March 4, 2014

Swift Premium Baby Back Ribs

Product: Pork Loin Back Ribs
Manufacturer: Swift Premium
Price: ~$3.69/lb

So back in September or October of 2013, I ventured into the wonderful world of smoking...BBQ smoking, not cigarette smoking! Those days are long behind me...

Anyway, I started smoking because I inexplicably wanted to go back to grilling with charcoal, after years of using a standard propane gas grill. And after grilling with charcoal for a while, you get tired of just cooking steaks. I wanted to venture out to larger meats...and ribs! Long story short, after making my own mini Weber Smokey Mountain (mini WSM), I bought my first bona fide smoker, the 22.5" Weber Smokey Mountain. What a beast.

Now, whenever I host my friends for dinner or for a get-together, I'm always cooking ribs on that thing. I love ribs. I don't know what it is about it, I just can't have enough. But as an unexpected effect of making my own ribs, I can't order them in restaurants anymore. My own ribs taste so much better! I don't think it's necessarily due to my recipe or anything like that. But most places don't put in the care to smoke properly (or at all) and put in the prep work necessary for juicy, flavorful ribs. So I'll always prefer my own ribs over anything served at a restaurant.

When you think ribs, most people don't realize that there are two different types of pork ribs. The first is baby back ribs, or loin back ribs. These ribs are located towards the back of the rib cage. They have plenty of meat on them, but they tend to be leaner and are very easy to dry out during the cooking process. The other type of ribs is the spare rib. These ribs are located more towards the front and bottom of the ribcage. Most spare ribs are cut into "St. Louis style" spare ribs, with this style served in many BBQ joints. Without going much further with the innuendos of pork ribs, I'll just end this portion stating my preference for baby back over spare ribs. Yeah, others say spare ribs have more fat, tastes better, but I just can't get over the bits of cartilage and bone in spare ribs. When I bite into my ribs, I just want meat.

Typically, in my novice few months of smoking, I've purchased my ribs from Smart n' Final. Specifically, I mosey on over to the Farmer John's brand and give it a go. I know Costco's meat quality is usually above average. Their beef is USDA Choice and above. But I have no idea how to select quality pork meat. So far, Farmer John's has done me no wrong. Then I was at Costco the other day and noticed their ribs.

Under the Swift Premium label, Costco sells both baby back ribs and St. Louis style spare ribs. They're a little bit on the pricey end here in Southern California (running over $3.50/lb) but that's just Costco for you. I picked up the baby back cryo-pack and noticed they come 3 racks to a pack. And let me tell you, these are BIG racks. I normally get racks that are ~2.5lbs each. The 3-rack package was over 10 lbs. That's well over 3lbs each. You usually don't want racks to be too big for a number of reasons. For me, smaller racks allow the spices to penetrate better and flavor is more consistent bone-to-bone.

Despite the larger size, these ribs turned out to be quite tasty. The meat itself came out a little darker than what I'm used to with Farmer John's. Not sure why that happened. And as stated above, these larger racks had chunks of meat that didn't allow much of the seasoning to penetrate through.

I can't say that I'll exclusively deal with Costco for my ribs, seeing how local markets tend to have sales every now and then. And with the summer BBQ season right around the corner, I expect many of these local vendors to have specials very soon. So, I don't see myself buying ribs from Costco, unless it's during the off-season and I'm cooking for a group. One thing I will give to Costco though...their ribs come with the membrane already off. That's a bit of a plus in my book.

Check out the amount of meat on the rack in the back!

August 25, 2012

Philippine Brand Dried Young Coconut

Product: Dried Young Coconut
Manufacturer: Philippine Brand
Price: $8.99 (18oz)

One of my all-time favorite snacks at Costco is the Philippine Brand Dried Mangos. To this day, I have yet to find dried mangos that are so sweet, so juicy, and so flavorful. Come to think of it, it's weird that their "dried" mangos are so juicy...

In any case, browsing down the aisle of Costco today, I happened to come across a new product from the Philippine Brand: Dried Young Coconut. I love coconuts so I had to try it!

For those who are unfamiliar with "young coconut," here's a little primer. The meat of young coconuts are a lot softer and gelatinous than your traditional coconut meat. In fact, young coconut meat is often referred to as "coconut jelly." If you've ever tried one of those exotic flavored drinks from Vietnamese restaurants, you probably have tasted coconut jelly. There are lots of nutritional value found in young coconuts (especially its "coconut water"), but you can google that for yourself.

Thick pieces of dried young coconut meat.
Unlike the dried mangos, these dried young coconuts aren't bursting with flavor. Instead, the taste is more subtle. You can definitely taste the coconut, but it's not overwhelming. These won't replace your traditional dried coconut flakes used for baking, but these young coconuts weren't meant to. Philippine Dried Young Coconuts are to be enjoyed one chew at a time.

If you love coconuts, definitely give these a try at your next Costco visit. Look for it in the dried fruit aisle.