Cooking Stories

Peach Smoked Baby Back Ribs

July 26, 2011
by Curt

I just can’t stay away from those baby backs! It’s gotta be in the top 5 of my favorite foods. This time, I changed the smoke, the rub, and lowered the temperature a bit. I even used a different smoker, my new 18.5 Webber Smokey Mountain.

I put these into my Sweet Baby Back Rib Marinade the night before. I left them in the refrigerator for 10 hours overnight. In the morning, I took them out, drained off the marinade, removed the membrane from the back of the ribs, and rubbed them generously and thoroughly with another of the sweet rubs I like to use; Kansas City Sweet, made by “Three Little Pigs”. Then I put them back into the container and set it on the counter for an hour to come close to room temperature.

Now, time to get that smoker going. I got the fire started using all lump charcoal and a few (fist sized) chunks of peach. I also through in a couple pecan chunks for good balance. I documented how I start the fire in the Webber in my “Starting the Fire in a 18.5 Webber Smokey Mountain” article.

Once it was up to about 230 degrees and stabilized, I put the ribs on. I maintained a smoker temperature of 240 to 260 degrees throughout the cook.

After about 2 hours, I put a meat thermometer into the center, (between the bones and not touching them), of the thinnest rack to start monitoring the internal temperature. Once the internal temperature reached 190 degrees, which was 4 1/2 hours into the cook, I started probing the thicker ones. They were all pretty close. Out they came, because they were ready to eat.

Note: I also gave them the bend test. Grab a rack on one end (probably should use tongs), and shake it up and down a bit in mid-air. If they start tearing at the weak point between two bones, they’re definitely, without a doubt, DONE! That’s the part that really gets me excited!

I put the ribs back into the original container to keep them covered. (Yes, I washed it first. Cleanliness is extremely important for food safety). I put the potatoes onto the rack right after taking the ribs off. I would have cooked the potatoes with the ribs, but I didn’t have enough room to do this. I brought the ribs into the house and let them set while the potatoes were cooking.

As usual, my cat Rocky, who as you know if you’ve read a couple of my other articles, is my kitchen helper and was ready and waiting. He definitely has a nose for smoked meats!

Rocky saw and smelled it right away, and he approves!

The potatoes were ready, and after Rocky got his cut, the food is on the table and ready to enjoy!


Grilled Banana Leaf Wrapped Salmon

July 24, 2011
by Curt

Time to try something a little different on the grill. Or at least, it’s new for me. I went to my local Asian market and purchased frozen banana leaves. I’ve researched the process and decided how I will tackle this for the first time. I’ll be documenting this so we can both walk through this learning experience together.

Note: You’ll notice the picture doesn’t quite match the instructions. That’s because I’m slightly modifying the way it’s done, based on some of the areas I felt were a struggle, and should be done slightly different.

Okay, lets get started.

First things first, lets prepare the rub we’re going to use on the salmon.


2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS Paprika
1 TBS ground orange peel
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all of the rub ingredients together in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set the rub aside.

Note: With the brown sugar, a shaker would be tough, so just sprinkle it on by hand. You’ll be rubbing it in anyway to achieve a uniform application.


Rest of Ingredients:

  • 1 (2 lb.) salmon filet
  • Salmon Rub (from this recipe)
  • 6 thin lime slices (per filet)
  • A few sprigs of cilantro (ground leaves will do also)
  • Whole banana leaves (can usually be found in Asian markets)


Once again, first things first. Depending on how many filets you’re grilling, take the banana leaves out of the freezer and get them thawing out. This only takes about 10 minutes.

Now lets get that grill going. You’ll need a medium – high heat for this one.

Cutting and Preparing the Banana Leaves

This was the tricky part for me. A lot of recipes on the internet say to cut this in a 12″ x 12″ square. Doesn’t work too well at all. Here is how I ended up having to do this:

1)  A (2 lb.) filet will be about 12 to 15 inches long. Cut the filet into 3 even lengths. (About 4 1/2 inches long). Remove the skin from the salmon as thoroughly as possible.

2)  Before cutting your banana leaf into lengths, go along the edge of the leaf and cut a 1/2 wide strip, 18 inches long. You’ll need 3 of these. These are to tie the package up.

3)  Now cut (3) lengths of banana leaf (18 inches) long.

4)  Now that the banana leaves are cut and thawed out, and the grill is going, place the banana leafs one at a time on the grill for about 10 seconds. Long enough for them to start wilting just a bit. You’ll see them start to look wet and shiny right away. This will make them more pliable. Then flip it over and do the same to the other side.

Let’s Prepare the Salmon

  1. Spread out flat, one banana leaf. Starting near one end of the leaf (length wise), evenly place 3 lime slices and a light sprinkling of cilantro on it in the center of the leaf (width wise), about the length of the salmon filet.
  2. Liberally apply the spice rub on the top of a filet, then flip it over and place it on the banana leaf, on top of the lime and cilantro. Apply the rub to the second side.
  3. Place 3 lime slices and cilantro on the second side of the filet.
  4. Wrap the contents of the leaf up into a neat little package.
  5. Fold the ends over, and tie the package with one of the thin strips of banana leaf across the middle.
  6. Place the neat little packages on the grill directly above the coals, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on the first side.  Now flip the package over and cut a slit length wise through the banana leaf to expose the fish. You’ll want to open it up a bit too.  This is so you can monitor the cooking of the salmon, and know when it’s cooked to perfection.

Note: If the banana leaf starts burning after flipping it, have some aluminum foil ready to go, and just slide that under the packages. This is because your fire is just a bit too hot.

This had a very nice flavor to it. Not sure if it was just the rub, or the banana leaf, but it was absolutely delicious!

This should easily serve 4.

My wife and I always laugh at our cat Rocky when I bring my latest smoked meats off the smoker, and into the house. He definitely has a nose for meat, because he only shows a slight interest in the veggies, nuts, or whatever else I’m smoking.

In fact, he’s long since associated the noise of the tupperware lid popping off the container with the opportunity to devour some meat. These pictures don’t do justice to show how crazed he gets over meat, so I might just have to do a video next to give you the full flavor of his level of excitement. So check back from time to time.

He’s absolutely nuts!

This morning my wife said; “Who needs bear claws when you have cat claws!” And this story was born!



All Day Pork Butt

July 18, 2011
by Curt

Low and Slow, that’s the way to do it. Looking at the pictures tells you that this is one very juicy and tender pork butt. You’ll have to take my word for the fact that it was very tasty too!

So, here’s how it was accomplished. The night before, I injected it heavily with my Orange & Honey Pork Injection. I put it into the refrigerator to soak all those juices up overnight.

After 11 hours in the refrigerator, I pulled it out and poured off the juices that seeped out of the pork butt. I would say that it held about 70% of the injected juices.

Now for the rub, I rubbed it heavily, covering the entire butt with my favorite rub for pork. I then put it back into the tupperware container and left it sitting on the counter for about 45 minutes to come closer to room temperature.

I got the fire started in my 18.5 Webber Smokey Mountain, (WSM), and let that sit for about 15 minutes until just enough of the lump charcoal on top was burning white. I put the cooking chamber on and then I like to mount a thermometer near the  top grate where I will be smoking the pork butt. I’ve found that on my WSM, the gauge mounted in the top of the dome reads about 20 degrees cooler than the actual temperature at the grate. I could just compensate, but it also seems to be undependable as it fluctuates. At times during the cook, it’s been almost identical to the near grate temperature, and at other times, it’s been 35 degrees cooler.

Once the temperature has settled in around 250 degrees, I put the pork butt on the top grate, and just checked on it from time to time, tweaking the vents as necessary to maintain 250 degrees.

Here is how it looked after 3 hours into the cook.

Specific details of the cook:

1)  I used lump charcoal in the fire along with 70% (fist sized) chunks of pecan, and 30% apple chunks.

2)  I maintained, or tried to maintain 250 degrees throughout the cook. It fluctuated from 230 to 275 degrees, as I am still learning my new WSM. No doubt as I learn to start with the perfect fire, and find the right vent tweaks near the beginning of the cook, it will do less fluctuating.

3)  I won’t bore you with all the details of what I did while this was cooking, the total time for the cook was 9 1/2 hours. I pulled it off the smoker at an internal temperature of 201 degrees.

4)  I put it immediately into a tupperware container and closed it up tight. I let this sit on the kitchen counter for 45 minutes to let the juices redistribute nicely inside of the pork butt.

Last but not least, time to carve it up. I never have to do this part alone, because my eager, hungry little helper named Rocky is always there to help.

The pork butt turned out extremely juicy, tender and very tasty! I don’t speak cat very well, but I’m pretty sure this is what Rocky is saying also. That, or he’s say Gimme Gimme!

What a guy, that Rocky Boy!