CHEF TEC 101 - Exploring the Pitmaster in You

CHEF TEC 101 - Exploring the Pitmaster in You

Posted by Chef Greg Mueller on 23rd Jan 2019

Many of you might have spent the holidays unpacking, assembling, and burning-in your new grills. 

Other REC TEC owners have meticulously “winterized” and stowed away their grills for the cold weather. Living in the South, I get to enjoy outdoor cooking all year round... Things like cold smoked salmon, cheeses, and butter (yes, smoked butter is delicious and it really adds a tasty accent to the dinner table). But before you explore some of the more creative ways you can utilize your REC TEC, let me take a few moments to give you some insight on how I plan and execute my cooks to ensure a stress-free experience. 

Check out Chef Greg's Cold-Smoked Cheddar Cheese here:

Get to Know Your Grill

If you are new to the REC TEC family and this is your first pellet grill, there will be some differences in how it cooks compared to a typical gas or charcoal grill. 

You might say my dad is a pretty good griller. Up until a few months back, he had been a Weber guy for over 20 years. I’m excited to say that he is now the proud owner of a REC TEC Stampede and is about 15 cooks in. He has really enjoyed the flexibility of the grill. He has never smoked a brisket, a butt, or ribs, and is typically more of a steak and chops kinda’ guy. He had cooked the same meals for years, and he had them dialed to the same inconsistent results most would expect. Cooking on his gas grill, Dad would regularly cook split chicken breasts placed in a foil pan, set up in an indirect environment, and cooked for 45 minutes. In the end, you would find certain pieces of chicken burnt and others with fat not rendered, greasy meat, and some sort of microwaved vegetable on the side… Now, he sets his REC TEC to 325℉, adds his seasoned chicken to a grill mat, and monitors the internal temperature from his phone. Cooking on a mat ensures even and consistent cooking as the REC TEC will circulate heat and smoke evenly around the chicken. This perfectly renders the skin and fat and allows the excess to drip away, leaving the skin crisp. I’ve also observed, via text, some fresh veggies served alongside the cook to accompany his perfectly grilled poultry. In the end, he had grilled better tasting, fresher, and healthier food! Long story short, don’t overthink your cooks… Cook what you know, and ask questions! All of us here at REC TEC are always ready to help, so feel free to email me at chefgreg@rectecgrills.com with any questions!

Time vs. Temperature

I often see posts from folks asking how long a certain cook will last. 

There are many “experts” out there, and I’m sure they are cooking some great food. But, by following a few simple steps, you can get great results from day one! Not all meat will cook the same, and it doesn’t matter that you bought 3 racks of ribs from the same store at the same time. For example, there are differences in the size and age of the animals, moisture and fat content of the meat, amount of time the meat was aged, and what process was used to age it. None of this appears on the labels. Even if it did, it’s not going to help us know how to cook it. So, in regard to a first time rib cook, here’s my advice:

Step 1 - Peel off the membrane (silver skin) on the back of the ribs. Rub the rack down with mustard and season liberally with REC TEC Grills Rossarooski’s Honey Rib Rub. Let rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Step 2 - Set your REC TEC to 275℉. Cook ribs for 3.5 hours.

At this point, you should observe that the bark/crust has set, and the bones should be more visible (because the meat will pull back and expose more of the bone as it cooks). These are all signs that your cook is moving along nicely. Since we are cooking at 275℉, I'm often asked if your grill will produce enough smoke. This question always makes me chuckle a bit; yes, your REC TEC is burning wood the entire cook. Therefore, the smoke will definitely add another layer of flavor to your food. I tend to cook at slightly higher temperatures because I want to render out the fat and cook just a little more quickly. Seeing as baby back ribs are slightly leaner than their St. Louis-style counterpart, you don’t really benefit from a lower/slower cooking method.

Step 3 - Start to glaze ribs with sauce every 15 minutes, repeating 3 times.

I’m a fan of our REC TEC Gourmet BBQ Sauce. It’s a hybrid sauce that includes vinegar, mustard, and some sweet flavors mixed in. I mostly like it because of its texture. It’s not too thick and not too thin. Each time you brush on this sauce, it will add moisture to the crust and cook into the meat, leaving a slightly sticky glaze. Repeating the process will allow the sugars in the sauce to caramelize and produce a really good rib.

Step 4 - Determine doneness with a toothpick.

At this point, your baby back ribs have been cooking for about 4.5 hours, so they should be pretty close to finishing up. 

To determine doneness, I always recommend probing in between the bones with a toothpick. If the meat is tender, the toothpick will easily slide in and out with little resistance. If the meat still feels tough, give the ribs another 15 minutes on the grill and try again. If you don’t have any toothpicks, you can always use the meat probes that came with your REC TEC. You can also use the bend test to check for tenderness. Just pick the ribs up with tongs (at about the 3rdrib in), lift the rack up, and see if the rack hangs loosely and if the meat breaks or cracks as it hangs.

If you don’t have 4.5 hours to spare, simply increase the grill to 300℉ - 325℉. You can expect your ribs to be done in about 3-3.5 hours at this temperature. If you want them to take even longer, lower the temperature to 225℉ to expect an almost 6-hour cook. Ultimately, there are several methods to making awesome ribs! This is just one of the many that I’ve used over the years.

For another foolproof rib recipe, check out Jody's 3-2-1 St. Louis Ribs below:

Final Thoughts

As with anything new, there is a small learning curve. 

Luckily for you, we have plenty of resources available at your fingertips. My greatest piece of advice is to keep it simple. Start with recipes that have fewer ingredients and steps. From there, adjust the recipe to suit your preferences. Maybe it’s a spicier rub, or a sweeter sauce? There are many good forums online to bounce ideas around and to see how people are using their grills each day. No need to get wild from day one… Learn your grill, learn what you like, and make adjustments from there!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Mueller is a WORLDCHEFS-certified master chef, and the Director of Culinary Innovation at REC TEC Grills. He has over 18 years of experience and is knowledgeable in all things food and cooking.

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