Steve Raichlen’s Cape Town Lamb — Slow-Grilled

From The Barbecue! Bible, pp. 203-05.

The evenings are already darker than they were at the end of August. I will have to find better lighting for the photos I’ll be taking this fall.

Since I’m leaving for France on Monday, I thought I’d slow-grill one more time. Five friends shared the preparation load. I was in charge of the leg of lamb and a lacinato kale-radicchio-ricotta salata salad. Sherry produced a delicious chickpea and ginger salad from a recipe that appeared in the NYTs last week. Rosamaria brought a lovely fruit tart. And Marilyn and John brought good wine.

The ingredients in Raichlen’s recipe worried me a little. Would it be too sweet? Too hot? I needn’t have worried. The super hot mustard cooled down by the end of the grilling — although John got a big charge of horseradish from the sauce. The sweetness did not become cloying. The meat came out tender and succulent.

So, here goes:

Serves 12

Advance Preparation

3 to 8 hours for marinating the meat

For the lamb:

1 bone-in leg of lamb (6 to 8 lbs), trimmed of any papery skin

6 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers

6 thin slices peeled fresh ginger, cut into thin slivers

For the glaze:

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3 Tbls Dijon mustard

2 Tbls hot Chinese-style mustard, or 1 Tbls dry mustard

3 Tbls fresh lemon juice

3 Tbls vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbls minced peeled fresh ginger

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Prepare the lamb: Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, make slits about an inch deep all over the surface of the lamb. Insert a sliver each of garlic and ginger into each slit. Place the lamb in a nonreactive roasting pan and set aside while you prepare the glaze.

2. Make the glaze: Combine the Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, Dijon and Chinese-style mustards, lemon juice, oil, and minced garlic and ginger in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook the glaze until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Remove the glaze from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. Let cool to room temperature.

3. Pour half of the cooled glaze over the lamb in the roasting pan, brushing to coat it on all sides. Cover and let marinate, in the refrigerator, for 3 to 8 hours (the long the better). Refrigerate the remaining glaze, covered.

4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling, place a large drip pan in the center, and preheat the grill to medium.

5. When ready to cook, place the lamb on the hot grate over the drip pan and cover the grill. Cook the lamb until done to taste, 2 to 2 1/2 hours; when done to medium, an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the leg (but not touching the bone) will register 160 F. Start brushing the lamb with the remaining glaze during the last 45 minutes of grilling; brushing it two or three times. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side every hour.

6. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board and brush it one last time with glaze, then let rest for 10 minutes before carving. While the lamb rests, heat any remaining glaze to serve as a sauce with the lamb.

How this recipe played out:

The leg of lamb I had weighted 4.5 lbs.

When Raichlen recommends cutting off thin membranes on ribs and papery skins legs of lamb, like he does here (“trimmed of papery skin”), you’re thinking to yourself, “oh, it can’t really make that much of a difference.” I’ve learned that it pays to heed his advice. I’m not sure what it achieves, but I suspect that it helps dissolve the connective tissues that holds meat together and to the bone.

I followed the directions for the glaze exactly and it worked well. But I marinated the lamb overnight, far longer than 8 hours.

I began with about 8-10 coals on each side of the drip pan, put on the lid and waited to see how high the temperature on my oven thermometer sitting on the grate climbed before taking out or adding to them.

When I put the drip pan between hot coals, I filled it halfway with water, a step that I first tried in the ribs recipe here. Did it help keep the meat moist? Probably. In any event, it didn’t hinder the cooking process.

As I did in other slow-grill experiments, I put a pizza stone on the ground near the Weber grill and placed a chimney starter on it. I filled it halfway with coals, lit it, and used those to supplement the hot coals in the grill. Be careful about what is around it. You don’t want your grass to catch fire, naturally.

The one serious problem I had involved my meat thermometer. I realized that it was broken. I intend to buy an instant-read thermometer when I get back from my trip, because it is essential. You cannot go wrong if you watch the temperature. The directions call for a temperature of 160 for medium. If I had had one last night, I would have taken the meat off the grill at 145 or 150 and let it rise under foil.

I kept the heat inside the covered grill hovering between 300 and 350. The lamb stayed on the grill just under 2 hours. The meat was a little more than medium rare. I would have liked it a touch pinker, but I seemed to be the only one who had that wish.

It’s a good recipe.

Steve Raichlen’s Memphis Dry Rub on Ribs Grilled According to Bruce Aidell

The rub is from The Barbecue! Bible, p. 194. The method comes from The Complete Meat Cookbook, pp. 176-78.

I feel as though I’ve graduated from high school. There’s college still to go, but at least I’ve completed my preliminary barbecue degree now that I’ve slow-grilled my first rack of ribs. A friend was coming over to share them that evening. After investigation, I decided to forego making a sauce and to combine elements of the two most appealing recipes I had. My friend and I were very happy with the results. I divided the slab of twelve ribs in half. I could only eat three out of six ribs, but he ate all six. Grilled ribs are a revelation. I had no idea how juicy and tender the meat could be. To tell the truth, I’m not sure why the ribs turned out so juicy. Maybe it was the drip pan filled with water under the ribs. Maybe it was the quality of the meat — organic pork. Whatever the reason may have been, the ribs were gloriously messy and delicious. Who needs sauce?

First, I prepared Raichlen’s rub from his Memphis-Style Ribs recipe:

3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 lbs) or 2 racks pork spareribs (6 to 8 lbs total)

1/4 cup sweet paprika

4 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar

1 Tbl salt

1 1/2 tsp celery salt

1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp dry mustard

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

Combine the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Rub two thirds of this mixture over the ribs on both sides, then transfer the ribs to a roasting pan. Cover and let cure, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours.

Now, switch to Bruce Aidell’s recipe:

Slow-Cooked Barbecued Spareribs — The Real Way

Prepare a covered barbecue for cooking: light a mound of 20 to 30 briquettes on one side of the grate and open the bottom vent fully. Place a roasting pan on the other side of the grate and add about 2 inches of water — the pan helps to catch any drippings, and the water provides moist heat to tenderize the meat. Meanwhile, if using wood chips, wrap about 2 cups of soaked hardwood chips in a foil packet and punch holes in the top to let the smoke escape (wrapping the chips in foil helps to keep the wood from burning up quickly when placed directly on the coals.) Or you can place 4 or 5 hardwood chunks directly on the coals.

Once the coals are ready, lay the foil packet on the coals. Put on the rack and lay the ribs on it over the pan so that no meat is directly over the coals [(this is Indirect Grilling)]. Cover the barbecue, with the lid vent about half-open and opposite the coals, so that the smoke is drawn over the ribs. Stick an instant-read thermometer into a top vent hole, making sure that any plastic parts are not in direct contact with the metal lid, and leave it there. Ideally, you want the temperature to read 200 to 250 degrees F; initially it can be higher, but it should not exceed 300 F; it should drop down to the lower range within a half hour or so. If not, partially close the lower vent to decrease the heat. Do not close this vent all the way, however, as this would cause the coals to die out. Regulate the temperature by adjusting the bottom vent, keeping the temperature registered in the upper vent in the desired range. Every 45 minutes, turn the ribs over and switch their places on the grill so that you alternate their exposure to the hotter edge near the coals. Add another 2-cup packet of chips or 4 or 5 hardwood chunks to the coals if the hardwood has burned up. If the temperature drops below 200 F, open all the vents fully, top and bottom, and check to see if the coals have burned out or need replenishing. If so, add 5 to 10 more briquettes. Once these coals get going, you may have to close the vents partially to regulate the heat.

After 1 3/4 to 2 hours (1 1/2 hours for baby back ribs), check the ribs for doneness. When they are ready, the ends of the bones will be exposed and the meat will begin to pull away from the bone. If a rib is twisted, the should being to turn and come loose from the meat. The surface of the ribs should be reddish brown. When tested with the instant-read meat thermometer, the meatiest section should have an internal temperature of 165 to 175. (Because ribs are so fatty, they can be cooked to a higher temperature than other pork cuts.)

When they are done, place the ribs on a baking sheet, large platter, or baking dish, and cover them tightly with foil. Wrap the pan or platter with 10 to 20 sheets of unfolded newspaper and let the ribs rest for 20 to 40 minutes or up to an hour before serving.

Meanwhile, [if using a barbecue sauce], heat the barbecue sauce of your choice in a small saucepan. When you’re ready to serve, slice the slabs into individual ribs and brush generously with the sauce. Serve with more sauce on the side and plenty of napkins and cold beer.

How I Grappled with These Instructions:

To begin with, I had only one 12-rib slab of spareribs that weighed 3 1/2 pounds. Given that most people in this country with charcoal grills use a standard Weber, it beats me how they fit more than one slab of ribs on a grate of that diameter. In fact, the arrangement Aidell recommends worked perfectly for one slab.

The night before, I rubbed the spice mixture all over the ribs, put the slab in a rectangular pyrex baking dish, covered it loosely with foil and refrigerated it overnight.

About an hour before I started the coals, I took the ribs out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature. Also, I filled a bowl with several handfuls of hickory wood chips and covered them with water to soak until the fire was ready.

When I began the coals, I counted out 40 briquettes into the chimney starter, which was standing on the pizza stone, free and clear of everything combustible. While the coals were catching fire, I filled a large aluminum rectangular pan with water, about 2 inches deep and put it to one side of the bottom grate, where I poured about half the lit coals when they were ready. After putting the upper grill in place, I set the stand-up metal oven thermometer down on it and replaced the lid to let the temperature rise. All the vents were wide open.

Meanwhile, I put a few more briquettes into the chimney starter to have a ready supply of hot coals.

Eventually, the temperature reached 300 F and stayed there. So far, I am a complete failure at maintaining a low fire. I make sure the heat doesn’t go above 300, but I’m not very good at keeping it under 300.

I put the ribs on the grill. At first, I tried the soaked hickory wood in a foil packet, but it took too long for it to heat up sufficiently to produce smoke. So, I opened it and dumped the damp chips directly on the coals, which had the nice effect of lowering the temperature a little.

From that point on, I only had to check the fire every half hour or so. The temperature remained pretty constant. Every half hour or so, I threw in one or two more britquettes and a handful of soaked chips.

I turned the meat four times over 2 hours. The color deepened beautifully. After 2 1/2 hours, I removed them, placed them back in the baking dish, covered it with foil and wrapped it in newspaper. That was a great idea.

While the ribs rested, I put two unshucked ears of corn on the grill and covered it. 20 mins later, they were done.

Eating the Ribs:

As good as they were and as melted as the fat was, next time I’ll cook them for 3 hours. They were juicy enough that half an hour more would not have dried them out. Why anyone would put sauce on them I can’t imagine, because the rub had mixed with the meat’s juice to form a sauce on the surface. And they certainly were messy enough to eat with our fingers. I can’t imagine a gas grill producing ribs as delicious as these were.

Still, I’m not sure I would try more than one slab on a grate that size.

Update, 21 August 2008: With the help of a friend, I solved the problem of two slabs on the grate. As it should be clear in the second image I posted, I leaned the slabs up against each other to form a tent. This procedure solved a few problems. Now, I can cook two big slabs on a Weber grill grate. Second, the fat on both sides of the ribs drips into the pan. And I don’t have to turn the ribs over — or, at least, I don’t believe I have to. They are still on the grill with an hour to go as I sit here typing. This time, I’m cooking them a full three hours.