Stovetop Smoking for Memorial Day

What do you call the day after two days of rain in Syracuse? Monday (rimshot).

The TV weatherfolk are calling for rain on Saturday and sunshine on Sunday and Monday. Naturally, this means we’ll have gray clouds from Friday afternoon until about 5 p.m. Monday, when a little bit of sun will peak through and taunt people like The Wife. She wants to be outside with The Baby doing cute stuff or finishing the fall cleanup that we never started. I’m sure I’ll be outside with the neighbor’s pressure washer at some point in my feeble attempt to return our siding to their original colors (white and yellow) without blasting a window or hurting myself.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for many. One of the joys of the season is grilling and cooking outdoors. I’ve never understood why. “Hey! It’s 200 degrees with stifling humidity. Let’s go outside, stand in front of a 400-degree fire and cook meat like it’s the fucking middle ages.” (Side note: Those who know me well recognize that I have a love affair with air conditioning. My disdain for heat is best summed up by Deadspin’s Drew Magary.) In the perfect world, my kitchen would have grill grate and a commercial-grade range hood to vent out the smoke. Then again if the world were perfect a lot of things would change. There would be a Starbucks across from my office, for instance.

And it's dishwasher safe

I do not own a smoker and I’m not sure I want to ever own one. They are great, but unless you are into entertaining a crowd on a weekly or bi-weekly basis (and have the budget to do so) the return on investment might not be there. And, I’ve been told they are a bitch to clean. What I do have is a nice alternative — the Cameron Stovetop Smoker.

My adopted son/best man/aide de camp Brian and I each have one, and they make nice alternatives to the full-sized jobbers. Essentially, it’s a covered banquet pan with a built-in rack and handles. In about three hours from pre-heating to finishing on the grill, you have a very nice tasting rack of ribs. I’ve done chicken before, but this pan is built for cooking ribs. The smoking wood is different that the chips or logs inserted into larger standup smokers. After lining the pan with foil, you add a scoop of wood pellets. Cameron sells its own line and other cooking sites offer similar products. Bourbon barrel, hickory, apple, alder…they’re all there for the taking and each provide a different flavor to the meat.

Now, if you don’t have a stovetop smoker, you can make your own. Pick up a large foil pan (often called a full-sheet or full steamtray pan…they’re about $5 or $6, but can be tossed without the need to soak, scrub or scrape to clean.) or a foil turkey pan at your grocery store. You can also use a roasting pan. Get yourself a heavy duty baker’s cooling rack (like you would use to cook cookies) and coat the hell out of it with nonstick spray. I can’t stress that enough. Hot pork drippings stick like a fat man’s thighs to a car seat in July. Not pretty. Trust me. Place the rack in the center of the pan, set the meat on top and tent the pan with foil. You want the smoke to cook and flavor the ribs, so it needs room in the pan to build up. Poke a two or three holes in the foil with a knife so some of the smoke vents.

This is a two-step process. It starts on the stove and continues to the grill. Smoking will cook the meat, but leave it looking piqued. Finishing it on the grill with a good mopping of sauce crisps the ribs, burns off the remaining fat and gives the outside that telltale crunch.

Jared’s Stovetop Smoked Ribs

  • One full rack of pork back ribs (baby backs stink…go for the good stuff)
  • One cup of barbeque dry rub
  • Two cups of barbeque sauce (store bought is fine, but it’s a long weekend…you have time to make your own)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cooking spray
How much dry rub is a matter of taste. I like a lot.

Assemble your smoker or make your own as described above. Make sure that anything you do not plan to throw away is coated in an appropriate amount (translation: a lot) of non-stick cooking spray. Stay away from oil so you don’t have a grease fire. Don’t forget to add your wood chips. The instructions say two tablespoons, but I’ll either use a heaping serving or go for up to four tablespoons. I’m a glutton.

You can cook a full rack of ribs without cutting them, but if you want to cram an extra half or full rack, I suggest quartering or halving the racks for space considerations. Give each rib section a liberal sprinkling of dry rub. It should be enough where you have a hard time telling the true color of the meat.

Arrange your ribs so they do not make contact with the bottom of the pan. The fat should drip away and your meat shouldn’t burn. Cover the pan and set on the stove set to medium. The pan should sit above two burners (easier to do with gas; on a conventional range this may not work well with the foil pan). Let this cook for 2.5 hours.

Sauce + Meat = Drool

With about 30 minutes to go, go outside and fire up your grill. Let it preheat on high until it reaches 4oo or so degrees. When you are ready to finish your ribs, give the grates a healthy spray of grilling nonstick spray (this is non-aerosol, so you won’t blow yourself up; if you can’t find the special grill blend, give the warmed grates a cleaning with some olive oil and a paper towel). Very carefully transfer the ribs to the coated grates and a give them a nice slathering of barbecue sauce. Flip the ribs and slather the other side. Close the lid and let them cook six to seven minutes. Open the grill, flip the ribs over and cook four to five minutes.

Remove the ribs from the grill and serve them hot with the remaining barbecue sauce, baked beans, cole slaw, and a cold summer seasonal beer (Samuel Adams’ Summer Ale is tasty this season, as is the Blue Moon Summer Ale. Magic Hat #9 is always nice, though Circus Boy makes a perfect pair here).

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