When Kevin Bludso was nine years-old, his paternal great aunt Willie Mae Fields “kidnapped” him to spend the summer with her in Texas. He remembers staying up all night with her smoking brisket but admits her biggest lesson was “learn your legal hussle.” DJing and catering after he lost his job at the Department of Corrections, Bludso says he fell back on “all those things she was teaching me at the time, I didn’t even know I was being taught.”
He recommends novices to barbecue, to start with an inexpensive smoker and learn how to master their temperatures. “The key to good barbecue is consistent temperature, once you get that down you can cook anything,” Bludso says. Start with chicken, then move up to ribs and pork shoulder before taking on brisket, which he concedes isn’t as hard to cook as it’s made out to be. “As long as you keep your temperature at 250, brisket is the easiest one,” he admits.
His new cookbook with Noah Galuten is “Bludso's BBQ Cookbook.”
Temperature: 250° to 260°F
Rough Cook Time: 21⁄2 to 4 hours (The bigger the rib tip, the longer the cook. But always remember there are no set times on BBQ.)
Cooking Equipment: Smoker, spray bottle
- Rib tips, each about 2 pounds (the bigger, the better)
- Yellow mustard for rubbing
- About 11⁄2 tablespoons Bludso’s Brisket Rub per tip
- Apple juice for spraying
- Wood: Oak, pecan, hickory (optional), and apple
- Dry off your rib tips with a paper or kitchen towel. Spread a thin, even layer of mustard all over the tips, rubbing it in well and making sure there are no clumps. Then add a layer of the brisket rub. It should be nowhere near as heavy as you would put on a brisket. Pork can’t take pepper the same way that beef can. Just make sure the rub is even and covers well.
- Follow the instructions in How to Light Your Pit, aiming for a temperature of 260°F. You can really smoke these exactly the same way you do pork ribs, so smoking ribs and rib tips together works really well. When the charcoal is ready, start with about 70 percent oak and 30 percent pecan. If you want to use hickory, too, you can go with about one-third each oak, pecan, and hickory. Let the wood burn off for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Now load the rib tips, meaty-side up, into your pit and then watch your temperature. Every time the temperature drops to 250°F, add a little more wood and charcoal. On that first drop in temperature, add a chunk of applewood with the other woods and some charcoal. Apple can really darken your smoke, so you have to be careful not to add too much. After about 2 hours, you can go pecan and charcoal the rest of the way.
- Once the rib tips take on some color and the rub has started to form a crust—after about 2 hours—you can spray the rib tips with apple juice every time you open the pit to check on them or the fire.
- You know rib tips are done when they start to have a little more looseness to them. They won’t get as relaxed as a rack of ribs, but you’ll feel some of that tightness ease up on them. Rib tips can sometimes take more than 4 hours, depending on the piece of meat. Spray them with apple juice just before they come out of the pit, then let rest for 10 to 20 minutes before carving them.
- Start carving at the flap part and cut that whole tough end off and toss it—to your dog if you have one. Then cut backward toward the fat end—if you hit some bone or cartilage, it might just take a little extra muscle to get through it. I cut the tips into medallions about ¼ inch thick, but sometimes I’ll cut them even thinner than that. If a rib tip is tender, you can really cut it however you like. Leftover rib tips will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days.
*Choosing and Prepping Rib Tips
The bigger, the better when it comes to rib tips. You really want a big, meaty piece. Just keep in mind that the lean tail (flap) on a rib tip is basically a throwaway.
Bludso’s Brisket Rub
Makes 2¼ cups
- 11⁄4 cups garlic salt
- 1 cup coarsely ground black pepper
- In a medium bowl, combine the garlic salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
“Reprinted with permission from Bludso's BBQ Cookbook: A Family Affair in Smoke and Soul. Copyright © 2022 by Kevin Bludso. Photography Copyright © 2022 by Eric Wolfinger. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”