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Thread: It's All About The Ratios

  1. #1
    Moderator Chris Allingham's Avatar
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    It's All About The Ratios

    I cooked two pork butts a while back. I pulled one and we ate it in short order. I allowed the other one to cool, wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and stuck it the freezer to enjoy another day.

    "Another day" came about a week ago. I moved the frozen block of cooked meat into the refrigerator and let it thaw for a couple of days, then moved it into a 300*F oven to reheat. At some point I opened the foil to check the meat temp and saw the plastic wrap...forgot that I'd done that...no big deal, it doesn't hurt anything at 300*F, I just quickly pulled off the plastic wrap, rewrapped the foil, and stuck it back into the oven until the meat hit about 140*F. Then I pulled it all.

    I wanted to add a little moisture and flavor to the meat, but didn't want to overdo it. So I got out a Tablespoon and some apple juice and some barbecue sauce (I made a batch of SYD All-Purpose Easy Sauce) and weighed 1/2 pound of meat on a kitchen scale. And I started adding juice and sauce by the tablespoon to the meat, stirring, looking, tasting, to see if I had it where I wanted it.

    This is not my normal routine. I usually eyeball it. I typically just use BBQ sauce, not apple juice, and sometimes I add too much. OK, I'll admit it...I almost always add too much. So this time, I thought I'd be more precise, see if I could figure out the right amount...the right ratio of pulled pork to added liquid.

    This got me to thinking about the importance of ratios. You know what I mean...you make a hamburger on the grill, you place it on a bun, you load it up with condiments...and the ratios are all wrong! Sometimes it's too much bun to meat, or too many condiments to meat. Too much mustard, not enough ketchup. My wife and I go to a favorite sandwich shop where we order pastrami sandwiches. I've noticed that the deliciousness of the sandwich is directly related to the ratio of meat to bread...more meat than bread. On the few occasions when the ratio has been off (less meat), I'm disappointed.

    Of course, you can go overboard in the opposite direction when it comes to a sandwich. I've had those giant $30 pastrami sandwiches you get at New York delis (though not in New York, but at Carnegie Deli in The Mirage Resort in Las Vegas...close enough) and I don't understand the ratio of meat to bread. A tower of meat on two slices of bread. I know I'm supposed to enjoy it...I try to enjoy it...but I don't, really.



    Obviously, much of cooking and baking has to do with ratios. Get the ratios right and you've got a moist, delicious biscuit. Get the ratios wrong and you've got a hockey puck.

    Anyway, back to my pulled pork. It turns out that 2 Tablespoons of apple juice and 2 Tablespoons of BBQ sauce stirred into 8 ounces of warm pulled pork was perfect. Just perfect. Remember that, I told myself. Of course, I didn't. I went in a few days later and screwed it up by eyeballing the juice and sauce...too watery.

    Will I ever learn?

    What are your thoughts about ratios when it comes to BBQ or cooking in general? Do you have a favorite food where the ratios are really important to your enjoyment of it? Do you have a horror story where you really screwed something up because you got a ratio wrong? Post a reply to let us know.

    Best,
    Chris

  2. #2
    TVWBB 1-Star Olympian Bob Correll's Avatar
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    I've never eaten one of those mile high pastrami sandwiches, but I do get what you're saying.
    Why bother with the bread, just eat a pile of meat.
    I've had pizzas loaded with different types of meat and did not enjoy them at all.
    Pizzas with 3 ingredients can be great, but so can loaded ones, if the ratio of ingredients is right.

    We need Alton to get out of his bear suit and make a couple of Good Eats episodes on the subject.

    (I'm an eyeballer too, and most likely will never change.)
    Cooking a steak to well done is like killing the bovine twice.

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    TVWBB Honor Circle Bob H.'s Avatar
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    I wonder if they divided the pastrami in two and added a slice of bread in the middle, if that might be the right ratio?

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    TVWBB Super Fan Mark Barton's Avatar
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    One of my favorite things to smoke is home made sausage. I love the process of grinding, stuffing, drying, and smoking. Ratios really make this possible. With a good ratio, I can take any amount of meat and figure out how much fat to add, how much cure, the amount of any other meat, and the amount of water and spices.

    I love that ratios let us scale recipes large or small.
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    TVWBB Honor Circle Enrico Brandizzi's Avatar
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    IMO, if you speak of ratios like you did, you speak of taste. And taste is streactly personal.
    At my table we are five with five different ratios (about tenderness, smokyness, juicyness, porkiness, beefiness, saucyness) by mine win always: I'm the Cook!!
    KSBS Judge activity (round Europe) helps me to know competition tastes along with other ratios.
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  6. #6
    Moderator Chris Allingham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Enrico Brandizzi View Post
    IMO, if you speak of ratios like you did, you speak of taste. And taste is streactly personal.
    I agree with you, that in this context, ratios are often a matter of personal preference/taste, and it's not always good vs. bad. Sometimes it's good vs. good, like a slice of thin crust pizza vs. a slice of deep dish pizza....some people like both equally.

  7. #7
    TVWBB Guru Dustin Dorsey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Barton View Post
    One of my favorite things to smoke is home made sausage. I love the process of grinding, stuffing, drying, and smoking. Ratios really make this possible. With a good ratio, I can take any amount of meat and figure out how much fat to add, how much cure, the amount of any other meat, and the amount of water and spices.

    I love that ratios let us scale recipes large or small.
    I'm with Mark on this. Ratios really opened up sausage for me. I think it applies to pretty much anything.
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  8. #8
    TVWBB Hall of Fame Dwain Pannell's Avatar
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    Pizza Dough taught me the ratio lesson. This is my fav (so far): High-Gluten Flour 100%, Water 57%, Yeast 0.5%, Salt 2.00%, Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00%, Sugar 2.00%

    Of course, the more I think about it, charcoal to smoke wood ratio is pretty important to me. Too much or too little smoke wood is not good. I do not like food to taste like an ashtray but I like that smoky flavor. A little goes a long way.

    And there's always the income to debt ratio that causes me to get up each morning at 5:30 that is significant in my life.
    Last edited by Dwain Pannell; 08-18-2016 at 06:31 PM.

  9. #9
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    I work with ratio's all the time.
    It just makes baking bread, making sausages and everything a lot easier. (and it's easy to remember a recipe and scale it up or down).
    I grew up with the metric system, which makes it very easy to do this!

    As for cooking, I typically cook to what I feel like. Today a bit more garlic, tomorrow a bit more chili's...
    It does make it difficult to exactly replicate a dish, but heck, it's the way I cook

  10. #10
    TVWBB Wizard Timothy F. Lewis's Avatar
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    The thing about cooking at home is "It's what I really feel I want today" goes a long way toward the right finished product for the time. Every piece of meat is a little different, every sauce is a little different, tastebuds feel different from day to day.
    The ratio is a fine "Benchmark" but, some days I just feel like a little more or less.
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