The holiday season is a time to celebrate many things. But as important as faith, family and the spirit of benefaction may be, ham and turkey are of equally momentous importance. You may assume the labors of glazing and basting if you so wish. I am certain they will yield delicious results. Yet I am equally certain you could never outdo Al Killion, the proprietor of Eden Prairie’s very own Baker’s Ribs, in the ham and turkey departments.
Al has an unfair advantage when it comes to contests of ham and turkey preparation, for he has dedicated his life to perfecting the art of smoking fine meats. He began his studies at the original Baker’s Ribs in Dallas, where renowned pitmaster Joe Duncan taught him everything there is to know about a culinary tradition which has existed since the Paleolithic Era. It took ages before Joe would let Al so much as slice a brisket; longer still before Al proved himself worthy of bringing the Baker name to Minnesota in 1992.
“Texas has the purest tradition of barbecue in the country,” Al said in an accent that I wish I had. “The original settlers found plenty of coyote and tumbleweeds on the frontier, but seasonings were just about as common as frog’s teeth. All they had was meat, some dry rub, and a whole lot of smoke. There’s no room for error when you’re working with so little.
“Orthodox Texan barbecue calls for hickory, but shipping a small forest worth of it to Eden Prairie every month would be just about as practical as it sounds. Fortunately, Minnesota supplies a pitmaster like me with plenty of oak, and oak is no compromise. Its smoke gives meat a rich, mellow flavor that would win any real cowboy’s approval.
“How do I smoke meat? I wish I could boil it down to a science for you, but after so many years it all comes down to intuition. The meat tells me when it’s perfectly juicy and tender. You could even say I never learned how to cook. I just learned another language: meat language.
“Most folks associate Texan barbecue with brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, chicken and sausages, and they’re not wrong. We serve all of those delicacies when we open our doors for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday. But out of everything we prepare here at Baker’s, hams and turkeys are my absolute favorite. I love when our customers tell me that we smoked the memorable centerpieces for their family gatherings and company parties.
“We’re also making our customers’ lives a whole lot easier. Once you’ve preordered one of our seven to ten pound turkeys, all you’ll have to do on the big day is reheat it in foil or a cooking bag with a little chicken broth. Hams are just as straightforward, but if you use apple or pineapple juice instead then you won’t be disappointed.
“We’ll make things even simpler for you by providing all the fixings. Granted, we don’t serve mashed potatoes and green bean casserole here at Baker’s. Those are unknown quantities as far as pitmasters are concerned. But once you’ve decked out your Thanksgiving or Christmas table with our baked beans, dirty rice, coleslaw, baked potatoes, dilled potato salad, rotini pasta salad, cold corn salad, marinated tomato basil salad, Caesar salad and garden salad, you won’t hear a single one of your guests complaining.
“Being a part of so many of my neighbors’ holiday plans truly is heartwarming. This community banded together to keep Baker’s Ribs afloat during the pandemic. For that you have my undying gratitude, in addition to indescribably good hams and turkeys.”
Baker’s Ribs is located near Eden Prairie Center at 8019 Glen Lane. You may preorder your festive vittles by calling (952) 942-5337, or visit bakersribsmn.com to learn more.