World-Class Ribs at Home

He’s back, the Master Griller himself (my hubs😉), for a fabulous blog on Ribs!! If you missed his first blog on burgers you can find that here. Spring means the start of “Grill Season” at our house, and boy can my man grill! I hope you enjoy these ribs, they were a big hit over here!

Ribs. The crown jewel of barbecue. One would think they are the grill-master’s ultimate test. Well ribs ain’t easy, but with the right setup and equipment, they are within reach of anyone with a grill.

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to ribs: wet and dry. That is, ribs served with sauce on them, and ribs served without sauce on them. Most people are probably used to saucy ribs (hey ribs, behave yourselves), but ribs with a fabulous dry rub are often times at the pinnacle of barbecue flavor. For this recipe, I made both.

Now a word on the ribs themselves. The meat of the matter. There are two main types of ribs: loin (baby back), and spare. Most people are used to loin ribs. They have the curved shape, and can be the most tender. Spare ribs are huge and oddly shaped, and I don’t typically use them. There is a third variety, the St. Louis cut, which is a trimmed down spare rib, and this type is awesome. They are the same size as loin ribs, can be cheaper, and have more meat on them. They also have more fat which can be great for flavor and juiciness for low and slow grilling. For this recipe, I went with the loin rib.

Preparing the ribs starts with removing the membrane on the inside of the ribs. This step is so important! It allows more flavor to penetrate that side of the ribs, and makes them easier to pull apart. In the picture below the top rack still has its membrane, as compared to the bottom rack which has had its membrane removed.

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Then I applied the dry rub to both racks. Both if them receive the rub, even though only one of them will end up being a dry rub rack. You can find a seemingly unending litany of dry rub recipes online, or you could buy one from the store (if you must). An easy recipe that will do in a pinch is equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar. I added some other secret (forgotten, actually) ingredients of my own. Also start soaking two handfuls of wood chips in water at this point.

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Now let the ribs and wood chips sit as you set up the grill. Light your charcoal in a chimney starter and wait until the briquettes on top start to get a layer of ash on them. Then dump out half the coals on one side and the other half on the other side of the grill. “But what do I do if I only have a gas grill?” Two choices: grow up and get a charcoal grill, or stick to making sub-par hotdogs. Only joking; just light one of the burners on one side of the grill I suppose and keep it on low-medium. But seriously, it’s so much better doing this using charcoal. Once the fire is in place, put a drip pan in between the two mounds of coals and fill it part way with water. This will steam the meat a bit. Then place half the wood chips on one mound of coals, then the other on the other. Since they’re soaked through, they’ll smoke as opposed to burn. Yum!

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Next, put your ribs in your handy-dandy rib rack. You don’t have a rib rack? Well then you’re stuck cooking only one rack at a time. Oh well.

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Then you have to mess with the vents to get the temp down. Way down to like 250F. A side note on this: I read on some website somewhere that you should only close the bottom vents. They made the observation that if you wanted to slow your car down, you wouldn’t plug up your exhaust pipe, would you? Well, anyway, partially close your vents, either both or just the bottom, to get that temperature where you want it. I had to close mine almost all the way to get it just right. Then let it go for about three hours. Every half hour or so, start to baste one rack in your favorite barbecue sauce. I used Stubb’s Hickory Bourbon. Delicious. Another side note: basting with barbecue sauce can be tricky to say the least. Barbecue sauce typically has a lot of sugars in it that can burn easily especially if the meat being basted is directly over a hot fire. In this case, however, since the ribs are away from the coals and we have kept the temperature down, it’s not an issue.

You’ll know you’re done when the meat from the ends of the ribs have pulled back from the bone a half inch or so, as you can see in the picture below. Also, the ribs will pull apart with moderate ease. They will not fall off the bone, however. Close, but they won’t. Ribs that fall off the bone are likely baked in an oven. That’s not barbecue. Add one last coat of sauce to your saucy ribs (seriously, ribs, keep it G-rated) then cut them individually if you like so that everyone can have one at a time. Serve them with some Grillin’ Beans, preferably Texas Ranchero, and you’re good to go. Ok, eat some salad if you must, but bring on the meat! Note the pinkish smoke ring on the outside of the ribs. This is not uncooked. The meat turns reddish pink like that once it is smoked. Oh buddy, here we go! Enjoy!

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