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Photos by Zack DeZon

How to Master the Barbecue

Fall is here, but your grill game is just heating up: Here are four new dishes to perfect before the season is over.

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We get it. You grind your own beef, know your butcher's phone number by heart, and die a little inside every time someone asks for a well-done steak. And at this point in the season, you've probably done it all. Perfectly cooked brisket, the talk of the block? Check. St. Louis-style ribs, rubbed down with your secret blend of spices? Check. But we'll wager a sizzling brat that there are still a few things you haven't thought of yet. And with the weather turning cooler and the days growing shorter, there's no time to waste. So we've come up with some ideas that'll end your grilling season on a momentous note. Now get out there, and fire up your rig once more.

Make a Different Rack of Ribs

“Dino ribs” on the grill.

Beef ribs, an oft-overlooked cut, will make you question your longstanding relationship with brisket. Beef ribs are nicknamed "dino ribs" with good reason: They're absolutely enormous, with bones so big you'll feel like a caveman as you pick them up to eat. (Actually, you'll probably only be able to eat one.) The generous marbling carries deeply beefy flavor and bastes the meat as it cooks, keeping it moist and catapulting this cut to the top of the list for in-the-know pitmasters. Ask your butcher for a three- or four-bone rack from the plate section for show-stopping presentation, and don’t be afraid to up your dry rub game with chili powder, brown sugar, or even truffle salt to ramp up the flavor. The key to jaw-dropping ribs, whether smoking (we like pecan or oak woodchips) or grilling, is to think low and slow. Pair with Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon, whose full body, dark fruit notes and oaky finish stand up with confidence to the richness of the dish.

Beef ribs with barbecue sauce and caramelized carrots.

Smoke It Instead of Frying It

When pork belly is cured, you end up with the king of breakfast meats: bacon. When smoked instead, you get something even more delicious. The glorious layer of fat that crowns this cut melts down into the meat for lip-smacking texture. To help it render, you've got to score it. Remove any skin, and cut down into the fat in a wide crosshatch pattern, just until you reach the layer of meat. (This also helps the smoke penetrate.) Smoke fat side up using apple or cherry wood, and serve with Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel. The vanilla and caramel aromas of the wine cozy up to the subtle fruit flavor, while the smokiness from the bourbon barrels complements the smoke from the grill.

Pair pork belly with barbecue sauce (naturally), pickled onions, and cornbread with the Federalist Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel.

Burn With Care

Over the years, you've developed a hard-won sixth sense for when things are starting to burn: Alarms go off in your head, even before you smell anything going wrong. Now you've got to fight it, and burn food with conviction — not to a crisp, but take it right to the edge. Why? Because when charred, some foods taste absolutely delicious. Like bell peppers: Their natural sugars caramelize and take on a mouthwatering smokiness. Place them whole on a hot grill and cook without moving, like you normally would when trying to get grill marks, but each time you get the impulse to turn, wait a couple more minutes until the skin starts to wrinkle and turn black. Once charred all over, place in a sealed paper bag to steam. Let cool, then slip off the skins and slice them up. Serve a medley as a bed for grilled sausages — sweet Italian fennel sausage, brats, or kielbasa are all great choices — and pair with Federalist Zinfandel, whose warming spices and dark fruits are right at home with the toasty, caramelized flavors from the peppers.

You can also try charring poblano, cubanelle, or anaheim peppers for a spicy twist.

Upgrade Your Burger Patties

If you’re still using regular ground beef for your burgers — or worse, buying patties from the grocery store — you’re doing it wrong. There’s no reason you can’t make your own custom blend of meats the next time you’re craving a burger. Take inspiration from the meat gods of the food world (we owe it all to Pat LaFrieda) and make your own burger blend. The secret to a great-tasting homemade burger patty is to mix your meats according to fattiness. The true hero of any beef blend is the chuck: It’s an inexpensive cut of meat, it’s marbled throughout, and it’s found in a well-used shoulder muscle of the cow — no blandness there. When you’re making the blend, use about half chuck and supplement the other half with other cuts, like sirloin or short rib for extra flavor. A blended burger for next-level flavor deserves a great blend to drink with it: The Federalist Honest Red Blend is a unique mix of Napa Zinfandel, Sonoma and Mendocino Merlot, and Mendocino Cabernet for a smooth, complex wine that’s layered with flavor. It’s just powerful enough to stand up to a meaty burger without overpowering the dish.

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