Every fantasy pitmaster out there has a secret recipe (or three) for hippogriff kept under lock and key. This is because hippogriff, along with troll and minotaur, makes up one of the “Big Three” meats every cook must master if he or she expects to rise in the ranks in barbecue competitions. That makes these award-winning recipes prized and passed down from generation to generation, usually after some vicious infighting amongst the kids (particularly among hobgoblins).
Despite this usual cloud of secrecy, we here are Bugbear BBQ are dusting off our recipes tome to share our secrets with the world(s). We do this not entirely out of the goodness of our hearts, rather to show the other pitmasters the lengths we’ll go to for a good meal.
Consider it a form of public intimidation if you will.
Like the other two meats sharing the Big Three status, hippogriff is chosen partially because they are so common. Much like their genetic cousins (and some say parents) the griffin, the hippogriff combines the features of two animals. But unlike the griffin, which is the combination of an eagle and a lion, the hippogriff combines the aspects of an eagle and a horse. There are two major breeds of hippogriff though, one with four hooves of a horse, and anther with hooves on the back legs and the talons of an eagle for the forelegs.
And it’s this distinct lack of back claws, and the fact that hippogriffs travel in pairs rather than prides like griffons, that makes them the preferred meat for barbecue competitions. Because they’re that much safer to get your hands on.
Mind you, not nearly “safe,” but certainly “safer.”
Like the pork inspiration for babyback ribs, the best cut for hippogriff is the top of the ribs closest to the spine and loin meat. How much meat on the ribs is always dependent on your butcher, so we’d suggest making friends; usually through what other might consider bribes, but what we consider exceedingly generous Christmas gifts. That arrive four times a year. Because the spirit of bribery… I mean Christmas, can be felt year-round.
Due to the hippogriff’s significant size, this means a rack can weigh around 175 pounds, or, if you’re not into the Standard weight system, about 12.5 stones. Such a weighty undertaking means this cook could go on for days, thus drying out your hippogriff.
As such, our solution is elegant in its simplicity: We only use baby hippogriffs, which are more commonly known as nestlings, for our babyback ribs. Due to the nestling’s young age, this makes the ribs more manageable in size, which cuts down on the cook time significantly. Also, since the nestling has not had a chance to exercise its muscles, these babyback ribs are the most tender thing you will ever experience in your lifetime(s).
And yes, we are aware we are willing to slaughter a nestling after just a few days of life in our relentless pursuit of flavor. Call us monsters if so inclined, we can accept that. But it’s not like we’re eating horse. That would be unforgivable. Or French.
We don’t want to give away all our secrets here, so will refrain from sharing our particular award-winning rub. But our rule of thumb to know if it’s enough is if the ribs look angry after you’ve applied it. Give it a try; you’ll soon know what we mean.
I know it's still raw, but I still want to take a bite.
As the hippogriff is the sacred beast of Apollo, we use laurel wood to smoke since it too is associated with Apollo. Honestly, we don’t know why using wood that is tied to our meat of choice makes it taste better, but it certainly does. Evolution probably.
Set your smoker for 225 and make sure to never go higher than 250: These babybacks are so tender they cannot take the extra heat. Your cook can take from 4-6 hours on average, and there’s no real way to know for sure until you actually cook ‘em. Since the ribs are so thin (when compared to something like troll or minotaur that is), you cannot rely on a thermometer to tell when there’s done, and we suggest using the bend test.
Sauces, Sides and Pairings
While we usually prefer most meats without sauces, we make an exception for baby babyback hippogriff and slather it on as soon as we determine it’s done. We use a homemade KC sauce, but any red sauce will do, so long as you watch it like a hawk and make sure it doesn’t caramelize on the grill. Or perhaps you should watch it more like a griffon.
Mac and cheese served in a skillet is the only requirement when it comes to sides, along with a hefty dose of paper towels to clean your hands. If you don’t lick ‘em clean yourself first.