I have a growing appreciation for the power of smoke to make meat delicious.
I used my 2013 Christmas money to purchase an electric smoker from Smokehouse and it was the best idea I’ve had in a long time!
The process for smoking meat requires a significant amount of patience, but the rewards are well worth the wait. Lately, I’ve been cooking ribs enough to have experimented a little with some successes and some dismal failures.
My first mistake was with my first attempt at smoking ribs without really recognizing that my smoker is not a cooker. It just doesn’t get hot enough to cook anything. So I had the ribs in the smoker for about three hours, then they went into the oven for two, as all the reading I had done indicated that you should subtract ‘smoker time’ from ‘cooking time’. Further complicating the issue was that I started too late, so we were hungry and approaching hangry by the time 8 pm rolled around and the ribs should have been done. They weren’t. The meat was ‘cooked’, but it was tough and chewy. Fortunately, I had the sense to keep one of the racks in the oven to keep it warm and once I realized that they were under done, I turned up the heat and set the timer for another two hours. That rack came out ok.
From that I learned that I need to start the ribs in the smoker, then transfer to the oven and cook the ribs for as long as required without subtracting smoker time. Since that realization, I have started smoking for around three hours and then putting the ribs in the oven for 5 hours at 250C. This allows all that fat and connective tissue to just melt and work its way through the meat, making it tender and delicious.
I have also been experimenting with various flavourings for the meat. When the ribs go into the oven, they are wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil with the meat side down in a bed of some combination of red wine, whiskey, a good strong stout or porter, maple syrup, butter or brown sugar. My last attempt, however, I left the ribs plain (aside from the rub from Costco), and it will be a long time before I cook ribs in anything other than a rub.
So what does this have to do with learning? Well, there are a couple of lessons to be learned from delicious meat.
- Low and Slow
The Law of Smoking Meat is that you need to cook meat for a long time at a low temperature. If you try to rush it, you will ruin it. Some people have been duped into thinking that you can take a shortcut in cooking ribs by parboiling them ahead of time, but this only removes the fat that makes the meat delicious. In the same way, some learners seem to think that there are shortcuts in learning. But the fact of the matter is that learning requires patience. There may be strategies for shortening the time it takes to remember something, but they come at the cost of deep learning, which takes time and is difficult.
- Bells and Whistles
It is possible to partially disguise poorly cooked ribs with a whole mess of BBQ sauce, but it seems to me that the point of eating ribs is to enjoy succulent, smoky meat. If I wanted to eat BBQ sauce on ‘meat’, why would I take the trouble to spend a day and a half cooking ribs, when I could just boil a couple weiners? Likewise, too many venture capitalists have conflated ‘clickyclickyblingbling‘ with ‘learning‘, and duped a good many educators (who should know better) along the way. Just like the sauce is not the point of smoked meat, but can support it if used properly, technology is not the point of learning, but it can support it if used properly.
I’m sure there are more parallels that could be drawn, and I may revisit this theme, as I will certainly revisit ways to make smoked meat better.
What do you think?
Smoke, Ribs, and Learning by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.