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Friends Reunited: SGP “PorkFest” 2013

Many years ago a band of brothers toiled and slaved in Investment Banking IT, arm in arm, day in and day out and  years later, for all respectable reasons , drifted apart as many mates do. Well last night, the brothers, their wives and what seemed like way more kids than was even possible, descended on Roman and Heather’s back garden to participate in a pre-Christmas reunion of sorts. The celebration called for a very special menu: St. Louis cut KC ribs, slow cooked pulled pork and hickory ribeye, complemented by more sides than you could shake a stick at and Heather’s legendary chocolate pavlova!

The ribs were purchased on Saturday morning, the day of the festivities. My buddy Kevin and I went down nice and early to West Coast Market to meet the legendary “Pig Lady”, a purveyor of fine swine from Indonesia. I purchased 6 mammoth racks of ribs and a beautiful pork loin (for the freezer) all in weighing an impressive 6.5 kg.

The prep was pretty standard and easily done. Rinse the ribs under cold water and make sure any and all bone fragments from “Pig Lady’s” knife-wielding are removed. Pat them dry and remove the silver membrane on the bone side. At this point I trimmed the ribs considerably. They’re massive and you can smoke and roast them but it’s tough to do as the thickness of each rack is different and hence the finish time would be as well. So, I trimmed off a lot of meat and saved all of it for slow cooked pulled pork instead. So, back to the ribs.  Apply a coating of vegetable oil and prepare your favourite rib rub, liberally sprinkling both sides of the rib racks, especially between the bones. You want to make sure there’s rub in every bite of rib. Wrap them up in cling film and pop them back in the fridge for about an hour. Now, go set up your grill.

You want to ensure you’ve got a full fire box of charcoal, mixed with about 2 solid handfuls of hickory chips. Set up the grill for indirect cooking and add a water pan that’s about 3/4 full. The resulting humidity mixes with the smoke that adds an almost bacon-like flavour to the ribs when you’re done. Aim to stabilise your internal temperature at 225F (107C) and make sure it stays there. You don’t want to go under 200F or over 250F if you can help it. With a bit of practise, you’ll be able to calibrate your grill to keep it chugging at a low and slow temperature.

I used a two tier rack and rested the ribs meat side up. I shut the dome and let the magic happen. With the larger St Louis cut ribs (not baby back ribs) it took 4.5 hours to get to perfect ribs. Resist the urge to check on your ribs and trust that your grill will do the trick. As they say, “if you’re looking, you’re not cooking!”

So how do you know they’re ready? Well, the ribs will have this incredible dark brown colour. You can take a pair of tongs and do the “bend test.” If the ribs crack under their own weight of the bended side, they’re done! Note that I hadn’t slathered them with any sauce until at the very last few minutes. Once you know they’re done, remove the ribs onto a platter and cover the ribs with one coat (both sides) of your favourite BBQ sauce. I used our family favourite, KC style sweet sauce. Let them sit for a minute or two while you remove your plate setter and get the grill going at a higher temperature, say 450F (232C). Keep the lid open as you place your racks back on to caramelise the sauce. Be careful here as you can easily burn your ribs turning all that time into wasted time. Once your sauce has bubbled up a bit and you see that the ribs have got just a bit of a char, it’s time to pull them off the grid.. I let them rest for a few minutes then cut them into individual pieces, serving immediately.

So what did we do with the off cuts? Remember them? Well, cut them up into even chunks. Grab two onions and slice them thinly, crush 6 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup of chicken stock, your rib rub and a bit of BBQ sauce. Lay the onions and garlic on the bottom of your slow cooker. Add the stock, and then the pork pieces that had been covered in vegetable oil and rib rub. Add a final squirt of sauce and put the lid on and crank it to high. 6 hours later, you’ve got delicious, juicy and tender pork pieces. Take each piece and simply pull them apart with two forks. It’s a bit of work but well worth the effort. Add the pulled pork onto a bun and squeeze a good helping of your favourite sauce and there you go, cheater’s pulled pork!

Finally, a pair of grain-fed ribeye steaks were put on the grid at 450F (232C) simply seasoned with Kosher salt, black pepper and olive oil. Insert your internal thermometer probe and slip the steaks every 5 minutes or so, moving them to another part of the hot grill. That’ll get a nice crispy bark going for you. You’ll pull them off at 135F (57C), let them rest for about 5 minutes then slice them thinly at a 45 degree angle to the grain. Drizzle with some quality olive oil and sprinkle just a pinch of Kosher salt. Now serve it all up and watch your guests flip out and experience the ultimate “food-gasm!”

I asked some of the lads to send me a note on what they thought…and in no particular order, this is what my buddies thought:

  1. “I was amazed at how the meat remained so juicy and moist! It was some of the most succulent steak I’ve ever had. And the ribs literally fell off the bone!  The pulled pork sandwiches were delicious. My 6 year old ate 2!” – Patrick Huang

  2. “The ribs and pork were nothing short of amazing. The meat was moist and tender, complemented by a great homemade BBQ sauce. Almost didn’t have enough space for the awesome lightly hickory smoked steak. Shame there was no takeaway leftovers :)” – Ming Wong

  3. “One of the best grills. Yummilicious!” – Francis Ong

And my personal all time favourite quote:

  1. “Even my sh@t smells delicious this morning…” – Derrick Goh

Thanks all for making last night such a great time! Merry Christmas to all of you and have a safe and healthy New Year (when it comes!)

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Overall Heather Ratings: Ribs 10/10, Pulled Pork 8/10 (the 24 hour pulled pork is waaaaay better!)

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