Arlington Heights dad designs barbecues, barbecue rub

  • Ethan Danstrom wants his four children to learn where food comes from and see that cooking can be fun.

      Ethan Danstrom wants his four children to learn where food comes from and see that cooking can be fun. JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

By Abby Scalf
Updated 1/22/2013 6:29 AM

Ethan Danstrom likes to cook low and slow.

While the temperature outside may be a little cold to barbecue his favorite ribs or pork shoulder, this busy Arlington Heights father of five has found a way to cook low and slow year-round.


One of Ethan's culinary passions is barbecue, which not only includes cooking but using his design background to craft a large outdoor grill for parties.

"I love the process of seeing the food cooking all day, enjoying a beer with friends and chewing the fat," he said.

Ethan developed a favorite barbecue ingredient after unfortunate circumstances. As his daughter, Gabi, was hospitalized at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin with a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, he became friends with Chris, the father of a girl in the next room who had the same condition.

One day, Ethan was invited to Chris's Milwaukee home for some ribs. Chris provided the meat, so Ethan developed a spice rub using peppercorns, coriander and a variety of spices and made about a gallon of this rub. He left the remaining mixture at Chris's house where some other guests from Texas raved about it.

The praise encouraged Ethan who decided to sell the rub on a website he created called,, named after the hospital wing the girls had stayed. The website promotes the spice rub (currently sold out) and is a venue where Ethan shares thoughts on food and cooking.

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Ethan doesn't like to brave the cold this time of year so instead he relies on another low and slow method, sous vide, to cook indoors. Sous vide is a cooking method where food is sealed in an airtight bag and cooked for a long time at a somewhat lower temperature.

"It's a nerdy way to cook. There are a lot of nerds on the Internet who like to talk about it. It's not too hard to track down recipes," he said.

For Thanksgiving, Ethan made a pork tenderloin wrapped in bacon and basil leaves, which cooked in a sous vide cooker for four hours and then went under the broiler to crisp the bacon.

"By cooking in the sous vide, the lean pork doesn't dry out. The smoke from the bacon basted the outside of the pork tenderloin and gave the pork a smoke ring which I wasn't expecting," he said.


No matter his method of cooking, Ethan wants his children, ages 15 months to fourth grade, to be part of the process.

"They understand where food comes from, what it takes to put together," Ethan said. "Growing up, I sat down and had food put in front of our faces but we didn't appreciate the effort my mom put into making meals.

"By integrating them in the process, they are more invested and they can appreciate when someone cooks food for them," he added. "I want them to see making food for someone is a fun experience and not a chore."

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