Aaahhh, the fall in Florida… mid 80’s instead of mid 90’s.
Nonetheless, it’s still football season and what goes better with football than BBQ?!? I had some friends over for the Viking/ Cowboy game so I had to do it up right!

On the menu was smoked chicken and ribs, and shrimp pasta salad from me. When I smoke I always prep the day before, and in this case I made the salad that day as well (I think pasta salad tastes better if it sits for a day or two). Anyway, let’s start with the meat!

For the ribs, I prefer back spare ribs. They are nice and meaty and have less fat on them than the St Louis cut ribs. The first thing to do is cut the membrane off the bone side of the ribs. This is a really thin skin-like substance connected to the bones themselves. I remove it because it allows the meat to become more easily permeated with the smoky flavor. To remove the membrane, use a sharp knife and separate a little from the narrow end of the ribs until you can simply pull it off. At this point you can cut the ribs into sections, if needed, to accommodate your smoker.

Once the membrane is removed, it’s time to season these bad boys! There are hundreds of recipes out there for spice rubs. I personally think McCormick makes some very good rubs and usually stick to them. I make sure to season generously on the meat side of the ribs and refrigerate, covered, for up to 24 hours. Today I cooked 4 racks, each rack cut in half.

For the chicken, I like to use a marinade. Again, there are hundreds of recipes out there for very good marinades, but I find that Lawrey’s makes a good product with a wide variety. I prefer to smoke chicken leg quarters over white meat, because the higher fat content keeps the meat moist and yummy.  I place my chicken in a gallon freezer bag to the point where it closes easily (around 7 pounds) and use 2 bottles of marinade (this week it’s mesquite) to cover the chicken. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours, making sure to turn the bag every couple of hours.

Now that the meat is getting happy, we can turn our attention to my pasta salad! I’m planning on feeding an army, so I went a bit overboard with the amount I made (overboard… who me?!?). Here’s an Estimate at the recipe… As you know I’m allergic to recipes.

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Pasta Salad
  1. Now comes the hard part… Ready? Cook and drain the pasta.
  2. Rinse with cool water.
  3. When the pasta is cool and drained combine all ingredients in a big ass roasting pan (I prefer the aluminum disposable ones you can get at the store) and refrigerate covered overnight.
  4. Whew, I’m beat…
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Let’s talk about smoking.

Smoking is all about the heat, not the time.

If you’re in a hurry or on a tight schedule, don’t smoke.

I like to keep my smoker at around 275 degrees. I use a meat thermometer that tells me what the ideal temperature is for different meats. The heat is regulated by the vents. Pretty simple stuff here – the more open the vents, the higher the temp.

My smoker has a cooking area and a fire box on the side. I use a combination of charcoal and wood. I build a fire using the charcoals and when they are covered in ash and ready to go, I add the wood. When the wood is cooking, try not to open the lid too much as it releases heat and smoke.

With my fire box on the side I have to rotate my food occasionally to ensure even heating. Before I put the food on the grill I place 2 aluminum pans under the cooking grates and fill them up with an inch of water. This REALLY helps with clean up. Also, be sure to oil the grates before placing food on them. Any simple cooking spray works like a breeze.

Both the chicken and ribs took a similar amount of time to cook – about 5 hours. Make sure to keep checking the internal temperature as you go, because, trust me, medium rare chicken and/or pork is NOT fun. I like my chicken cooked top 165 degrees and my pork at 180 degrees.

The food was awesome, the friendship was amazing, and the beer was cold!

Smoketoberfest 2010 was a huge hit! Now, how bout them Vikings…