Last week, Thomas talked about his summertime passion, and it immediately got me thinking of mine. There are two things I know in this world: Hosting and Barbeque. They may be on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but both integral parts of the SoftLayer culture.
Being Texas born and bred, I hear stories that my first baby bed was actually a refinished barrel pit, and at the tender age of 4, I started my first fire right where I used to lay my head. By the age of 7, I graduated from grilling to smoking, and by age 10, I was expected to have mastered the art of mixing fire, smoke and the perfect rub to deliver a baby back rib so tender that you have no choice but to ‘slap yo mama!’
I have to admit that I am not an official member of the 3 Bars Barbeque team, but my ribs and steaks have been taken on the road to multiple parts of Texas, and they’ve won contests in Memphis for their fall-off-the-bone tender texture and their “mmm mmm good” flavor. I can’t really divulge my award winning recipe, but I can share my cooking method used to achieve that fall off the bone rib.
You’ve got to understand that smoking takes time. I generally allow one hour per pound on a nice rack of baby back ribs. In SoltLayer operations terms, for a 6lb rack of ribs, that means you’d have time to register a new domain name, provision a RHEL 5 Cloud Compute Instance, provision 2 dedicated database servers (1 in Dallas and 1 in San Jose), configure the CCI as a Web server, clone the CCI once in Dallas and once in San Jose, order eVault and add a second vault for redundancy, add local load balancing to both sites, use the previously registered domain name and set up Global Load balancing between the IPs of both local load balancers, setup rsync between web servers for one website and configure MySQL replication between your two new database servers (and you’d still have just enough time to configure the eVault backup that you ordered about 5.5 hours previously).
What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, I promised a “cooking method” lesson:
1. Get Your Ribs
Everyone dresses their meat differently … Some prefer to marinate, some don’t. I find that it doesn’t make much of a difference, so I usually will remove my ribs from the fridge and rinse the before setting them aside to allow them to warm to room temperature. While that’s happening, I continue the rest of the process.
2. Prepare the Pit
I like to use a smoker pit grill … You know, something this:
I like to use split wood logs instead of flavored charcoal & wood chips. The wood you use is up to you; I usually do either hickory or mesquite and occasionally a log or two of apple (Beware that Mesquite burns very hot and is harder to stabilize at a consistent temperature when adding more wood to the fire later). Stack and light your fuel of choice in the smoker’s firebox – the only place where you will have a fire … The only thing that belongs in the pit is the meat and the smoke generated by the firebox.
Once you get your fire started, let it burn for a while so it can stabilize. You want the pit area to stay at a constant 225F ~ 250F. If you have enough prep time, you can also soak your wood logs for a couple of hours before you start your fire. This will cause the wood to burn slower and produce a slightly stronger smoke flavor in the ribs. This will also cut down on the amount of wood you “burn” through.
3. Prepare Your Ribs
While your fire is doing its thing and creating some good smoke, you can trim and season your ribs. Trim the membrane from the underside of the rack and season the meat with a dry rub (since it’s better suited for longer cook times).
4. Start Cooking
Once your pit has stabilized at the perfect temperate, it’s time to add the ribs. I use a rib rack just so I don’t have to flip the ribs while they’re in the pit, but if you don’t have a rib rack, place your ribs on the opposite side of the pit from the firebox bone side down (you have to ensure that the fire doesn’t reach your precious rack of ribs. If you are not using a rib rack, you will want to flip them about an hour and a half into cooking.
5. Keep Cooking
I use the 3–2–1 method when smoking: 3 hours on grill, remove the ribs, wrap them in foil, 2 hours on the grill in foil, remove the foil, and one more hour on the grill. By the time you get to that last hour, you’ll already find it difficult to flip the ribs as the meat will start falling off the bone. If your seasoning is top notch, you won’t need sauce, but the last hour is the time to baste if you want a different flavor in the mix. The 3–2–1 time frame is a loose guide to follow … You’ll need to keep an eye on the ribs to make sure they are not cooking too fast and that you’re keeping the flame away from the meat, and you may need to adjust times if your temperature exceeds 250F.
6. Remove the Ribs
Remove your ribs from the pit and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes before your cut them. This break will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
No instructions necessary.
Following these rules, you’ll have a great rack of ribs, and if you took time while the ribs were cooking to order and provision that solution I talked about at the top of the post, you’ll have an amazing high-availability two-tier hosting solution by the time you take your first bite!