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December 19, 2019 Comments Off on Camp cooking a smokin’ good time Featured, Latest

Camp cooking a smokin’ good time

Recipe rubs hunters the right way

NWA Democrat-Gazette

The coffee is always on and the grill is always hot when it’s hunting time at Camp See No Deer.

Plenty of deer hunting remains, with a final segment of modern gun season open Dec. 26-28 and archery season running through February. But well nourished hunters don’t live by venison alone. What card-carrying carnivore doesn’t enjoy digging into a plate of smokin’ hot barbecued ribs.

Think of ribs and the noggin conjures up visions of an all day project, maybe eight hours of smoking from start to finish. Smoke your ribs the Camp See No Deer way, and your crew will chow down on irresistible, fall off the bone ribs in three hours.

We’ve always done ribs, but rarely got a rack to turn out the same way twice. They were always OK, but not consistently good enough that we’d cook them for company. We camp cookies aren’t quick culinary learners, so it took some tasty trial and error to nail this rib smoking business down. Now we’re smoking ribs for family, friends and anyone else who follows their noses to deer camp.

Here’s how it’s done: You’ll need a charcoal grill with a lid, such as a kettle-style grill. Ideally it will have a thermometer in the lid that displays the temperature inside the grill.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF
A grill with a thermometer in the lid helps make sure ribs are cooking at the right temperature.

Fire up a good-sized pile of quality charcoal, about 80 briquettes in a kettle grill. Soak two or three chunks of hickory in water for about 15 minutes. We use hickory chunks, not chips, that you’ll find at the grocery store near the charcoal.

Rinse a rack of spare ribs in cold water. Lay the rack out on a baking sheet and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the thin membrane on the bone side of the ribs to better smoke the meat.

Sprinkle rib rub on both sides of the rack. Use lots of it. There are all kinds of commercial rubs at the grocery store, such as Famous Dave’s, the official rib rub of Camp See No Deer. Or, find a recipe and mix up your own rub.

When the coals are ready, move them over to one side of the grill. We place a pan of water next to coals to add steam to the ribs, but not all cooks do. Put on the lid and let the grill grate get nice and hot, about five minutes. Your grill’s thermometer ought to read between 350 and 375 degrees. A tad hotter is OK.

Put a hickory chunk on the hot coals, then place the rack of ribs meat side down on the cool side of the grill. Place the lid so the vents are over the ribs to draw smoke over the rack. In no time that sweet-smelling smoke will come curling out of those vents.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/FLIP PUTTHOFF
This rack of spare ribs has been cooking and smoking nicely for two hours. It’s ready to be wrapped tightly in foil for the final hour of cooking.

Grill for one hour, then flip and rotate the rack. You might want to add another hickory chunk. Let the ribs cook and smoke for another hour at around 350.

Now take the rack off the grill and wrap the whole thing tightly with aluminum foil. Get it real tight, then put the ribs back on the grill and cook for the final hour at 325 to 350 degrees.

By now the ribs are nicely smoked and you’re just using heat. You could even finish them in the oven that last hour.

Take the ribs off the grill, let them rest 10 minutes or longer in the foil, unwrap and dig in. They turn out so tasty we rarely use barbecue sauce. They’re dee-lish with or without.

Deer seasons come and go, but it’s always grilling season at Camp See No Deer.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at