy sauce [I used low sodium because that's what I had]
1 small Asian pear, peeled and finely grated [I sometimes use a kiwi, mashed]
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp dark sesame oil
4 tbsp minced garlic
2 green onions, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tbsp crushed plus 1 tsp uncrushed toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

1. Toast sesame seeds on a skillet until golden in color and fragrant. Crush 2 tablespoons of the sesame seeds in a mortar and pestle and set aside.

2. Sprinkle brown sugar over beef and mix well to evenly coat. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients [including the crushed sesame seeds]. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag or container. Add marinade, press out excess air from bags, and seal. Turn bag over several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

3. Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-hot. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions [and the teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds], if desired. Serve whole pieces as a main course or cut into smaller pieces, using kitchen shears, for a starter or party nibble.


Video: Judiaann Woo shows Bobby Flay how to make Korean beef short ribs called kalbi

Fun Food Fact - Green Peas

Green peas are one of the oldest cultivated vegetables. They originally came from India, but now are grown all over. Green peas are low in calories, but are loaded with protein. They are also a great source of folic acid which helps keep cells young and vitamin K which keeps bones strong. Green peas help lower bad cholesterol and even fight cavities. So take advantage of a little green peas for some big health benefits.

Healthy Green Peas
Green Peas: Healthy and Good for You

America's Test Kitchen: Memphis Style BBQ Spareribs

[Scroll down to view recipe and video]

America's Test Kitchen Memphis Barbecued Ribs sliced
America's Test Kitchen Memphis Barbecued Ribs sliced
Now that winter is over and the weather gets warmer, we can go back and start cooking outside once again. When it comes to cooking outside, we automatically think of outdoor grilling and smoking in our very own backyard, the standard activity for Labor Day weekend for many Americans (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day seem to be the prime bbq'ing days). Hosting barbecues are often fun and easy to pull off especially when the food is plenty good. Ribs are a common staple in these barbecue events that everyone seems to love. There are many kinds of ribs in varying recipes: there are pork ribs, beef ribs, Korean short ribs (called Kalbi), and even the McDonald's McRib. The Neelys (from Food Network's show Down Home with the Neelys and known for their good bbq) have many recipes just for ribs, but I particularly like the Memphis style barbecue spareribs recipe from the America's Test Kitchen episode Grilled Pork Chops and Ribs (season 11, episode 21) because you don't need a high-priced smoker. Some of these specialty smokers can be quite expensive (ie the big green egg) when all you need is one of those kettle grills (most likely made from Weber). It seems like every household has one of these Weber grills. I know someone who has had his Weber grill for over 30 years and the design hasn't really changed all that much after all these years. And if you're wondering, the difference between spareribs and baby back ribs are that spare ribs are longer and come from the front of the pig's ribcage.

Dry Rub for America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs
Dry Rub for America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs
The reason why you can just use your Weber grill to smoke these ribs instead of a high priced smoker is that the whole point of smoking something is to cook something low and slow. A high-priced smoker makes it easier to control the temperature and to prevent it from getting too hot and overcooking your meat. When you cook something low and slow, it allows the collagen to break down and liquefy into gelatin which then gets absorbed by the meat. The meat, in turn, is tender and juicy. It takes time for collagen to turn into gelatin. When the temperature is too high, the meat just gets overcooked while the collagen never gets a chance to liquefy. You can turn your run of the mill Weber kettle grill into a smoker by following the proper setup outlined by America's Test Kitchen. Before seeing the exact way America's Test Kitchen does it, I would normally just dump some charcoal into the kettle grill and fire it up. This, of course, would make the grill too hot and give us tough meat. I say the most important part of this recipe is not the ingredients used, but setting up your grill the right way. The water in the pan serves 2 purposes. As mentioned in the ATK episode for ribs, the water makes the rib meat moist. Also, the water absorbs the heat emanating from the charcoal briquettes which is common for smokers because this prevents your smoker/grill from getting too hot which is what you don't want when slow cooking meat.

Just added dry rub on your ribs
Just added dry rub on your ribs.
One thing the America's Test Kitchen video for Memphis ribs fails to do is to remove the membrane of the ribs. For some reason, in the video they just leave it on there which I highly discourage. The membrane is a thin skin-like layer on the bone side of the ribs. No amount of slow smoking on low will ever break this membrane done. You can easily look up ways to remove this membrane, but be sure to do so before you apply the dry rub. You definitely don't want this membrane on your ribs while it's smoking on the grill because it'll act as a layer shielding out the flavors of the rub and smoke that should be going to the meat. Not only that, but you certainly don't want to be biting into it once the ribs are done, so please make your life easier by removing this.

When you remove the ribs from the oven, your ribs should have a nice crisp bark on the outside while still being moist and tender on the inside due to the long smoking process on low heat. The bark on the surface and the juicy inside give a nice contrast to your ribs. No one likes tough ribs or any tough meat for that matter. In general it is quite easy to overcook meat, but luckily if you follow the steps from America's Test Kitchen you can achieve tender fall off the bone ribs for your outdoor party. If you don't have an oven (ie if you're camping, picnicking, or tailgating at a football game), don't worry. This recipe still works in the absence of an oven. Just continue smoking on the grill instead until your ribs reach the desired temperature. Be sure to pair these ribs with some other Southern side like coleslaw, collared greens, baked beans, mac & cheese, or cornbread (and also have yourself a glass of bourbon while you're at it).

America's Test Kitchen Memphis Style BBQ Ribs ready to be sliced and eaten
Memphis Style BBQ Ribs ready to be sliced and eaten.

FlavorFool's Notes

- You don't need an expensive smoker to make this recipe. All you need is a regular Weber kettle grill and an oven.
- I like to use smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika because I like the additional smokiness of the smoked paprika better.
- Be sure to remember to remove the membrane of the ribs before applying the dry rub. Look up how to remove it if you don't know how.

Memphis-Syle Barbecued Spareribs on a Charcoal Grill
America's Test Kitchen - season 11, episode 21, Grilled Pork Chops and Ribs
Serves 4-6

Rub
2 tbsp light brown sugar [dark brown sugar is fine if you don't have light sugar]
2 tbsp sweet paprika [I prefer to use smoked paprika, but sweet paprika is fine]
1.5 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp table salt
.5 tsp dried thyme
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1.5 tsp cayenne pepper (see note)
2 tsp chili powder

Ribs
.5 cup wood chips [use hickory and not mesquite wood chips]
2 racks St. Louis-style spareribs, 2.5-3 lbs each
3 tbsp apple cider vineger
.5 cup apple juice

Instructions

1. Combine the dry rub ingredients in a ball. Place the racks on a rimmed baking sheet; firs, remove the thin membrane on the bottom side of the ribs and sprinkle the rub on both sides of each rack, rubbing and pressing to adhere. Set the racks aside while preparing the grill.

2. Soak the wood chips in water for 30 mins and drain. Combine the vineger and apple juice in a bowl; set aside. Open the top and bottom vents halfway and arrange 15 unlit charcoal briquettes evenly on one side of the grill. Place a 9x13in disposable aluminum pan filled with 1 inch of water on the other side of the grill. Light a large chimney starter filled one-third with charcoal (about 33 briquettes) and allow to burn until the coals are half coated with a thin layer of ash, about 15 min. Empty the coals into the grill on top of the unlit briquettes to cover half of the grill. Sprinkle the soaked wood chips over the coals. Set the cooking grate over the coals, cover the grill, and heat the grate until hot, about 5 min. Use a grill brush to scrape the cooking grate clean.

3. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the grate over the water pan. Cover the grill, positioning the top vent over the ribs to draw smoke through the grill. Cook the ribs 45 min, adjusting the vents to keep the temperature inside the grill around 250-275 degrees. Flip the ribs meat side up, turn 180 degrees, and switch their positions so that the rack that was nearest the fire is on the outside. Brush each rack with 2 tbsp of the apple juice mixture; cover the grill and cook another 45 min. About 15 mins before removing the ribs from the grill, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees.

4. Transfer the ribs, meat side up, to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet; pour 1.5 cups water into the bottom of the baking sheet. Brush the top of each rack with 2 tbsp more apple juice mixture; roast 1 hr. Brush the ribs with remaining apple juice mixture and continue to roast until the meat is tender but not falling off the bone and the thickest part of the roast registers 195-200 degrees on a food thermometer. Transfer the ribs to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 min. Cut the ribs between the bones to separate and serve.


Video: Bridget Lancaster shows Chris Kimball how to properly make traditional Memphis style Barbecue Ribs on America's Test Kitchen