Year-round, we use our smoker for plenty of wonderful meals. In summer, it’s handy when we don’t want to cook inside and get the kitchen hot. In winter, it produces a host of hearty meals. We bought a Big Green Egg knock-off (calling it our Big Fake Egg), and we’ve yet to have a miss — everything is smoked with ease, and it’s fool-proof. Just follow the directions, use flavorful hardwood charcoal briquettes (we love pecan and oak), and watch your heat.

Whether making pork ribs or pulled pork (from smoked pork butt), we use the same rub, found below. I have a variety of sauce recipes for serving, but I lean toward this Texas version most often. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and spicy, and you can make it as hot as you like by adding cayenne powder. The recipe calls for chili powder; you can use a classic like that by Gebhardt or Badia, found in the grocery store, or one from the iconic Fort Worth company (celebrating its 150th anniversary this year), Pendery’s. To serve with the ribs, we love a classic potato salad like the one below. It’s not made with mayo or mustard — just olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and parsley and red onion. Simple and perfect.


2 cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar

1/2 cup coarse sea salt

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

2 tablespoons ground mustard

2 tablespoons garlic granules

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

Stir all ingredients together until mixed thoroughly. Store in airtight container.


14-oz. bottle ketchup

1/2 cup apple-cider vinegar

1/4 cup spicy brown mustard

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons molasses

3 teaspoons granulated garlic

1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder, as desired

Cayenne powder, optional

Sea salt, to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine ketchup, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, garlic granules and chili powder; add cayenne to taste, if you want the heat; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer mixture, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir, taste and add salt as needed. Store chilled; for serving, bring to room temperature or serve warmed.


Serves 4

4 to 6 new potatoes

½ cup red onion, chopped fine

½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

½ cup olive oil

½ cup white wine vinegar

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Start potatoes in a pot of cold water; bring to a gentle boil and cook just until you can pierce them with a fork, maybe 10 to 12 minutes. Don’t overcook! Drain and rinse with cold water; dry. While still warm, cut into thinnish slices, about ¼-inch or so. In a bowl, gently combine potato slices with chopped onion and parsley, tossing with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled.

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