The highs and lows of 'This Weekend in Charcoal'

Published on: 7/18/2010

I blame my boss.

At the beginning of the year, he asked if I had wanted to be added to the corporate Sam's Club membership.  Though I had been there previously a few times with others, I had never really pushed for a membership.  Sure, some of the prices are lower (and some are a LOT lower), but did I want to buy $20 in Lucky Charms?  But I thought My-Sugar-Na would appreciate it and I would go with her on a larf every now and again.

And Sam's Club is what it is.  I don't know if I'd ever buy a mattress or tool shed from the same place I'd buy the 36 pack of Pop Tarts, but I have found something there that has changed my life.


Big ol' slabs of red meat.  My favorite being the ribeye steaks weighing about a pound each and usually sold three to a pack for about $25.  They also have a "Guy's Poker Night" container of Usinger's bratwurst for about $12 (I like Usinger's better than Klements, Johnsonville and Roundy's.)

And speaking of meat, don't forget the Hot Dog Combo at their deli, a 1/4# Nathan's Famous hot dog or polish sausage and 32 oz soft drink for a buck eighty.

This weekend's grilling adventure started Saturday afternoon when My-Sugar-Na announced "I am going to Sam's for toilet paper.  Want to come with me?"  Knowing that my beautiful bride could not go there and only spend $15, I figured it was my chance to explore the meat case.

$161 later (see, I told you she couldn't stop at toilet paper) I had a beautiful 6-1/2# angus roast and 3 slabs of baby back ribs.  My dinners for Saturday (with homemade twice-baked potatoes) and Sunday (with homemade onion rings) had been purchased.

Way back in the early days of Time Warner's On Demand offerings, the Wisconsin On Demand channel had Mad Dog & Merrill cooking segments.  One was to cook a roast on the grill.  Simply put, you season liberally (Montreal Steak Seasoning works well, or else kosher salt, garlic powder and black pepper will work, too) and then sear the hell out of it on the grill.  After about 20 minutes (turning as needed) place in a foil pan or similar pan with a few chopped onions, two packets of onion soup mix, a handful of fresh parsley and a couple cups of beef stock.  Cover with foil, place back on the grill and cook until the meat thermometer reads about 140 degrees.

I should have known I was in trouble when I couldn't get the coals hot.  I am Mr. Charcoal, so I never thought twice about going in the house to prepare the rest of the dinner.  About 15 minutes later I took the roast outside and the coals were black.  Sigh.  I got it right on the second try, but that rookie mistake pushed the dinner start time back past 7:00 PM.

When I finally get the roast a-searin', I go in the house for a few minutes.  Now, Official Son, Mitten was shooting buckets, and Official Stepson Grizzly was also outside.  Didja think either could have let me know that the roast was on fire?  Not the coals... the roast itself was blazing.  Sigh.  I put the fire out and decided (duh) that it was sufficiently seared so I put the stuff in the pan, put the pan on the grill and waited.

OK, usually I make this with a 4 pound roast, so why was I so surprised that it took a long longer for those two extra pounds of meat?  By the time we started eating dinner it was almost 8:00 PM.  Once you cut away the burned seared portion, it was fantastic.  This recipe makes such a good roast that even an unintentional Roast Flambé couldn't ruin it.

There could be no way that I could bollox up the ribs that badly, could I?

Fear not, dear readers, I didn't.  Hit this one out of the park.

Saturday evening (while the roast was on fire) I prepared the ribs with lemon juice and my rub with equal parts kosher salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, paprika and mustard powder.  I wrapped them in foil overnight, and took them out of the fridge a few hours before they hit the grill.

Just like every cooking show tells you to, I put a ton of charcoal on the grill - all to one side - got it hot and added some hickory chips that had been soaking in water (wet wood smokes more).  I put the ribs on the grill away from the heat and kept the grill temp (with the lid closed) around 250 degrees.  I turned and rotated them every 30 minutes or so, and after about two hours they were a gorgeous deep caramel color.  I cut them up into two-bone segments and put them in three bowls... One would get no sauce, one would get that sissy KC Masterpiece Honey BBQ sauce, and the last (mine) would get the Open Pit. Don't short sell Open Pit.  It has a really nice spice and is delightfully non-syrupy.

It was a 3-run homerun.

Even the onion rings were a hit (and I had heretofore struggled with rings).  My dredge was 2 cups of flour, and equal parts of black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and four parts salt.  I took four sliced Vidalia onions (also found at Sam's Club) dredged in dry, soaked in vinegar-milk (didn't feel like running to the store for buttermilk) and back in the dredge for a second dip.  I dropped them in the 350 degree deep fryer for six minutes and they were a golden brown and perfect.

The coolest part was that the rib dinner was more current, so everyone will remember that one.  Sometimes it isn't the what, its the when that counts.