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Issue Date: May 2007 Issue

Silver Spoons: A former Browns player makes a patented barbecue.

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We make no bones about it. Al “Bubba” Baker has gone pro when it comes to barbecuing. The former Cleveland Browns defensive end and namesake of Bubba’s-Q World Famous Bar-B-Q and Catering (820 Center Road, Avon, 440-937-7859) just received a patent for his most popular item, D-Boned Baby Back Rib Steak. While he won’t reveal his top-secret technique for serving up boneless ribs, he’s happy to offer advice about making authentic barbecue. But beware: “If you don’t have a lot of time, don’t barbecue,” he says. “There is no shortcut to it.”

Go for flavor:
“Season the meat with a dry rub first.” Baker uses a blend of 13 ingredients including chili powder, cane sugar, coarse black pepper and ginger. He puts it on a day before to get the seasoning into the meat.
Take your time: Baker smokes his meats, which can take up to six hours. “I’m from the old school,” he says. “Low temperature and slow.” He recalls seeing Western movies of cowboys cooking over an open flame. “What is igniting that fire to make the smoke? Wood. Not charcoal. Not a gas stove.” Baker uses applewood, because the smoke “is sweet and not overbearing.”

Be passionate: “I have barbecue in my veins,” Baker says. “If you cut me, you are going to get some sauce.” He and his buddies talk barbecuing like “a woman would discuss a Prada or Louis Vuitton purse,” he says. “We talk about smoke rings and types of woods.” He even loves the smell. “I can’t think of a better cologne than to have an applewood smell on me.”

Skimp on the sauce: Baker doesn’t bring out the sauce at his restaurant until guests ask for it. “We are trying to educate,” he says. “What I am trying to get people to do is smell that aroma, smell that applewood, dip it in a little bit of sauce and take a bite.”

Keep an eye on your guests: “You know it’s good when the people that are eating aren’t talking,” he says. “That’s a sign of great barbecuing — you hear absolute silence.”

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