Yeah Science! By Scott Gaspar Member of 3 Guys Smokin’ BBQ CEO SmokinFoods, LLC. When Traeger asked us to provide a recipe for their blog, we were thrilled. They requested that we provide a competition recipe and we certainly have plenty of those, but after some consideration we decided not to just offer another recipe, but rather, to provide the science behind competition BBQ, and why one of the country’s oldest professional BBQ teams has decided to choose Traeger grills to cook with.
Anyone can set up a smoker, follow a recipe, and cook a rack of ribs, but it’s very unlikely they will win any awards unless they actually know the science that affects what they are cooking. We have traditionally hauled a large 20 Foot Trailer Smoker that was custom built 20 years ago. This was a great piece of equipment for competition Q, but it required constant supervision and our pit-masters (us) required intimate knowledge of how the smoker reacted to changes in temperature, wood, humidity, and the size and placement of logs and charcoal in the firebox. The "Q" we cooked was always good, but we were exhausted at the end of the day, and we began to find it harder to compete with teams who employed lots of technology.
We started noticing other BBQ teams were using, Insulated Water Cookers, Pellet Smokers, and computer driven systems with fans to drive up and down the temps when needed. We wanted to take advantage of some of this tech, but we still wanted the traditional BBQ flavors and textures we get from burning hard-wood in a real fire. After evaluating several smokers we decided to purchase Traegers, and here’s why. . . The science of BBQ is the science of controlling combustion. Most pellet smokers do a very poor job of . . .well. . .burning pellets. Sure, they produce lots of smoke, but smoke alone will not make good BBQ. You need real combustion to produce two essential gasses, Carbon Monoxide (CO), and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2). But to do this you have to move a lot of air, and produce a lot of heat, that’s why offset smokers are so popular in competition BBQ. You can produce lots of combustion without burning your meat.
The Traeger does the same thing, but in a far more elegant manner with a lot more control. Unlike most pellet grills, Traeger moves enough air and produces enough combustion to generate the necessary gasses in the appropriate concentrations. So, why do you need CO and NO2 to make BBQ look and taste good? Well, lots of things are happening to your meat under the hood of your Traeger. At the beginning of the cooking process, the outside of the meat begins to heat up, and shed moisture. This creates a tiny vacuum that sucks in your rub, and the surrounding atmosphere, which in this case is your wood smoke. If you were using an inferior pellet grill, or heaven forbid, an electric smoker, you would get a very one dimensional smoky flavor or even an acrid creosote taste, with little or no color. Because the Traeger produces the equivalent levels of CO and NO2 that you would find in a big stick burner (what we BBQ guys call our antiques), you get real BBQ flavor and color.
So what makes real competition BBQ? The taste and texture of your meat when it comes off a Traeger is real BBQ. Under the hood, those two special gasses have done their magic by binding with a muscle protean called myoglobin. Myoglobin reacts to CO and NO2 by turning bright red and swelling a little. See where we’re going here? Once this reaction takes place, the result is what we call a “smoke-ring,” but it’s not just for appearance. A good myoglobin reaction on the surface of the meat actually holds moisture and flavor in the meat by creating a barrior. If you produce a good smoke-ring in the beginning of your cook, you get a much better texture, and flavor.You also reduce the risk of drying out your BBQ as it continues to cook, because it sheds less moisture. So, here’s a recipe for competition ribs that takes advantage of the Traeger’s ability to create the appropriate chemistry for real competition BBQ. 50/50 mix of pecan and cherry pellets 1-4 racks of baby back ribs A good rib rub Olive oil Tub of margarine Your favorite BBQ sauce Aluminum foil Trim your ribs to your liking and remove the “silver skin” (diagram) from the back of the ribs by loosening against the bone with the tip of a knife and pulling with a dry paper towel (what we call “meat pliers”). We have a video on how to do this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdFbJ-dxACM
3 Guys Smokin' LLC. Rib Recipe:
Rub your ribs with olive oil, and then liberally apply the rub (better to let them sit in the fridge after rubbing for at least 30 minutes). Start your Traeger on smoke with the lid open, and then simply follow the formula below: • Smoke for 1 hour • 180 for 1 hour. • 225 for 1 hour.
• Remove, slather with BBQ sauce, and margarine and wrap tightly with aluminum foil (The margarine causes the sauce to stick to the ribs and basically “fries” it on) • Place wrapped ribs meat side down back on the grill for 2 hours at 225 •
• Unwrap ribs, saving some of the juice from the foil • Mix 50/50 BBQ sauce and rib juices, then glaze ribs and return to smoker at 225 unwrapped for about 45 minutes or until glaze sets a bit
• ENJOY! As you can see, we like to gradually introduce temperature to produce a very pronounced smoke-ring. I hope you enjoy this recipe. 3 Guys Smokin' LLC. is one of the oldest Professional Competition BBQ Teams in the USA. We have been competing since 1987 with some 280+ Ribbons, trophies and awards including 20+ top Finishes at the American Royal. Needless to say we have had our years of success. This year 3 Guys Smokin’ is going to be cooking on Traeger Pellet Grills, specifically the Big Tex Elite Grills. Traeger allows us better control over the entire cooking process. Time, temp controls, amount of smoke...etc. and we don’t have to haul around hundreds of pounds of wood and charcoal, or stay up all night tending a firebox.