Whenever you want to smoke a new cut of meat, but you’re not exactly sure how to do it, where do you turn? If you’re like me, you dial up a barbecue video on YouTube.
Maybe you finally picked up those “dino ribs” from the butcher. How do you treat the meat? What’s the cooking temperature? How long do you cook it? How do you make GREAT beef short ribs, from start to finish?
And what about when you want to buy a new grilling toy? A new grill, smoker, digital thermometer, or knife. Heck, maybe you want to try a new rub, but you want to know all about it BEFORE you buy it.
Fortunately, there’s a place where you can type in a question like “how to barbecue low and slow.” When you do, you get a treasure trove of barbecue video content, a virtual show-and-tell of recipes, cooking styles, and product demonstrations.
The internet is overflowing with smoky success stories and mouth-watering meats, thanks in part to Man Cave Meals. Hear everything John Setzler has to say about low and slow barbecue in our podcast episode here.
Keep reading for details about John’s Man Cave Steak Shake and barbecue rub recipe, his specialty Sizzle Mac, and his advice for preparing the best dino ribs.
The Foundation of Man Cave Barbecue Flavor
The world of “how-to” barbecue videos initially attracted John when he started searching the internet for tips on using his grilling equipment. That was a decade ago, when the YouTube landscape of barbecue “how-to” instruction was fairly sparse.
Since then, John steadily created a library of product and cooking demonstrations – hundreds of videos. His early work caught quick attention. Plenty of people like John were on internet searches for “how-to” information. They found John. Business content relationships with Kamado Joe and Atlanta Grill Company evolved. And now, John has become a master of a low and slow hobby that started for him with a Weber Smokey Mountain and has included culinary classes and a one-day workshop with celebrity pitmaster Harry Soo.
“Pre-seasoning your meat is a key to making great barbecue,” John says. “Get the salt on the meat early. Give it time to dissolve and draw itself into the meat. Seasoning is something that is not easy to fix after the cooking.”
Salt is the only part of any spice rub that works into the meat. The salt draws the meat’s moisture, which dissolves the salt. By osmosis, the salt absorbs back into the meat with the liquid, penetrating and flavoring the meat.
“Other items in your rub – sugar, garlic, onion, what-not – Those molecules are too large to flow back into the meat cells through osmosis,” he says, adding for a barbecue rub, sugar is essential. “Sugar needs to be part of every barbecue rub because that’s part of what forms the bark. It doesn’t form as nicely with a sugar-free rub.”
All-Purpose Rub Recipe is Basis for Barbecue
“I like to use the basic salt, pepper, garlic format most of the time,” John says. “This is a season-all that I can use on anything I would put salt on … this takes it up a notch.”
Man Cave Steak Shake Recipe
100g diamond crystal Kosher salt
30g white pepper
20g granulated onion
10g granulated garlic
2g cayenne pepper
To turn this recipe into a great barbecue rub, add 30g of paprika and 30g of sugar.
How to Cook Beef ‘Dino’ Ribs
The Meat Cut
Start at your local butcher by buying beef short ribs, uncut, in a 3-4 plate bone rack in the 3-5-pound range. Unless you ask, you won’t find this cut at most grocery stores, and even then, the grocery meat monger won’t likely hook you up like a specialty butcher.
The Meat Prep
Apply your favorite spice rub with salt, and rub it on heavy. Wrap the meat in plastic or a vacuum-sealed bag, and let the salt and spices complete their dry brining process over 12-24 hours in the refrigerator.
The Grill Prep
Get your fire going, and if you’re using a Kamado Joe, you’ll want to start up an hour before you are ready to cook at 250° Fahrenheit. Hardwood lump charcoal is John’s pick for fuel on this cook, and he likes to add a 50-50 wood blend of pecan and cherry to amplify the smoke.
“That combination produces an aroma that is hard to beat, and the cherry helps with the color, John says. “I like to get the smoke to a nice thin blue smoke. A thick, white smoke can produce an acrid flavor, so it is better to get the smoke rolling early and get a nice clean smoke.”
The Meat Cook
This two-step process starts with the beef ribs cooking at 250° in the smoke for 2-3 hours. This gives the rub time to form a nice bark where the smoke flavor lives.
After 2-3 hours, put the ribs in a foil pan with a cup of beef broth. Add other ingredients to the broth as desired, such as onion, garlic, or Guinness beer. Cover the pan in foil and continue the cook for another 3 to 3.5 hours at 250°; the timing may vary.
“You’re looking for a specific level of tenderness for the beef rib,” John explains, adding that a thermometer is important to know the temperature, but tenderness is based more on “feel.” The temperature of the finished rib is between 203° and 208°, but you’re looking for “what we call probe tenderness.” At that point, remove the ribs from the heat, let them sit for about 30 minutes and then serve. Be sure to retain the liquid in the pan – that’s key to the serving suggestion.
The Meat Plate and Sauce
Slice the meat into individual ribs and serve one rib on a bed of stone-ground grits or mashed potatoes.
For the liquid, if you add a corn starch slurry toward the end of the cook, you create a thick savory sauce perfect for a drizzle over the entire dish.
How to Cook Smoked Mac & Cheese – The Man Cave Method
Macaroni and cheese is a perfect side to any barbecue entrée. Macaroni and cheese on the grill with a hint of smoke can be a game-changer for your meal.
“If you learn to treat your grill or smoker like an outdoor oven,” John says, “it will change the way you think about your grill. Macaroni and cheese absorbs just the right of smoke that turns it into a dish people come back for.”
Man Cave Meals Sizzle Mac Recipe
1 16 oz package of large macaroni noodles
8 tablespoons of butter
5 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of milk
2 tablespoons of Atlanta Grill Company SIZZLE seasoning blend
12 ounces of grated sharp cheddar cheese (8 more ounces for topping)
2 jalepeno peppers, topped, cored, and finely diced
4 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
Preheat the oven or grill to 425°F. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, cook the macaroni noodles per the package instructions. Heat a large skillet and melt the butter. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continually until the mixture starts to brown and has a nutty fragrance. Drizzle in the milk, constantly whisking until smooth, and let come to a simmer. Add the SIZZLE seasoning. When the milk mixture starts to thicken, remove it from the heat. Drain the macaroni and then combine the milk mixture with the drained noodles.
Add 12 ounces of the shredded cheese, diced jalapenos, and chopped bacon and mix completely until smooth and creamy. Add the contents to a 10-inch braiser or a 12-inch cast-iron pan. Top with 8 ounces of shredded cheese and sprinkle on more SIZZLE seasoning. Place the dish in the oven, and occasionally turn if needed until the top of the macaroni dish is browned to your preference. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
More Advice from the How-to Barbecue Video Expert
Be sure to listen to the Man Cave Meals episode of The Low & Slow Barbecue Show for more advice from John. He shares tips for the tools you need at the grill and his opinions on the best places for barbecue in the U.S.
Don’t miss his memorable moments from his barbecue adventures, including good and bad smoked Thanksgivings and other things that didn’t exactly suit his taste.
For more advice from John and his Man Cave Meals, join him for Friday Night LIVE from the Man Cave.