The Mark Patel

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Nicole and I are what some people refer to as foodies. We don't just eat to live; food for us is one of the things that makes life enjoyable, whether it's eating at one of our favorite restaurants, experimenting with a new recipe, or creating a lavish feast for our friends and family.


We're not talking about burgers and brats here (not that there's anything wrong with that). We're talking about real Texas-style BBQ; ribs, brisket, and chicken, smoked for many hours at a low temperature. For several years, my job involved frequent trips to Austin,, Texas, and many meals at The Salt Lick, The County Line, Rudy's, etc. gave me a taste for real BBQ. Unfortunately, it's tough to find really great BBQ in Chicago, so I got me a smoker and figured it out with a little help from my former-Austinite neighbor.

I have a Char-Griller smoker with a side firebox for smoking (it can also be used as a regular grill). I use hardwood charcoal and either oak or cherry in the firebox (I stay clear of brickettes because they contain nasty fillers and binders). I've made brisket before, but 13+ hours of smoking requires a very early start to the day, and I am not a morning person, so instead I've focused on ribs which require only 6-8 hours.

Perhaps the toughest part of the BBQ process is maintaining a steady temperature inside the smoker. I usually smoke ribs at around 235 degrees, and it's important to maintain that temperature within 10 degrees or so. A high-quality dial thermometer in the top can provide a pretty accurate reading, but it does require constant trips to the smoker to check on it. I recently got a remote smoker thermometer as a gift, and it makes life so much easier. The transmitter unit sits by the smoker and monitors the smoker temperature and/or the meat temperature. The receiver unit provides real-time updates of the temperatures, and you can set it up to alert you when the temperature goes above or below a certain level. I also like the fact that the probe can be located on the grate itself to give a more accurate reading of the temperature where the meat actually is.

Dry Rub

Here's the latest version of my dry rub recipe. I'm still in the process of tweaking it, but it's already at a point where I'm quite happy with the results (makes enough for about 4 slabs of ribs).

	1 Tbsp Black Pepper Corns*
	1 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper* 
	1 Tbsp Mustard Seed*
	2 Tbsp Sichuan Pepper Corns*
	3 Tbsp Sea Salt
	1 Tbsp Ground Cumin
	1 Tbsp Onion Powder
	*Freshly ground in a coffee mill that you don't use for coffee	
In the past I've applied the rub the night before, but I'm beginning to think that the salt draws too much moisture out the meat, so these days I apply it about 30 minutes before smoking.