Proof I'm A Beginner... But What Went Wrong?

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Jason M. Park

TVWBB Super Fan
I just got back form a camping/fishing trip where I brought with me my kettle for some slow cooking. (no, I still don't have the WSM) The ribs turned out as dry as dry can be, crispy, in fact.

The Plan... I brought with me a rack of beef ribs (6 bones, cryo-vac, somewhat trimmed, but still rather meaty) and 2 racks of baby backs (also cryo-vac, no solution added, somewhat smaller racks) I was planning on the beef ribs taking 6 hours, and adding the babybacks after one hour, giving them 5 hours. Also was going to add 4 freshly caught rainbow trout and 2 small russet potatoes after 3 hours.

The Cook... I was able to keep the fire right at the proper temps all day, 225-250. Weather was hot, about 90 degrees, but somewhat breezy, the cooker was in partial shade all day.

The Results... were awuful. All the ribs were nearly devoid of moisture, 100% crispy in some places. The trout were good as were the baked potatoes, but the ribs were ruined. I have done 5 hour baby backs several times with perfect results, what went wrong?

So far, I am thinking either my thermometer went wacko on me, OR the altitude of where we were camping, which was about 3800'. Perhaps a combination of both? Anyone who has experience with smoking and camping, please help! I want to make this failure a "learning experience..."

Clay J

Could the wind have been able to get through the cooker? It might have changed your grill from a slow cooker into a hot air dryer.

The page that shows slow cooking with a weber kettle show wind direction and seems to indicate a specific way to orient the vents.

Dennis Fraley

TVWBB Super Fan
The only thing is if it was the wind and to much air got into the coals causing it to heat up. Would'nt his thermometer indicated this.

If I were you I'd test out that thermometer. I had one a few weeks ago I borrowed from a friend that was 40 degrees to low. And I was wondering why my pork shoulder would'nt go above 170f /infopop/emoticons/icon_rolleyes.gif

Tony Weisse

TVWBB Super Fan
I agree, check that thermometer out. I bought a new meat thermometer at that "W" place last week and managed to drop it about 5 times before I got a chance to use it. Luckily I checked it and it reads about 20 degrees high at boiling point. In other words, it's now useless.

Also, it's possible that altitude played a part. Lower boiling point at altitude = faster evaporation of water = dry ribs? However, don't know if the moisture in meat is supplied by water or melted fat.

Jason M. Park

TVWBB Super Fan
So it sounds like wind was the culprit, huh? I still have not re-tested my thermometer, but I think it will be OK.

Jim Minion

TVWBB Emerald Member
BBQ is not about temp and time, that is baking.
Time and temp are guides and not the best way to gauge when BBQ is ready. If they were crispy then they were over cooked. You need to monitor the cook and check for their progress.
The wind and altitude all played a part. Learn to check the progress your eyes and feel besides the use of a thermometer. When you change your cooking conditions like wind and/or altitude then you need keep a close eye on things.
BBQ is an ART not baking.

Jim Clay

Jason, with ribs I almost never go by time. I just check them occasionally and when the meat is pulled away from the bone 1/4 to 1/2 inch and they pull apart easily then I take them off. I sometimes get a crispy one on the little end but the rest usually turn out great.

Matt Goin

TVWBB Super Fan

and when camping...use that baked bean pot as a water pan!!!


3 things essential to a kettle smoke!!!!!!!!!

Jason M. Park

TVWBB Super Fan

Well, I guess the biggest problem was the wind and himidity (or lack there of) when I went camping. Also copuld have been the ribs themselves, the racks were barely a pound apice, and the beef ribs were trimmed down way too much. The combination of "not very meaty" ribs, never basting them (shame on me) and the wind put that batch of ribs down for the count.

I am pleased to report an awesome beef rib experience this past Saturday. I managed to find a GREAT rack of beef bones (very meaty, all 7 bones, although the largest had been cut off and tucked unter the other 6 in the package) Also the full bone was present on these. After testing the thermometer, (which was still right on the money) I was ready to smoke. Temperature was about 90 degrees, virtually no wind, and the cooker in direct sunlight all afternoon.

I used a rub somewhat similar to the yum-yum seasoning here in the cooking section, and a mixture of Martinelli's, beer and garlic salt for basting. Used hickory for the smoking wood. It was difficult to keep the temps down under 250 without smothering the fire, in fact one of the sides had gone out. I had turned and basted twice, then at 5.5 hours, on the one rib that was separated form the others, the meat was totally pulled away from the bone all clinging to one end of the rib. I figured this would be a good time to end the cook. Basted them with the KC masterpiece cut with honey and feasted.

Beautiful smoke ring, bursting with flavor, and very tender, but not quite FALLING off the bone for the middle ribs, but that was still plenty tender. The only things I wish I could have had was the full rack of 7 ribs intact, I may have left them on just a little longer. Also think they need a sauce with a bit more of a tangy/fruity zip.
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