Let’s Talk Food: Grilling and smoking for the Fourth of July

Wednesday is Independence Day, or the Fourth of July, and commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

The meaning of this holiday is very important. To celebrate, we usually do it with picnics, barbecues, family reunions and parades.


Each region has what its residents call their best style of barbecue. Texas loves its brisket, the Carolinas for their pulled pork and Kansas City for its juicy ribs.

Kansas City ribs or Carolina pulled pork are two dishes you can start today. You just need a smoker or a barbecue grill, marinating the ribs today and smoking them tomorrow. The method is important; the sauce could be a purchased bottle of barbecue sauce.

If you’re using a grill, turn it into a smoker: Soak the wood chips in cold water at least 30 minutes; just before using, drain the quantity of chips specified in the recipe. Close all but one vent on the bottom of the barbecue and use a charcoal chimney to ignite 25 charcoal briskets (or equivalent amount of lump charcoal). Set the chimney on a non-flammable surface. The charcoal is ready when it becomes just ash gray in color.

Turn out hot charcoal onto one side of the lower barbecue rack. Using a long-handled metal spatula, spread the charcoal to cover about one-third of the rack.

Remove about 1 cup of wood chips from water and drain. Scatter the chips over the coals, avoiding chips that are too wet, which can extinguish the fire.

Fill a disposable foil loaf pan halfway with water; place it on the lower rack opposite charcoal. Add boiling water to pan as needed to maintain water level. Place meat on upper rack above the loaf pan, and not on the charcoal.

Hang the stem of the barbecue thermometer or long-stem candy thermometer through the top vent in the grill’s cover. Use top and bottom vents to maintain specified temperature range, opening vents to increase temperature and closing slightly to reduce temperature.

When the temperature drops below specified range, about once per hour, light 15 more charcoal lumps in the chimney. Add charcoal to barbecue when ash gray in color, along with about a cup of drained wood chips.

Open barbecue only when necessary to baste meat, and re-cover quickly to minimize loss of heat or smoke.

Kansas City Ribs

From: “Bon Appetit”

Serves: 8

Dry Rub

3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar

1/2 cup paprika

2 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

2 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 large racks spare ribs, about 9 pounds

1 1/2 cups purchased tomato-based barbecue sauce (such as KC Masterpiece)

Mix brown sugar, paprika, coarse salt, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle 2/3 cup dry rub all over ribs. Cover ribs with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight. Cover remaining dry rub, store at room temperature.

Unwrap seasoned spare ribs; sprinkle all over with half of the remaining dry rub. Let spare ribs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Following manufacturer’s instructions and using natural lump charcoal and 1/2 cup drained wood chips for smoker or 1 cup for barbecue, start fire and bring temperature of smoker to 275-300 degrees. Arrange ribs on rack in smoker or barbecue. Cover and cook ribs 2 hours, turning occasionally. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain temperature and more drained wood chips (1/2 cup for smoker or 1 cup for barbecue with each addition) to maintain smoke level.

Sprinkle ribs evenly with remaining dry rub. Cover and cook one hour 15 minutes. Brush ribs generously with barbecue sauce. Continue cooking until meat is very tender and brown, 30 minutes longer. Maintain temperature by adding more lump charcoal; maintain smoke level by adding more drained hickory wood chips as needed.

Transfer ribs to large serving platter. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut rib racks between bones into individual ribs and serve immediately.

• • •

Carolina Pulled-Pork Sandwiches

Serves: 12

(If you want to have this ready for lunch, you need to place the butts in the grill or smoker at 6 a.m.)

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 untrimmed boneless pork butts, 6 pounds total


1 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon coarse salt

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

8 pounds 100 percent natural lump charcoal or charcoal briquettes

6 cups oak or hickory wood smoke chips, soaked in cold water at least 30 minutes

12 hamburger buns with seeds, split

Tangy coleslaw

For dry rub:

Mix first five ingredients in small bowl to blend.

Place pork, fat side up, on work surface. Cut each piece lengthwise in half. Place on large baking sheet. Sprinkle dry rub all over pork; press into meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to one day ahead.

For mop: Mix first six ingredients in medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Following manufacturer’s instructions and using lump charcoal and 1/2 cup drained wood chips for smoker and 1 cup for barbecue, start fire and bring temperature of smoker or barbecue to 225-250 degrees. Place pork on rack in smoker or barbecue. Cover and cook until meat thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 165 degrees, turning pork and brushing with cold mop every 45 minutes, about 6 hours total. Add more charcoal as needed to maintain temperature and more drained wood chips (1/2 cup for smoker or 1 cup for barbecue) with each addition to maintain smoke level.

Transfer pork to clean rimmed baking sheet. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Shred into bite-sized pieces. Mound on platter. Pour any juices from sheet over pork.

This dish also can be made a day ahead. Transfer pork and any juices to baking dish. Cover with foil, chill. Before continuing, rewarm pork, covered, in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes.

• • •

Carolina Red Barbecue Sauce

Makes: 2 cups

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Stir all ingredients in small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve.

Tangy Coleslaw

Makes: 12 servings

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup Carolina red barbecue sauce

2 1/2 pounds green cabbage, quartered, cored, very thinly sliced


Whisk 1 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 cup barbecue sauce in large bowl to blend. Mix in sliced cabbage. Season slaw to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate 3-8 hours, tossing occasionally.

Email Audrey Wilson at audreywilson808@gmail.com.