How to cook like a pit master, without the pit

Consumer Reports News: April 06, 2011 03:08 PM

An article in today's Dining section of the New York Times tells readers how to prepare pit-worthy ribs in a kitchen oven, instead of the usual outdoor grill or smoker. While purists will scoff, none other than Dr. Nathan Myhyrvold, author of the foodie manifesto "Modernist Cuisine," agrees that low-temperature oven braising can break down the connective tissues in ribs, brisket, and other tough cuts of meat, as effectively as conventional barbecue techniques.

Even with its mouthwatering photos and recipes, the Times article probably won't send you out shopping for a new kitchen range. But just in case, you'll want to choose a model with the most precise temperature control, to maintain the required low heats. In Consumer Reports review of ranges and wall ovens, we use cookies and cakes, rather than collagen-laced cuts of meats, to test this performance feature. Electric ovens outperform gas ovens as a category, with more electric models delivering excellent evenness. But a handful of gas models achieve excellence as well, and many are very good.

If you want to go the extra distance and follow Dr. Myhyrvold's method ... good luck to you. As the Times describes, "it's a four-step process that involves smoking the ribs for four hours, then cooking them sous vide, in a sealed plastic pouch, at 140 degrees for 48 hours, followed by a bath in liquid nitrogen for 45 seconds to flash chill them. The final step is a plunge into a deep fat fryer to crisp the exterior."

Come to think of it, Consumer Reports does have expert reviews of turkey fryers, which should do the trick with step four. But you're on your own when it comes to the liquid nitrogen. Another option: invest in a top model from our latest grill reviews and cook your ribs the old-fashioned way.

Daniel DiClerico

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