with Greg Blonder, Ph.D.
Several years ago, my husband and I decided we were tired of going out for ribs and wanted to try making them at home. We had a beautiful Weber gas grill that cost more than my stove did and we wanted to use it.
So I Googled the “best ribs” recipe. There were several recipes, Google is nothing if not generous with its results. But one intrigued me with its title, “Last Meal Ribs” on a website called AmazingRibs.com. I clicked through and found Meathead.
This wasn’t just a recipe. It was a story. And I loved that in the list of ingredients he included:
1 sauce brush, preferably one of those newfangled silicon jobs
1 good digital oven thermometer
1 six pack of beer (for the cook, not the meat)
With links to places to buy these things, and reviews and recommendations. And best of all, detailed instructions on how to do everything necessary to make the best ribs. We’ve never looked back, and a couple of times a year we make these ribs. They come out perfect every time, and that’s all I can ask for.
The website has grown tremendously over the years and so has Meathead’s reputation. (And yes, that is his name. I believe he legally changed it.)
So the cookbook. That legendary recipe is in here, minus the beer, chair, and tunes. But this book is about half science, half cooking because the art of barbecue is really all about the science behind it. Meathead looks at all the myths we’ve heard over the years…
“The more smoke the better.”
“Soak wood chips and chunks for the most smoke.”
“Searing meat seals in the juices.”
“Cook chicken until the juices run clear.”
Then he goes about scientifically disproving them, and explaining the right way to do things. Listen to the man, he really did his homework.
Interestingly, the forward is written by another science forward chef, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, “Serious Eats” food blogger and author of one of my favorite cookbooks, reviewed here – The Food Lab.
The Table of Contents is seven pages long. Here are the chapters:
The Science of Heat
Brines, Rubs, and Sauces
Ground Meats: Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Sausages
Chicken and Turkey
Just looking at this list, you can see this is not your typical cookbook, at least not for the first 150 pages. There is a lot of science here, but also a lot of humor, making it quite easy to digest. The recipes are really delicious and they work. I favor the Memphis Dust rub for my ribs, but how can you not love a recipe called “Simon & Garfunkel Rub” that starts off with the explanation, “Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme make a pretty good song as well as an all-purpose rub for pork, turkey, and chicken.”
There are tons of pictures, and not just the beauty shots of the food. For instance, Meathead recommends trimming and skinning racks of ribs, and there are step by step instructions with photographs, making it super easy to see how to do it. There is a great photo of “Brats simmered in dyed beer” that beautifully illustrates that a simmering liquid never gets any deeper than the outer 1-2 mm. There is a photo of a whole, unpeeled tenderloin (you’ve seen them at Costco) along with photos of it broken down into the tenderloin tips, Chateaubriand, and the chain. Alton Brown tried to explain this to me in his two part episode of Good Eats, “Tender is the Loin” but I have to tell you, this picture is worth a thousand words. I finally got it. And Meathead, like Lopez-Alt, is a big fan of the reverse sear, especially for such an expensive cut of meat.
Lest you were thinking, why do I need a science-y cookbook for ribs, I’ll tell you. There is way more to this book than just that. Want to cook a whole hog? Got you covered. Make a “Momofuku-inspired Ramen Bowl?” It’s here for you. Want to know what’s in a “Binghamton Spiedie Sandwich”? Grill a turkey or a lobster? Hot smoke salmon? How about impressing your guests with “Championship Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Shrimp”? This is the book for you!
Labor Day is in few days. I’m going to try out those stuffed shrimp and then go to my fallback, the Last Meal Ribs made with Memphis Dust rub. Maybe with a side of slaw – yeah, that’s in there, too.
8/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
MEATHEAD by Meathead Goldwyn. Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 10, 2016). ISBN 978-0544018464. 400p.