Pork ribs are always a treat to eat and they can be enjoyed anytime indoors or outdoors with friends and family. Since it is such an important part, mastering the technique of cooking pork ribs is extremely essential or else it can spoil the ribs recipe completely. Southern ribs, a style that was developed by the African slaves is very American now.
A great tasting barbeque ribs is a mix of different flavors like spices, the smokiness of the hardwood smoke and the various sauce mixes that combines itself with the original flavor of the pork ribs to create an absolutely delicious, juicy and one of the best barbeque ribs ever.
The meat is so tender and juicy that it comes out easily from the bone. The smokiness refuses to go away even after a hearty meal. This ribs recipe is so good that if you participate in a competition you are sure to bring home a trophy for the dish. You don’t need any special smoker for this recipe, you can cook this delicious ribs recipe on charcoal or gas grills.
How To Make BBQ Ribs
This tasty and mouthwatering ribs recipe is so good that you would ask for them as your “last meal”
Serves: 2. ½ slab each adult
Prep time: 15 minutes to just skin, trim and rub
Cooking time: 3 to 6 hours depending on the cut you choose
Ideally the ribs will be cooked low and slow at 225 degree F, so it will take 5 to 6 hours for the Spare ribs and 3 to 4 hours for the Baby Back Ribs. Thicker and meaty slabs take long time and if you are using rib holders, then add one more hour to the total.
- 1 slab ribs, spare ribs or Baby back ribs
- 4 tablespoon of Meathead’s Memphis Dust
- ¼ teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt per pound of meat
- 8 ounces by weight of hardwood chunks, chips or pellets
- 1 cup barbeque sauce (optional)
About the Ribs: If you like leaner, smaller and fast cooking ribs then go for the Baby back ribs. You will also find country ribs, but they are not ribs, but chops and they need to be cooked differently and hence not needed in this recipe.
About Kosher Salt: The specialty of kosher salt is that it is just half as concentrate as the regular table salt, so when using kosher salt keep the quantity in mind.
About Wood: 8 ounces of wood is enough no matter how many slabs you are cooking. You don’t have to be precise about the quantity of wood, but just make sure that you keep note of the quantity for future reference. For pork ribs, it is best to use apple, hickory or oak wood instead of pine. Remember not to use construction wood as it is usually treated with chemicals to discourage rats and termites. There is no need to soak the wood.
- Rinse: Nicely rinse the ribs in cool water to eliminate any bone bits from butchering
- Skin and Trim: Check if the butcher has removed the membrane from under the side or else do it yourself. The membrane turns the meat leathery and chewy and doesn’t allow the fat out and sauces get in. Once you get the membrane out, trim out any excess fat from the rib. If you can’t take out the skin use a knife to slash through at every inch so that fat will aid in cooking.
- Salt: Salt is an important ingredient that penetrates deep into the meat and adds flavor. It helps the protein retain the moisture and helps with the bark the desired crust on the top formation. Apply salt to the ribs at least 2 hours before for better absorption. This process is called dry brining. The rule is ½ tsp of kosher salt per pound of meat. Since, ribs is 50 percent bone, you will have to add ¼ tsp per pound.
- Beware of double salt: Rubs and spice blends usually contain salt in them as salt increases the flavor and crust. Brines also add flavor as well as moisture. Check for labels; they convey a lot. Meats that have labels saying “enhanced” or “flavor enhanced” or “self basting” or “basted” are usually injected with brine while packing. Make sure you are not double salting the rib. Excess salt will spoil the taste of the barbeque ribs.
- Rub: Applying rub the night before is not a necessity. Just before cooking time, coat the meat with a very thin layer of water and this water helps dissolve the spices. Sprinkle sufficient Memphis dust to coat all the surfaces, but make sure the meat is visible. Depending on the size of the slab use 2 tablespoon of rub on each side. Lot of people apply mustard under the rub to act as glue. This is not of much use as by the time the water steams off from the mustard, the remaining mustard powder is miniscule. Mustard doesn’t in anyway increase the flavor of the meat, so it can be happily missed while cooking.
- Fire-up: Fire up your smoker or set the grill for 2-zone or indirect cooking. 2-zone cooking on the grill is the best technique to keep the temp down so that you don’t shrink the proteins and make the meat tough. Adjust the temperature. Preheat the cook for 225 degrees F and try to retain the temp throughout the cook. This is important. Check the temp with a digital oven thermometer and do not rely on the temperature dial on the cooker.
- For the charcoal grill, adjust the air intake dampers at the bottom to control the heat on the charcoal based grills. Intake dampers are more effective than the exhaust dampers to control the temp because they reduce the supply of oxygen to the coals. Take time to set the temperature. Cooking at 225 degrees F is the ideal way to cook the meat as it is slow and low, which allows the connective tissues, fats to melt evenly without getting the proteins to knot in bunch. This is the magical temperature that makes the meat moist, silky and tender. Keep the temperature near 225 degrees F, but if you can’t get to the exact temp make sure you don’t go below 200 degree F and above 250.
- Smoke: Add 4 ounces of wood and there is no need to soak them. Put the wood as close to the flame as possible.
- Relax: Place the slabs in the cooker in indirect heat with the meaty side up and close to the lid.
- More Smoke: When you notice the smoke dwindling after some time, add another 4 ounce of wood. That’s enough and no more adding wood. We don’t need an over smoked meat as it will completely ruin the meat. If you have more than one slab on, halfway through the cooking, you will have to move the ribs closer to the fire and away from the heat. The slab farthest from the flame is closer. Leave the meat side up. There is no need to turn the slabs. Keep checking the meat, but make sure you close the lid.
- Texas Crutch: This is an optional trick that involves wrapping the slab in a foil along with an ounce of water for about an hour to increase the speed of cooking and tenderize the meat. Though there is no significant improvement noticed in this method and in case of backyard cooking this is not something substantial to think about. Too much crutching can turn the meat mushy and too much time in foil can soften the bark and remove a lot of rub. This method is good for competitions and not at homes. Even without the Texas crutch you can enjoy some delicious ribs.
- The bend Test: It is always better to go for a good digital meat thermometer that is ideal for grilling. Allow 5-6 hours for the SLC ribs and Spare ribs, or 3-4 hours for Baby Back Ribs. The exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of the slab and how steady is the temperature. If you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, then you need to add another hour of cooking time. Check for readiness. Use the bend test. Pick up the slab with thongs and bounce it gently and if the surface cracks, then it is ready.
- Sauce: Sometimes ribs are served without sauce, but most people love sauce. Even if you are using sauce, make sure you don’t use it liberally. Let the meat shine through. When the barbeque ribs are done, paint both the sides with your favorite homemade barbeque sauce or sauce brought from a store and cook for another 15 minutes. Don’t put the sauce earlier than it is done as the sugar in sauce runs the risk of burning and altering the taste altogether. You can even try the sizzling method, where in the ribs are put directly on the sauce and placed on the hottest part of the grill in order to caramelize and crisp the sauce. On a charcoal grill move the slab over the coals. On the gas grill, you will have to increase the burner speed. On a water smoker remove the water pan and move the meat closer to the coals. On an offset smoker, put a grill over the coals in the firebox and put the meat there. Keep the lid open so you don’t roast the meat from top. Sizzle the sauce on one side and shift to another. You will notice the sauce actually sizzling and bubbling. Keep a watch as sweet sauce can go from caramelized to carbonize in less than a minute. Too much sauce will hide the flavors of the meat; hence make sure you limit the amount of sauce over the meat. If you still want more sauce, then the best thing would be to place it in a bowl next to the serving plate.
Once done, you will notice a thin layer of pink beneath the surface of the meat; this is not an indication of undercooked meat. It is the prized smoke ring that is caused due to the combustion of gases and the smoke. It is a sign of amazing barbeque ribs.
Tools needed for the Recipe
- 1 smoker or grill with a lid. You can use a smoker or gas grill or any charcoal grill as long as it has a lid on. The grill or smoker should have a tight fitting lid with adjustable vents.
- 1 (18 pound) bag of charcoal for charcoal grill or smokers. That much charcoal may not be needed, but you will need more on wet or windy days than on sunny and warm days. There is no harm in having a bagful at hand. Chimney starters are the best way to start charcoal especially for long and slow cooking where the smell of solvent in charcoal starter fluid can ruin the taste of the meat.
- 1 tank of Propane for gas cookers: You won’t need all of it, but it is safe to have it in store.
- 1 pair of long handled tongs
- 1 sauce brush
- 1 good quality digital oven thermometer
Points to remember
A lot of people boil the ribs before they grill them. This is not recommended as water will pull out the entire flavor from the meat and can make the meat mushy. Water will take out all flavors of the meat, which you cannot add to the meat later on. Too much boiling can dry out the meat caused due to the proteins getting contracted and squeezing out the moisture from muscle fibers.
If you want to retain some of the flavors of the ribs and are in a hurry, then it is better to steam or microwave them and then finishing them on the grill or under the broiler. Avoid boiling them.
How to know your rib cuts
Butchers use different terms for various cuts and they can be often confusing for a layman. Baby backs lie near the spine. Spare ribs attach to the baby backs and runs down to the chest. St.Louis Cut ribs are spareribs that have had the rib tips removed. Country ribs are really not ribs at all; they are usually chops and need a different style of cooking.
Happy cooking !!!