Test Cook: Pit Barrel Cooker Baby Back Ribs (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

I've had my Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) for just under six months and it has become my go-to cooker for most of my outdoor cooking -- especially tri-tip and chicken. The thing is just so easy to use and the food it produces is simply outstanding. I decided to see how good of a rib cooker it is, and the results honestly blew me away.

Not only is the PBC an outstanding backyard cooker, but I've used them twice in as my sole cooker in competition, including helping the Pit Barrel Cooker Company team beat the venerable Johnny "Godfather of Ribs" Trigg in both ribs and pork at a recent competition at Craig, Colorado. That is a huge testimony to the versatility and results that you get from this cooker.

For competition I always use a fairly complex process for my ribs that entails cooking them "bare" (just seasoned with rub) indirectly in smoke for a while, then I wrap them in foil with a liquid for a while. I then unwrap and sauce them, and I cook them directly over the coals for a few minutes to "set" the sauce (so that the sauce caramelizes a little and get sticky). This is a very common method for cooking competition ribs, but it's admittedly a huge hassle.

What follows are my precise results from a recent test cook where I explored how the PBC would deal with a no-nonsense rib cook that is as close to set-it-and-forget-it as I could make it.

  • 2 Racks (2.73 lbs each) "enhanced" loin back ribs (same thickness and length)
    • Seasoned heavily with a 50/50 blend of Pit Barrel All-Purpose and Beef & Game Pit rubs (about 1 Tbsp of each per rack)
    • Let sit, seasoned, at room temperature for 20 minutes while the coals started
  • 2 Chicken halves (5.08 lbs total) for cooker load ballast

  • Full basket of Kingsford Original (from a fresh unopened bag). Doused the coals with lighter fluid (about a cup), lit and waited 20 minutes.
  • No wood chips, chunks or pellets were used.

  • 86º / No wind / No rain / Cooker in the shade

  • 7:20 - Lit the coals
  • 7:40 - Hung one rack of ribs and one chicken half on each rod with the bones of each facing the inside barrel wall (about 2 1/2" from the wall)
  • 9:40 - Removed the chicken (it was done)
  • 11:10 - Ribs done and removed (perfect probe test between the bones)
  • Total cook time: 3 1/2 hours

  • Average temperature: 290º (measured simultaneously at each rod with my Thermoworks TW8060)
  • The ribs were never foiled, basted or spritzed.
  • The ribs had excellent color, were juicy, and had perfect tenderness/texture.
  • The thin ribs at the end above the basket were crispy, but not burnt.
  • The ribs were salty, as I would expect with store-bought "enhanced" ribs. I'd recommend using un-enhanced ribs and just a moderate coat of rub.

Test Cook: Pit Barrel Cooker Baby Back Ribs (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

As I said earlier, the results simply blew me away. I hit them with a light coat of sauce after they came off and they were some serious competition-grade ribs. I'd happily serve these to a judge any day! The brain-dead-easy simplicity makes me kick myself for jumping through hoops for all these years.

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Grilled Ratatouille (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

The word ratatouille in America these days is probably first known as the popular animated movie by the same name. However, this grilled version of the French classic side dish is a great way to make use of both your grill and the summer's vegetable harvest.

Ratatouille in its simplest form is a mixture of sauteed vegetables and herbs. You'd be hard-pressed to find a single recipe that chefs would agree upon. So, I'm more than happy to throw my griller hat into the ring with my own version.

This is a great side dish that would be welcome with most grilled carnage. In my case I served it with some grilled chicken sausage to make a nice light and healthy summer meal. You could also toss this into some pasta or pile it on some rice. I think it would also be outstanding with a little bit of cheese in an omelette.

4 Zucchini, quartered lengthwise
4 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeded
3 Yellow squash, quartered lengthwise
2 Red bell peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into sixths
2 Yellow bell peppers, seeded and cut lengthwise into sixths
1 Eggplant, quartered lengthwise
1 large Red onion, peeled and cut into sixths (wedges)
1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Sea salt, medium grind
2 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
1 tsp Garlic salt
10 sprigs Thyme leaves, fresh

Note: You could also use whole cherry or grape tomatoes.

Combine all of the ingredients, except the thyme, in a large mixing bowl and toss so that everything is coated with oil and well combined. Set aside.

Grilled Ratatouille (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Start your grill and prepare for direct cooking over medium heat (350-375º).

When the grill is ready, spread all of the vegetables on the grate in an even layer. Cook with the lid closed about five minutes. Keep the mixing bowl available.

Gently flip the pile of veggies over and cook, with the lid closed, about another 5-10 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are soft.

Grilled Ratatouille (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Remove the vegetables from the grill and into the same mixing bowl that you started with, add the thyme leaves and gently fold to combine.

Pour the vegetables onto a large cutting board and chop them into bite-sized pieces, then return them to the bowl.

Serve and enjoy!

Makes about 8 servings

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Sherry-Shallot Glaze for Chicken (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Who doesn't like barbecued chicken? I'm sure that there are a few freaks out there, but most of us love it. Here's a fresh spin on the familiar backyard favorite.

My girls frequently ask me what's my favorite thing to barbecue, and I always answer, "Chicken!". After they ask me that familiar question (why can't they remember?) I usually ponder why chicken is my favorite meat to barbecue. The only honest answer is that I just don't know. The most prominent reason that comes to mind is the years of my youth when I used to hang out at the grill with my maternal grandfather as he grilled chicken that I can taste in my mind to this day.

This is a recipe that I found scrawled on a piece of paper from probably 15 years ago. Back then I wrote very few recipes, so it was almost a quasi-nostalgic thing when I found it. Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone. I simply couldn't resist the urge to tweak it.

As I put this sauce together I thought that it's almost a French version of a typical American barbecue sauce. It has many of the familiar base ingredients, but it brings a new twist to the table. My girls gave it great reviews, and I think you'll dig it.

Here's what I came up with using my inspirational blast from the past.

1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Minced shallots
1/4 tsp Black pepper, ground fresh
1/2 tsp Garlic salt
3/4 cup Dry sherry
1/3 cup White wine vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon)
1 Tbsp Tomato paste
1/4 cup Honey
1 1/2 Tbsp Thyme leaves, rough chopped
2 Tbsp Butter, unsalted

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat until it just starts to shimmer.

Add the shallots, garlic salt and pepper to pan. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the sherry and vinegar to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook 5 minutes.

Whisk the mustard, tomato paste and honey into the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the butter and thyme, and let cool.

Drizzle or brush on your favorite grilled or barbecued chicken just prior to serving.

Sherry-Shallot Glaze for Chicken (via patiodaddiobbq.com)

Makes about 1 cup (enough for one whole chicken)

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