Cheater BBQ

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I picked up a new cookbook last week, and I’ve been trying some of the recipes in it, with varying success. The cookbook is called Cheater BBQ: Barbecue Anytime, Anywhere, in Any Weather, by Mindy Merrell and R. B. Quinn. The basic premise of the book is that you can bypass hours of slow roasting over a fire, using wood to create smoke and flavor, all by using a bottle of liquid smoke.

(If you are a bbq purist, I’ll wait for you to finish screaming now.)

Ok. Here’s the deal. I don’t think the premise is completely true. I think that long, slow roasting over a flame with natural wood smoke produces really great results that you really can’t replicate in any way. That being said, if you live in an apartment building, or just don’t have the time or inclination to wait around for 16 hours while your hunk of meat gets from raw to succulence, then this book just might be something that might interest you.

My first foray into the world of bbq bogositywas their recipe for smoked turkey breast. The idea is that you put a dry rub on a whole turkey breast, tuck an onion in the cavity, wrap the whole thing in aluminum foil, and just before you tuck it into a crock pot, you douse the meat with a quarter cup of liquid smoke, and then clamp on the lid, and let it slow roast for 4 to 10 hours (depending on whether you use high or low setting on the crockpot).

The results were not bad, but it didn’t turn out half as good as it did when I made it years ago in my old bullet smoker. The meat had a mild, smoky flavor, but not really so you’d notice that much. I think the recipe suggested that the liquid smoke would give the skin a yummy, dark brown appearance. In reality, the skin ended up being flabby and I just peeled it off. So I think most of the dry rub was a total waste. Furthermore (and the recipe didn’t caution about this part) .. my crockpot is oblong, and the turkey breast in the foil did not cover the whole floor of the crockpot. I opted for the higher setting and quicker cooking time. When I removed the crock insert, I noticed that the heat had caused many cracks in the surface. I think it’s just not designed to be heated up without anything on it. While my crockpot isn’t completely ruined, it was damaged in the process, and I’m not too happy about that. I think if I were to try the recipe again, I would remove the skin of the breast before applying the dry rub; I would opt for the lower heat setting; and I would introduce a little bit of liquid to the pot before putting on the lid, if only to keep the crock from overheating.

I also made their recipe for a coleslaw that tasted pretty great, and is good for outdoor picnics, since it doesn’t use any mayonaisse.

½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 packages shredded cabbage / coleslaw mix (or 8 cups lightly packed and chopped cabbage)

Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl until well blended, then toss in the chopped cabbage, coating everything.

And here’s a great way to enjoy smoked turkey breast, — a sandwich I used to buy at Gold’s Delicatessen in Fairfield, Conn back when I worked nearby, 20 years ago…

2 slices of dark pumpernickel bread
several slices of smoked turkey
a few spoonfuls of tangy, vinegary coleslaw
douse liberally with russian dressing

Today, I decided to try another recipe. This time, I made what they call Hot Pot Country-Style Ribs. These turned out much better. I made it using their default dry rub recipe (a mixture of salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and dry mustard) and their recipe for what they call “I-35 Cheater Q sauce” which has 9 ingredients, one of which is chili powder, which gives it a southwest twang, but ended up being a little too spicy for my wife. Anyway, this is how it went…

3 lbs. (1.36 kilos) boneless country-style pork ribs
3 tablespoons dry rub (your favorite, or one of the ones they list)
3 tablespoons bottled smoke

Put your empty dutch oven into your oven, and set the temperature for 500ºf / 250ºc, and let the dutch oven pre-heat for a good 30 minutes. Meanwhile, coat all sides of the pork ribs with the dry rub. Once preheated, put the meat into the pot, pour in the bottled smoke, and put on the lid. Reduce the oven’s temperature to 300ºf /150ºc, and let it roast for about an hour. You want an internal temperature on the pork to be 190ºf / 88ºc.

While the pork is roasting, you could mix up a batch of bbq sauce — they give several recipes in the book, ranging from the vinegary, no-tomato sauce you’d find in eastern North Carolina, all the way to a complex asian-style sauce you might find out in California. Alternately, you could just crack open a bottle of your favorite store bought sauce.

Remove the pork from the oven, and coat each piece with bbq sauce. Either on your grill, or under your broiler, let the pieces cook a little longer to let the bbq sauce get thick and sticky and even burn here and there.

Like I said, the bbq sauce I used was a little too spicy, and so I will make this recipe again using something sweeter. And I will make this recipe again. It was very tasty and satisfying. And if you’ve managed to read this far without the tears of “real bbq” outrage clouding your vision, you might want to buy this cookbook and try some of the recipes.