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Chef Sohn's Grill Tips

Mark F. Sohn
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Barbecued Baby Back Ribs (and Barbecued Chicken)
from Hearty Country Cooking(St. Martin's Griffin, 1996)

With this slow cooker barbecue, you combine opposites: old and new, fast and slow. The combination of slow cooking and fast grilling makes these ribs tender and crisp. When you add a few grilled vegetables, you have another opposite that brings balance: light vegetables and rich pork barbecue.

Slow cooking results in tender ribs, and fast cooking yields flavor. I cook the ribs indoors in a slow cooker, and outdoors on a grill. The result is a tender, succulent serving, soft meat inside and crisp with burned edges outside.

Like glaze on a cake, barbecue sauce completes the dish. Flavored with hickory smoke, honey and a mix of spices, the sauce adds flavor and moisture. Select one of the many commercial barbecue sauces available, or make our own. I have observed two styles of barbecue sauce: thick Texas style and thin Carolina style. Thick barbecue sauces, like sauces that come out of a Kraft bottle, are Texas style. Hot and spicy, these sauces are almost as thick as ketchup and I brush them on cooked meat. We make thin barbecue sauces, indigenous to the Carolinas, with spices, vinegar, water, tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce. These thin sauces are vinegar marinades. These "soppin'" sauces range from thin to thick, depending on the amount of tomato paste or ketchup we add. When using Carolina-style sauces, dip the pieces of meat into the sauce every twenty minutes or so throughout the cooking.

Your butcher cuts baby back, back ribs or country ribs from a small pig, one that weighs 180 pounds or less. Look for whole racks, eighteen to twenty- four inches long, four to five inches across, and under three pounds.

Yield: 6 servings

  • 2 sides baby back ribs (racks weigh 1 3/4 pounds and are 18"24" long)
  • 2 cups Texas Style Barbecue Sauce or commercial thick, spicy sauce

1. Cut each side of ribs so that it will fit into your slow-cooker. Cut the side of ribs into as few pieces as possible. Place the ribs in the slow-cooker and cook at medium for 10 hours. The temperature in the crock pot should stay at about 165 degrees F.

2. Fifteen minutes before serving time, heat a gas grill. When the grill is hot, move the ribs from the crock pot to the grill. Watch the ribs carefully, or you may burn them. After you grill the ribs for 2 minutes on each side, use a pastry brush to brush the top (tips down, convex side up) side of the ribs with barbecue sauce. To keep the sauce from burning, I don't put it on the bottom. Put the ribs back on the grill, sauce up, and grill for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add more sauce and grill 1 more minute.

Tip: The grill soft vegetables such as eggplant, summer squash, bell peppers and mushrooms, cut them up, put them on a skewer and grill for 10 minutes. For hard vegetables such as onion, celery, carrots and beets, boil until tender and then grill 10 minutes.

While you can serve grilled foods immediately, there is no need to rush your vegetables or ribs to the table. They'll be just as good after they have cooled some. Do not cover them, or they will lose their crispness.

For a complete summer meal, serve with salad, grilled vegetables, a baked potato and dessert.

Barbecued Chicken: Using chicken quarters, follow the same procedure, reducing the slow-cooking time to 3 hours. For my family, I fix 1 rack of ribs and about 2 pounds of chicken quarters.

Mark F. Sohn is a writer, chef and teacher. A full-time professor of educational psychology at Pikeville College in Pikeville, Kentucky, Sohn earned his doctorate from the University of Maryland and has lived in the Central Highlands of eastern Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains for almost twenty years.

Sohn started cooking as an eleven-year-old Boy Scout in the hills of western Oregon, and he has been cooking ever since. In 1987, he studied cooking in Paris, completing the Ecole de Cuisine sponsored by Maxim's Restaurant and Pierre Cardin.

Since July 1990, Sohn has been the host and chef for Classic Home Cooking, a successful television cooking show that features the food of central and southern Appalachia. In 1992, the Penfield Press of Iowa City, Iowa published Sohn's first cookbook, Southern Country Cooking, which featured traditional foods from thirteen Southern states.

Sohn is from a family of cooks. As a young man, his father, Fred, worked in a German flour mill as a miller, test baker and cereal chemist. Today, his dad is a meticulous avocational bread baker, and his mom cooks everything else. He also has four brothers who cook. Sohn is married to Katherine Kelleher of Greensboro, North Carolina, and is the father of two grown children, Laura and Brian. They too do some cooking and sometimes use one of dad's recipes.

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