So, it’s January in the UK, Storm Eleanor is in full swing and you fancy a barbecue – what do you do about that? Well, I had exactly this problem. After some thought about fancy tricks with my oven or maybe splashing out on an indoor barbecue set up (admittedly at some risk to both myself and my property) I did what we all do in times of crisis such as this. I headed for Youtube.
Videos demonstrating slow cooked pieces of tough meat through a water bath are nothing new to me. I have a sous-vide supreme, a costly bit of kit. However, sous-vide doesn’t have to cost the earth. You can get those fancy wands that just sit in a pot of water and keep a constant temperature ensuring a consistent finish to whatever you happen to be cooking. I wondered if it was possible to replicate the barbecue process but using a little trickery to get close to that smoky flavour without lighting a single flame.
So here’s what I came up with. Combining various techniques from around the internet I went for a 12 hour cook on a rack of ribs which would be flavoured with a traditional rub and barbecue sauce. One problem though – my vacuum sealer was out of action. I headed to amazon and picked up a tidy replacement. A Ymiko portable sealer with slimline qualities to aid easy storage and usage.
The beauty of this recipe is that you simply prepare the ribs, season with few spices and bag it up. While the ribs are cooking away you can head out the door to work or go to bed depending on what time you want to eat. It ticks all the boxes when it comes to convenience. I picked up a rack of spare ribs from Tesco which happen to be tremendous value with little preparation needed other than to remove the membrane going across the bones – just pull this off or score it with a knife.
Just before I got stuck into preparing the ribs I needed to put together a rub. Typical american rib rubs contain the same key ingredients – garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and chilli powder. I had a rummage in my store cupboard and decided to trial my own. Here’s what I came up with:
2 tbsp Brown Sugar, 1 tsp Garlic Granules, 2 tsp Smoked Paprika, ½ tsp Ground Black Pepper, ½ tsp Chilli Powder and 1 tsp Coarse Salt.
The rub offered up the smoky hit that I was searching for – mainly due to the smoked paprika. Of course, feel free to put together your own rub or purchase your favourite but lean on the side of smoky. This went into a handy container with a small cap in the top which proved ideal as a shaker later on.
Before the rub goes on, you need to make it stick. I mixed 2 tbsp of olive oil together with around a teaspoon of liquid smoke. This mixture then gets brushed onto the racks – which I had to divide in half due to having small bags. Once the racks are brushed just liberally shake the rub across the ribs – don’t cover the ribs entirely, go easy as they will be hit with more rub later. Use around half the rub.
With the ribs seasoned up and ready to go it’s just a case of vacuum sealing the bags and storing in the fridge until needed. I was working until 3am so I simply set the waterbath to come on before I arrived home and then placed the bags straight in at 74C (165 F) for the next 12 hours.
Weirdly I could smell the ribs cooking through the bags – possibly due to excess rub across the seam of the bag when it was sealed. Either way the smell was incredible with the exact smoky odour I had been craving. Soft ribs were now becoming a reality and it was torture waiting the last 3-4 hours until I could finish them off.
When the ribs have had their time, carefully remove them from the bag as they will come apart if pulled. Set the oven for 200C (392 F) and glaze the racks with your favourite barbecue sauce. Dust the rack with the remaining rub and place into the oven for 5 minutes just allowing the rub to dissolve a little. I went ahead and finished the racks with a further glaze of barbecue sauce before serving with a honey and mustard potato salad.
So, did the indoor barbecue experiment work? Hell yeah it did! These ribs are insanely good, one rack simply isn’t enough. I’m tempted next time to wipe Tesco out of stock when I get another craving for these. Let’s start with the meat texture. It’s EXACTLY how a rib should be. Meaty yet melts in the mouth and slides effortlessly off the bone.
Then there’s the outside. The liquid smoke and olive oil gives that hit of barbecue effect, yes it’s not “the real deal” nothing but charcoal and smoke can achieve that level of perfection. With this, it’s a rich smoky flavour which heightens when coming into contact with the rub. All the elements of a perfect barbecue flavour are here – sweet, salty, garlicky and of course smoky. Quite simply the best ribs that i’ve ever tasted.
This really is as close to the real McCoy as you can get in your own home. I really hope this method inspires you to try something new and a little different – particularly if you live in an apartment or suffer the wrath of the elements on a regular basis such as we do in the UK. This recipe and method of cooking has really knocked my thinking into a new gear – what else is possible with these methods? I’ll just have to make more I guess…