Cold weather and hearty meals (by which I mean smoked meat, of course)

Cold weather makes me crave hearty meals, and for some reason hearty meals always mean meat to me–steaks, burgers, ribs, wings, chili. This year for my birthday, Jason gave me a smoker, which has been a fun new toy to entertain me and fill my cravings. I started with the smoker by experimenting with beef ribs and pork ribs. As I started to read about the different methods of smoking and flavoring the meat, I realized there are quite a few people out there with very staunch views on the best way to smoke meat. I have always tended to enjoy more of the Texas-style dry-rubbed smoked meat, so that’s where I found my starting point, which I thought would be simple enough. Apparently even within the dry-rub smoking community, there is a debate between using a mustard based rub versus a pure dry rub, and even with pure dry rubs, whether or not you rub down the meat with oil then the rub. I never would have though there would be so many very passionate positions on dry-rubbed smoked meat!?! Once I had gotten my fill of many blogs and websites filled with position pieces and recipes, I decided the best way to judge is to chose one and dig in!

Aromatic Dry-Rubbed Beef Ribs
Aromatic Beef Rib Rub:
Recipe adapted from
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons Zatarans (which I prefer, or you can use Old Bay)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 tablespoons celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon course alderwood salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
1. Combine all ingredients.
2. Remove membrane from ribs using a butter knife. This is not a fun step at all, but gets easier the more times you’ve done it. Google it, and there are excellent video tutorials.
3. Put vegetable oil on your hands and rub the ribs lightly with oil.
4. Rub the ribs generously with the rub.
5. Smoke for 6-8 hours (or more. I smoked mine for about 8.5-9 hours) over hickory wood chips, which should be soaked for 15-30 minutes prior to putting them in the smoker. The temperature in the thickest part of the ribs needs to get to 180°F. I kept the temperature of the smoker between 207-219°F (most websites seemed to say somewhere between 200-225°F was appropriate). Keeping the temperature constant is quite a task. My smoker is on our roof deck, which gets a good breeze, which helps bring in a good amount of oxygen to the flame. Changes in wind and temperature/sun throughout the day made it to where I was going up to adjust the temperature and vents every 15-30 minutes. I monitored the temperature of the smoker and the ribs using a digital thermometer that has a remote that I carried around with me. It has a function to set a minimum and maximum temperature alert, and will beep (somewhat annoyingly, but effectively) until the temperature is back into the range set.
Spicy Pork Ribs
  • 1/4 cup mustard (I used Inglehoffer Sweet Hot Mustard)
  • 1/4 cup crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried mustard
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon alderwood salt
Note: I really like spicy food. For those of you who don’t like to sweat while eating and find normal buffalo sauces hot, you may want to cut down the amount of spicy ingredients used. (I generally find the hottest wing sauce at wing places pleasant.) This one had Jason and me sweating and our mouths burning, which is normally quite the feat. I also created this recipe by looking at many websites’ rubs and then what I had in the cabinet. Feel free to play around and remove or add things as your taste buds desire.
1. Mix all ingredients.
2. Remove membrane from ribs.
3. Thoroughly coat ribs with rub. (This process made my fingers sore/raw because of the thicker paste-quality of the rub, and was much harder to get evenly coated than the dry rub above.)
4. Smoke for 4-5 hours between 200-225°F.
5. Wrap in aluminum foil and smoke for an additional 45 minutes-1 hour. The final temperature of the ribs should reach 175-180°F. This step really made the ribs very moist.


 Healthier Cream Cheese, Rosemary and Chive Twice-Baked Potatoes
I love potatoes in all forms, especially twice-baked potatoes that have the nice crispy outside, and delicious creamy, cheesy, gooey middle. I decided to try to make some a bit healthier foregoing the sinful cheeses and bacon and butter, and was still very pleased with the results:
  • 4 Idaho potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 ounces fat free cream cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 tablespoons rosemary
  • 1 tablespoons chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Rub potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with Zataran’s.
2. Bake potatoes for 45 minutes at 400°F, turning over half way through baking.

3. Melt butter in medium sauce pan over medium heat.

4. Add in garlic, rosemary, cream cheese,  chives, and blend until smooth. Turn temperature to low.
5.   Slice potatoes open and use a spoon to remove the insides.
6.  Add potatoes and milk to the saucepan and mix well using a whisk.

6. Put mixture back into the potato shells then bake for 10-15 minutes, then serve!

Spicy Pork Ribs, Twice-Baked Potatoes and Edamame
Smoked Chicken Wings
  • 4 tablespoons mustard powder
  • 4 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons onion powder
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 3 tablespoons cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay Blackening
  • 2 tablespoons white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Miss Sylvia’s Sizzlin Hot Spice
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • Chicken wings (I used a bag of about 25 wings)
1. Mix all ingredients. (I only used about a third of the rub for the 25 wings, but the extra should keep well for several months in an airtight container.)
2. Place chicken wings in a mixing bowl with a lid and pour in two tablespoons of vegetable oil, and shake to coat evenly.
3. Dump in the rub in 1/4 cup increments and shake to coat. Repeat until evenly coated.
4. Smoke at 225°F for 45 minutes per side.
These were awesome, slightly healthier than fried wings that most bars serve, and perfect for watching football and with a few beers!


After my experiments with smoking meats with rubs, so far I prefer the straight dry rub as opposed to the mustard based simply for the ease of rubbing and avoidance of sore fingers. My next experiments will be with wet ribs, sauces and basting. Until then, these were certainly a few good recipes to keep you full and happy. Happy Smoking!

All photos by yours truly, which explains the shaky iPhone quality of some of them 🙂



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