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I love ribs!
Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy a good rack of ribs? Beth’s family has long made fun of me because I believe in eating my ribs in the Southern tradition. Namely, attacking the ribs with my teeth, resulting in sauce becoming attached to every part of my face, hands, and lower arms and the need for at least one entire roll of paper towels to clean up. When I look up with a huge grin on my face and set to cleaning sauce out from under my fingernails, all of her family is looking at me like I’m crazy. I don’t care. I just love eating my ribs!
There are lots of different methods for cooking ribs. I’ve seen them boiled and slow-baked in the oven, but, personally, I love my ribs smoked. Preparing them this way is a labor of love, but I have never been disappointed with the results. Here’s how I do it.
First, you have to select your ribs. Do you choose beef or pork? Do you go with Baby Back Ribs or the St. Louis Style Spareribs? I picked up some Smithfield Pork Spareribs at my local Walmart (head over to coupons.com for a $1 off coupon while supplies last). While the Baby Backs are more tender, the St. Louis Style ribs are much meatier. For our family, one rack of Spareribs will pretty much take care of us. If I choose the Baby Backs, I usually eat a rack on my own.
Next, you have to remove the thin membrane on the bone side of the ribs. You don’t really have to, but it really is preferred for more tender ribs. It’s pretty easy. Slide a small knife up under the membrane to separate it from the meat and bones. Then grab and pull. Repeat until it’s all gone.The next step for my ribs is to apply a dry rub. I pretty much have 3 parts. One part kosher salt, 1 part brown sugar, and 1 part seasonings. My seasonings are always different and might include paprika for smokiness, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, Italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, etc. I’ve even just added a Chinese 5-Spice blend. Don’t get anything special, just use what you have. This is your time to really get creative and have fun with it. After you mix your rub together, apply liberally to the ribs and rub it into the meat.
This next part is an exercise in patience and planning. You want to set your smoker (or grill) to a pretty low heat (around 250 degrees). You put your prepared ribs in the smoker (or on the coldest part of the grill), add your soaked wood chips, and wait. You don’t keep messing with it. Every time you check on things, you lose that precious heat. They are going to cook for 5-6 hours, all told. Let it go for a solid hour before checking it. Then just check on your wood chips. Add more, if necessary. Do this again in an hour and once again in another hour. They should start looking pretty dried out and tasty. Don’t be fooled! They are not done yet!
Now is when you start applying a little moisture to the equation. Take a squirt or spray bottle and fill it with apple juice. You can do half beer and juice or some other concoction, but I like just straight apple juice for this. Every 30 minutes or so, spray them down with the juice. After about 4 1/2 hours of total cooking, you can start checking them. When you pick up one of the ribs, the rest of the rack should bend and just begin to crack. If you are applying the juice, it’s a little hard to overcook them, but it can be done. Worse, though, is undercooked with meat still attached to the bone when you try to eat. Let it cook until you know it’s done. Here’s about what mine looked like.
Now it’s time to sauce the ribs. You can use your favorite brand or you can make your own like my Maple Bourbon BBQ Sauce over on This Cookin’ Dad. Put your racks onto the grill and lightly sauce them. You’ve spent hours with a lovely rub and imparting great smoke flavor. Please don’t ruin it by drowning the ribs in sauce! A light coating glazed on by the heat of the grill is plenty. If you really like sauce, do a second light coat, but no more. Let them rest for about 15 minutes while you finish up the sides and then slice them up into individual servings.
PRO TIP: If you slice along one bone, then skip a bone before slicing close to the next one, you’ll get very large and meaty rib servings that’ll make it easier for you and your guests to enjoy the meat without picking through as many bones. (Want more tips? Check out the BBQ Pitmasters over at readysetribs.com.)
Here’s they’ll look like after all is said and done. Enjoy!