Saying Jess Pryles loves meat is an understatement. It’s Pryles’ passion for red meat that has made her a “Hardcore Carnivore,” which also is the title of her website and recently released book.
Not unlike many carnivores, Pryles was initially intimidated at the meat counter. After all, there are so many choices that, for novice cooks, can be downright scary.
“I used to be one of those people who stood in the meat department overwhelmed by the selection; nervous to buy expensive cuts of meats,” said Pryles, a native Australian who decided to educate herself on the differences between cheap and expense cuts of meat. She also learned how steers are raised, fed and harvested. “I even took classes on meat science at Texas A & M. Now, I’m proud to call myself a ‘Hardcore Carnivore’ and a lover of low and slow Texas-style barbecue, which I helped take down under by co-founding the Australian Barbecue Alliance.”
So how does a nice meat-loving Australian girl find herself living in Texas pursuing a love for American barbecue? Pryles sums it up in one word. Fate. She fell in love after her first taste of barbecue beef ribs in Texas nine years ago.
“In Australia, when I grew up, what we called barbecue was actually grilling. There wasn’t any low and slow smoking. It didn’t exist. So when I discovered it, I fell in love. I guess you could say ‘girl meets barbecue, girl falls in love with barbecue.’ That pretty much sums it up,” said Pryles, now a proud transplant living in Austin, Texas.
Her dad was an exchange student in Texas in the ‘60s and later was a professor who shared his stories about his time there. Those stories inspired Pryles, who immigrated to the U.S.
She considers herself a barbecue Sherpa spreading the good news of barbecue on two continents. Through numerous TV appearances, her book, blogs and website, Pryles shares the joy of good meat cooked right and the joy of grilling and smoking. Her work attracted the attention of Wildwood BBQ Bash founder Frank Schmer, who also hosts The Budweiser Big BBQ Show on the Big 550 KTRS.
“I was a guest on Frank’s radio show. After the show, he invited me to come to the Bash, and I’m so excited. It will be my first time in St. Louis and I’m looking forward to coming and presenting classes or barbecue demos,” Pryles said.
Being a woman and an Australian makes Pryles an unusual figure on the male-dominated American barbecue scene. But perhaps not for long. Pryles is leading a new wave of self-proclaimed pit mistresses who aren’t afraid to push the limits.
“Barbecue is all about the core cuts – brisket, beef ribs, pork butt and pork ribs. While I like to challenge myself with new recipes and techniques, I don’t discount simple things. People are always looking for basic information like how to grill a steak,” said Pryles. “I’m all for cooking protein the best way it can be cooked. For steaks, that’s going to be grilling, while for other meats it’s going to be braising, while for some things it’s going to be barbecue.”
Those simple rules are far from unbreakable for Pryles, who likes to challenge herself by creating new recipes – “there’s always extra room on the grate.”
“I like to see what else I can throw in there, so I look for things that usually aren’t smoked to see what I can do with them – like a tray of onions or tomatoes that can obtain a nice smoky flavor,” said Pryles. “I’m always trying something different. I continue to think outside the box and my recipes show that. That’s why I’m looking forward to coming to the Bash to share my ideas and recipes and my love of meat.”
• • •
To whet your appetite for this year’s BBQ Bash, Pryles shared her recipe for short ribs that are twice-cooked and wine braised.
Twice-Cooked Drunken Beef Short Ribs
4-5 lbs. bone-in short rib pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 cups Manischewitz or sweet red wine
3 cups beef stock
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
bunch of thyme
salt to taste
• Preheat an oven to 320º F.
• Season the short ribs well on all sides with a generous amount of kosher salt.
• Place a dutch oven over high heat and add the olive oil. Working in batches, brown the short ribs, taking time to develop the crust. Set aside once browned.
• Add the onion and carrots to the pot that the ribs were browned in and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until vegetables have softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes.
• Add wine, Worcestershire and thyme. Scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Bring to vigorous simmer and allow liquid to reduce by half.
• Once the liquid is reduced, add the stock and bring to a boil. Add ribs in a single layer, cover and place in the oven for 2-3 hours, until the meat is tender and a knife can be pushed through without any resistance.
• Remove pot from oven and turn on broiler to high.
• Line a baking tray with greaseproof [parchment] paper, then carefully remove ribs from the cooking pot and place onto the baking tray, making sure there are no vegetables stuck to the surface of the meat. Place tray under broiler and brown for 7-10 minutes to create a dark and crusty exterior. Check the ribs every few minutes to ensure that they do not burn. If they are burning on the edges without coloring, move to a lower rack or change broiler setting to low.