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image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

If there is one thing that we can say that we know, it is barbecue. For years we have competed with our ribs and brisket – and hesitated buying meat from others as few compare to the level of care we give to the preparation, cooking and rest needed to create great meals. Chain BBQ joints and local favorites always seem to miss an element of what makes barbecue great: a feeling of friendship between the guests, the meat and the cook preparing it. The moment you walk up to the table where Black Market BBQ has parked you instantly feel like you are a member of the team and have been there all day with them and shared the experience.

The crew rolls up in the smoker trailer in the early morning and fills it with racks of ribs and slabs of brisket. Talking with the chef he says there is “no better time to be out, the birds are singing and the sun is just in the right spot”. I wish I could be that chipper that early in the morning. The smoker gets up to temp and the meat rotates away within the trailer, soaking up and absorbing all the flavors with it.

After hours of cooking their truck rolls up, and the meat is released from its vessel. Go ahead, ask them to look inside the smoker, he will bring you right up to the doors and show you the Narnia-esque land of meat inside, dark from the history of smoke brought through the trailer with the redolence only a pitmaster can bring. 

But all this does not build you up for the tastes you are going to get from this system. Note: If you are a person who needs a sauce to go along with your meat you will not find that here.  This is a dry-rubbed, brined type of place. Order a brisket and it comes in a asian take-out style container overfilled with meat and the juices that come with it. Ribs come in a coffee bag with about 4 bones in each. Nothing more, nothing less, and we like it that way.

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image source: blackmarketbarbecue.com

We will leave this review with some excerpts taken from their website, because it summarizes them so well: “This is Minnesota BBQ directly off the pit, with a dry rub that never needs sauce. This isn’t Memphis. This isn’t Texas. It’s not whatever you’ve had that was supposed to be the best barbecue ever. This is Minnesota BBQ, and it’s really, really good. Just like it’s supposed to be.”

Food: 5/5 If you are looking for smoked meats cooked slow, this is it.
Drink: -/5 Food only, although it is known to park at breweries.
Atmosphere: 5/5 The best people, doing what they love.
Overall: 4.5/5 Why the ding? They are not open more (but thats it)!

The following is a version of the Award Winning Beef Ribs served at mancuisine’s smökathon in 2016. It is important to note that when planning to make this recipe, call your butcher well ahead of time as they do not often stockpile beef ribs in their facility – a shame, as these ribs far surpass any flavor you can get from the same style of cut that is offered in pork. I am giving the full recipe for a competition sized portion, make any adjustments as needed or make extra as the rub will last in a pantry for the next time you make these ribs (and there will be a next time, trust me).

Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time
Setup for the beef ribs at the beginning of the cook time

I use an offset smoker, with an old bread pan filled with water directly next to the firebox in the cook chamber. Water pans are highly recommended to be used in this recipe – if cooking the ribs in the oven as I have been known to do, I will place a pan with water in there as well to keep the moisture level up in the chamber.


The Meat:
4 racks Texas style beef ribs
Remove the meat from the fridge 1 hour before cooking to allow the meat to get near room temperature. Trim any excess fat and score the membrane on the underside of the rib along each bone with a knife – this gives the rest of the fat easy access to drip out, and there will be plenty over the cook time.

The Rub:
1/2 cup whole black peppercorns
3 T chili flakes
1/3 cup + 1 T sea salt
Put the peppercorns and chili flakes into a spice or coffee grinder and grind them into a rough sand, you do not want it to be too fine. Mix in the salt and put 1/4 to 1/2 of the mixture onto the ribs, making sure to get it into the meat, the sides and the bottom of the racks.

Start your coals, fire or oven and bring your vessel to 225 degrees. Maintain this temperature the entire cook time. Know your vessel and what it needs to stay there, and when those times come when more fuel is needed to be added. This is key to a good piece of meat at the end of the day.

Put the ribs into the smoker with the thicker bone side facing the firebox or heat source. Rub in last 1/2 of the dry rub into the top side of the ribs. Close the vessel and watch your temperature.

If cooking multiple racks, rotate the meat every 1.5 to 2 hours to ensure that each one is cooked evenly. 5 hours into the cook time, wrap the ribs with an unlined butcher paper. I do the simple envelope style where the ribs are placed in the center with the membrane side up, fold the four corners into the center, tuck them under and place back in the vessel as they had been when taken out. I cook these using only wood, if you are cooking with charcoal and wood chunks I recommend doing this step and hour or two later. This is also the step where you may add your favorite sauce to the ribs, but they will also be amazing just with the rub.

finished product at the final unwrapping
finished product at the final unwrapping

8 hours into cook time remove the ribs, still wrapped, and place them into a cooler or large plastic container. Leave them there for one hour, remove, unwrap, sauce, and cut into individual ribs.

Make sure to have some paper towels handy, as these ribs will be juicy!

Our smökathon [also previously know as ribfest] took a different angle this year on competitive cooking, as our challengers were able to select any cut of meat from a cow or a pig and not just pork ribs as ruled in the past. Every person selected something unique from each other in happenstance, as we discussed what we were cooking at a meeting a few days before the event.

Jeff doing an initial check of the brisket before the long haul of smoking
Jeff doing an initial check of the brisket before the long haul of smoking

Jeff was to cook a brisket in his new beast of a smoker, Brad to cook a pork shoulder. Adam was telling us that he was going to cook up some pulled pork from a pork loin and Doug found an uncured ham he was going to smoke all day. I chose to try to tackle beef ribs and Trevor took the challenge of making pastrami from scratch. A great unplanned variety from the cooks in our first year of opening up the options.

Trevor's set-up at the beginning of the day
Trevor’s set-up at the beginning of the day

Jeff in his competitive nature rolled up to our venue at 4:30 am to put the coals on and begin his process. The rest of us came down around 7:30 and did the same. It was 8:00 am when Jeff cracked his first beer open, as the long day of sustaining temperature means you have to slow down a bit and relax around your firebox.

Weather reports started pinging on our phones around noon as a severe weather alert had been issued for our area! This would be a new challenge for us, as the weather had always complemented our days of cooking in the past.

Most of us chose to put some foil down as insulation
Most of us chose to put some foil down as insulation

It did not take long for us to get the needed protection set up for our smokers and battle the cool-down that the rain would inevitably bring. The rain kept the competitors busy for the few hours that it did come down, but for the most part our smokers held temperature and it was a minor hiccup in the day.

The rain broke around 3:00 and the people came rushing in. Coolers stocked with beer and drinks and the conversations in the crowd were fulfilling and plentiful. This is the real reason why we do these competitions every year – to bring our friends and family together over food and merriment. 

As the 5:00 pm judging time was beginning to approach there were many tactics that emerged as to what could be done to finish the meat. Foil and butcher paper rolls were unearthed and coolers opened. Some wrapped with sauce, others without. It was a year of high diversity in our outcomes. smokathon winners

In the end it was Trevor, with the pastrami, who received the most amount of votes from the crowd as their favorite and he took home the traveling belt. Isaac, with the beef ribs, got the highest tally from the 5 judges and took home the trophy.

Hope to see you all next year at our 8th annual smökathon in 2017!

 

The 5th Annual Ribathon approaches. The date is set for Sunday, August 24th in our recent smoking home in Eagan. For a specific address to our event, email gno@mancuisine.com – We would love to have more competitors join the ranks!

Ribfest 2014

Here are the specifics this year:

It is that season – smoke, meat and eating! Join us for the rib fest to test our abilities in creating the best rib possible. Cooks will arrive in the morning, tasting happens at 5. Bring food to share and drinks to imbibe. Join us anytime within this range!

Attendees:
Bring something to share (beverage and/or food item) and your appetite.

Rules for the cooks:
Arrive as early as you need to serve at 5:00.
Find your own ribs-any cut.
All meat must be cooked onsite.
Prep(Cut)/Rub/Brine is okay in advance.
Must cook with coals. No gas or electric cooking.
Sauce can be prepared in advance, no store bought sauce.

Serving/Judging

Ribs to be served at 5

Every cook will assign one judge to rate all the ribs.
All other attendees will have the option to vote for their overall favorite.
Must be present to win!

competitors
This year’s cooks

Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 5.21.06 PMWith the smell of hickory smoke still filling the beard and a digestive tract that continues to be uncertain about where it has been it’s time to give the summary of this year’s Rib Event. A kinder and gentler set of sauces this year kept us from the problems encountered when ribs are in heat…

stilltalking
Talking smart- note the cooler
talking smart
Still talking- note cooler again

sixplattersThirty two adults and hoards of smaller creatures attended this year’s last minute event with two dogs, six cooks and a new trophy brought to the event by last year’s winner- Jeff.  A new feature this year was the number of  people who unexpectedly  stopped by to see what kind of bargains we had at the “garage sale”! Seems that to the idle passer-by the driveway full of working smokers had the appearance of a rummage sale. Although, one guy did stop to ask questions about the various kinds of grills we were using to help him make a decision. We gave him a beer and shared our vast knowledge of smokers and grills. Unfortunately, it seems, he is likely to buy a Green Egg. Makes ya wish you had given him a Blue Moon.

Cooking started around 10:00 and continued right up to the judging at 5:00 pm (17:00). Here are the results in the order they were judged:

  • Doug swore to no secret ingredient with just a hint of heat and some pre-brining.
  • Brad went with a 1-2-3  rub-glaze-mop with a hint of mint and bourbon.
  • Jeff went with a bit of heat in his rub with a final mop to kick things a bit further.
  • Isaac went with a marinade and mop using habanero peppers and pears. He also tried a hybrid smoker, mini grill treatment.
  • Kyle forsook  the smoker altogether and went with the slow, dry, fall-off-the-rib treatment on the Weber.
  • Trevor went for the long smoker treatment with a bit of root beer in the sauce, not having any cola around the house.
Isaaccolor
Isaac’s 3D mop pile

underwayIn the end Jeff took the popular vote and the Judges Overall Award. He is seen at the left checking out the potential changes in the barometric pressure that might impact the timing of the mop sauce. To complete the sweep he also walked away with the most heat nod from the judges. Isaac is still wondering how his habaneros ended up in second heat. Hard to tell what will happen when ribs are in heat.

Nonetheless, all ribs were deemed more than edible with Kyle taking second overall and Isaac third. For those doing the stats for the event baby backs were the ribs of the day thanks to a sale at Rainbow Foods although we noted that Cub Foods has ribs on sale this week as well. Only two of the contestants made spare ribs.

Klubb game underway
Klubb game underway

The day was sunny and breezy, perfect to keep the coals alight and the games fun. The usual mix of beverages arrived with the special addition of some Kinship IPA tapped in the garage ‘frig. Side dishes showed up as well with the winner being Missy’s remarkable seven layer bars. However, the hit of the day seemed to be Isaac’s retro Schmidt Beer aluminum cooler with built-in bottle opener. Adam was unable to join us a a cook this year but made a fine addition to the judging staff. Thanks to those who filled in as judges. Serious work for the seriously committed.

Trays ready for judging
Trays ready for judging

As soon as we can pry it from them we’ll put the top three recipe’s on the site. Note that there are no recipes posted from last year’s winners. Hmmm…

IMG_0343In a hasty short notice fashion we are formally announcing our annual Rib Cook-off the weekend of June 29. The Saturday event will be the same as before with a group of judges deciding on the winners in a series of categories and the public choosing the ribs of the people. No big rule changes this year with the exception that meat may arrive rubbed and marinated. Should be fun, if you are attending bring along a side dish or some beverage to share. Eating and judging begins at 5:00 with people beginning to arrive by mid-afternoon.

Look for items from the event here. The group is warming up with a discussion of the rules and such at the Blue Door this week. We’ll get a posting up as soon as we can.

Past rib events are at this link

Last years judge's row!
Last years judge’s row!

This week the Mancuisine group will be assembling to have a great collection of BBQ ribs. Each member will be stopping by a favorite BBQ site on the way to Scott’s, arriving with a rack and a side. If anyone has a suggestion of a Twin Cities BBQ place worthy of a stop please let us know in the replies below.

Mancuisine members will be posting the sites they are claiming as well. First come, first taken on the locations. As you’ll notice Isaac has already claimed the mighty Ted Cook’s  from his old Neighborhood. Scott has taken an entirely different approach.

Here’s the early claims (updated post event). Check the replies as they come in for the rest:

Isaac

Scott

  • Rack- Nye’s Polonaise (Do the Poles really make ribs?)
  • Side- Sauerkraut and boiled potato

Kyle

Trev

  • Rack- Baker’s Ribs – full rack, St. Louis Cut, Texas Style with a delicious sauce on side.
  • Side- Smokey Baked Beans & Tomato Basil Salad

Brad

  • Rack- Baldy’s BBQ
  • Side- Delicious cornbread & Potato salad (white variety with bacon)

Doug

  • Meat- Pulled Pork from 
  • Side-

Jeff

  • Meat- Wings from B-Dubs (four varieties: Hot, Hot BBQ, Asian Zing, Mango Habanero)

Great turnout with almost all in attendance.  The ale selection included two varieties of Oskar Blues, Bells Two-Hearted, Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (although the discussion was more on whether Kyle inspired the Lagunitas Sucks! brew after interactions with the head brewmaster when living in CA), and another sampling of Isaac’s fine Alt homebrew as he attempts to perfect his recipe.  All in attendance reached a state of meat coma, followed by random YouTube watching, Spam flavored Macadamia nut eating, and bourbon sampling around Scott’s fabulous bar set-up in his NE pad.

The Wait

Much like the overture to a fine symphony Adam’s Eagan patio was tense as smokers were started and each of the seven contestants moved pork to fire. The smell of hickory, cherry and apple blended with the aroma of cumin, tomato, and Dr. Pepper providing brief scents of what was to follow. Indeed, three of the seven admitted to using soda pop in their recipe. Five of the seven had rubs of some complexity beyond salt and pepper and all had some form of magic bullet sauce. The place looked like a bullet strewn CSI Miami site by the time it was over- red sauces of a variety of consistencies all over the tarmac. Could have been a Sam Peckinpaw set after filming was completed for the day.

Sampling the Competition
Official judges- Serious
Emeritus Judge in Action

Our day began around 10:00 am with judging starting just ahead of 5:00 pm. Seven invited judges and our Judge Emeritus, Scott, took their time and slowly considered one rib from each of the contestants. As they began their work the other attendees made their way through the piles of ribs to give a vote in the Best of Ribs Popular Vote category. Kind of like the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.  This is the first year we have split off the two awards. In the past we had observed  the seriousness and comments of some of the judges and felt we needed to provide a means of supporting their earnest sincerity.

Popular Voting Begins
Popular Winner Samples the Competition
Oldest Smoker

Isaac won the popular vote this year along with the Best Heat category. It was somewhat surprising to many that a fairly inflammatory sauce could win the hearts of the masses. But, nonetheless, Isaac’s Scandinavian confidence in the public won him the category. Amazing that a slightly socialist sauce would win in this political climate. It should be noted that the platter of ribs provided to the popular vote judges was marked “HOT” to save small children and Norwegians in attendance from being exposed to the heat of the moment. The winning popular smoker was the oldest of the collection. Only four letters of the Brinkman label can still be seen.

Overall Winner makes Final Adjustments
Best of Class
Aftermath

The Overall Winner this year was Jeff. As in the past, his secret was in the sauce and although he was a bit candid about the ingredients he did suggest the use of root beer had something to do with the victory. Jeff won our first rib contest using an electric smoker. It was good to see him back in the polyaromatic hydrocarbon world. Being a newlywed, Jeff had the newest smoker- a gift from two of the other contestants. Impressive ribs from an impressive contestant in an impressive device! This year’s trophy was again provided by Doug. Talk of a traveling trophy in the form of a WWF belt was mentioned with Adam knowing the location of a company that makes them.

For those counting, the author stayed true to his, “I make ribs I enjoy” and placed near or at the bottom of the competition again. Also true to form, the ribs he though were best did not place this year. Yet another reason for him to avoid fantasy football leagues. Nonetheless, it was a great day with plenty of good food, two home-brews, many flavors of donated beverages and plenty of sun. Really looking forward to next year’s event.

Modified Kettle 
Modified Smoker
Platters

Preparations have begun for the rib competition on September 2. Adam has completed brewing a batch of barley pop at Vine Park in St. Paul and Brad and Kyle have just completed a batch of English Bitters on the deck. Judging this year will be in two categories. Each of the ManCuisine contestants has been invited to bring one judge that they feel will apply great energy to giving an inspired and fair judgement on the ribs.  In addition all attendees will complete a scoresheet to select the winner in the “Ribs of the proletariat” award. Sorta like the Academy and Golden Globe awards?

Anyway, while moving a large playground this weekend we had a time to talk trash about each other’s rib recipes. Seems that nobody is satisfied with what is coming off the grill yet. Suggestions still welcomed.

 

The Rack Shack on Cliff Road in Burnsville is further evidence that great food can be had outside the urban ring. We had heard way too many good things about this place to have waited this long to check them out.

A small place in a strip mall shared with an old established family Italian restaurant, a Subway, and a bakery it would be easy to look at the outside of the place and drive by.  That would be your loss. We walked in on a Wednesday night around 6:30 to a small line of locals getting takeout and a goodly number of tables for a place that appears to serve more food in bags heading out the door than at the tables- at least on this Wednesday. Walking through the door the first thing you see is the shelf of sauces in squirt bottles just waiting to be tested.

Ribs, brisket, and pulled pork were all up to expectations. The ribs were cooked soft and needed a small amount of effort to remove the meat from the rib- perfect. Side dishes were good but not exceptional. The beans were the best of the collection we had. Side portions seemed a bit small but the main dishes were plenty big. A good menu with more than enough selections. They have a HOBO bowl that looks like an amazing collection of food but none of us were up to it.  They do have a three Hobo’s in 30 minutes challenge that looked interesting. Seems it was interesting enough to draw in the Man vs. Food crew.

The highlight of the place was the selection of sauces. Hot and sweet, sweet and hot, hot and stupid tastes all all met by the row of sauces. The New Orleans Ghost was a big hit with all of us with good taste at the start and a slow remarkably hot build. The burn lasts for a good long time. The Houston Hot was too much vinegar and heat, generally panned by this nordic-influenced group expecting their heat to come with flavor.

By the time we finished all were satisfied with only a bit of the smoked potato remaining. The staff was friendly and people came and went the entire time we were there. We’d rate the meats better than the local favorite- Famous Dave’s but the sides were just equal.. We are starting to see more rib joints popping up with a disturbing number of less than tasty offerings. We’ll stop by the Shack again and as soon as the tundra thaws some Shack take-out will make for a great picnic meal. Maybe we’ll grab some and head inside of the urban ring to eat..