Dining date: 9/5/12
One of the things I’ve wanted to mimic using sous vide is barbecue. Cooking-wise, I could easily duplicate the low-and-slow practice with even more precision; the challenge would be imparting the smoky flavor. I remembered seeing an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they prepared pulled pork in the oven using liquid smoke in the brine. After dismissing the thought of using mezcal in a brine (a waste!), I was inspired to use liquid smoke as the key ingredient to imbue the smoky flavor. Realistically, I did not expect it to duplicate the natural smoke flavor perfectly, but thought it’d be a fun experiment nonetheless.
Unlike synthetically manufactured truffle oil (most of which never involve actual truffles in its production), liquid smoke is a natural product formed with the condensation of smoke similar to how water is distilled. It definitely smells like smoke.
I first started by brining my baby back ribs in an herb-infused brine. I don’t know if brining makes much of a difference when cooking sous vide (especially for extended periods), but I often do it anyways.
The ribs were patted dry and rubbed with my trusty Ad Hoc BBQ rub. The sauce would come from another notable place, San Diego’s Phil’s BBQ. I was convinced that I had all the ingredients for a delicious dish.
The liquid smoke I used recommended 1/2 teaspoon per pound of meat; I had no reason to do any different and ended up using a full two tablespoons for the 6-pound rack. Instead of applying it in the brine stage, I opted to seal it with the pork for optimum smokiness!
The temperature was something I debated about a while. I’d seen as high as 80C for 8-12 hours, but I decided to go even lower and slower with 68C for 24 hours. I figured this would be high enough to break down any collagen and connective tissue, while potentially keeping the meat more moist.
I set my bag into the water bath and waited. After cooking something for as long as 72 hours, 24 really didn’t seem that bad. As with most foods prepared sous vide, the cooked product didn’t look very impressive.
Brushing on a little bit of the BBQ sauce and caramelizing with a torch made the ribs look a bit more appetizing!
Lastly, I sliced the ribs and drizzled with more sauce. Voila!
I thought the end product was good, but nothing exceptional (definitely didn’t compare to the sous vide beef short ribs). The meat was very tender, though not fall-off-the-bone tender, and moist but not exceedingly so. I definitely wouldn’t have called them dry, but I totally expected them to be more moist. I thought the pork flavor came through with the rub, but most of the flavor came from the accompanying sauce. Only a hint of smoke flavor could be tasted, so maybe I’ll have to use more liquid smoke next time? It was a fun experiment and I’ll probably play with it a bit in the future…but I’ll be sticking with beef short ribs for the time being.