How I make ribs…

It’s Labor Day weekend. College football is kicking off. [Georgia plays tonight! Go, DAWGS!] I made ribs yesterday. I haven’t posted in quite a while. [I’ve been suffering from a bit of BD (i.e., bloggers disfunction). The ideas are there; they just haven’t been substantiating. Ugh.]

For all of the above reasons (and, perhaps, more), it’s time to talk about barbecue. Ribs are what I prefer barbecuing. So, here goes…

Yesterday's batch along with a mess of home-made macaroni and cheese.

Yesterday’s batch along with a mess of home-made macaroni and cheese.


First things first: pork, not beef. I’ve made beef ribs, and they end up tasting alright enough but are just too “greasy” and chewy. Stick with pork. It’s easier to manage, tastier, and just downright better.

Furthermore, I’m unwaveringly adamant that if one wants to prepare a proper slab of ribs, one must smoke them. There’s no way around it – smoking is the way to go, even if you don’t have a “smoker” in your outdoors arsenal.

Now for the recipe: the following dry rub is enough to cover a couple of slabs unless you’re the stingy-on-the-seasoning type. If that’s the case, sure, you could make this work for three slabs.

my dry rub:

1 cup of brown sugar

1 tablespoon of sea salt

2 tablespoons of dried oregano leaves (or you can use fresh leaves, chopped)

1/4 of a teaspoon of ground mustard seeds

1/4 of a teaspoon of garlic powder

1/4 of a teaspoon of onion granules (or you can use powder)

1/4 of a teaspoon of celery salt

1/2 of a teaspoon of ground coriander seeds

50 “turns” of freshly-ground black peppercorns

The sauce will come in handy toward the end of the cooking process but should definitely be prepared ahead of time so as to have plenty of time to “marry” and cool off.

my barbecue sauce:

29 ounces of tomato sauce

6 ounces of tomato paste

1/2 of a cup of apple cider vinegar

10 tablespoons of yellow mustard

30 shakes of Worcestershire sauce (preferably Lea & Perrins)

50 shakes of Tabasco Sauce

5 tablespoons of honey (preferably something local)

1 1/2 cups of sugar

3 tablespoons of sea salt

1 handful of garlic salt

1 handful of onion salt

50 “turns” of freshly-ground black peppercorns

[Combine over heat and simmer for half an hour or so, stirring often.]

I generally prepare the ribs the night before I plan to smoke them – cutting the slabs in half, applying the rub generously, wrapping each half-rack separately in heavy duty aluminum foil, and refrigerating over-night.

On the day of the smoke, I take the ribs out and bring them to room-temperature. Then I begin preparing my smoking vessel. I have a traditional charcoal/wood smoker, but I often just use my large kettle grill. Either is fine for smoking as long as you have room for the meat to hang out indirect from the fire. If you have room for this, you also have room for a moisture source. [See the bowl behind/under the ribs in the first three photos below.]

I generally start my fire using natural chunk-charcoal, adding wood (oak, hickory, cherry, or apple, but definitely not mesquite) once the fire’s burning well and then throughout the cooking process.

While they’re cooking, I check the ribs roughly every hour – adding more wood as needed, rearranging the ribs if necessary (N. B. hotspots), and adding more liquid if necessary.

Believe it or not, no sauce has yet been added and they already look this gorgeous.

Believe it or not, no sauce has yet been added and they already look this gorgeous.

After a couple of hours or so of cooking, you’ll know when the ribs almost done as a couple of things should be happening:

  • the meat will have pulled in from the tips of the bone, leaving bare about half an inch of bone

  • the half slabs bend significantly (the meat barely pulling apart) when lifted with tongs

Please keep in mind that properly cooked ribs should best be described as “pull-off-the-bone” not “fall-off-the-bone” – according to my preferences, at least.

If grease (or, melted fat) touches fire, flare-ups are sure to follow.  Manage your ribs carefully, folks.

If grease (or, melted fat) touches fire, flare-ups are sure to follow. Manage your ribs carefully.

Once these two phenomena occur, I begin applying the barbecue sauce I prefer to apply it as a glaze in layers. Rather than just dumping on a bunch of sauce, I lightly apply a single coat at a time, allowing the ribs to continue cooking while each layer caramelizes and “gets friendly with” the ribs. Depending on how the ribs are looking, I will apply anywhere from 2-4 thin layers of sauce as they finish smoking.

No doubt: delicious and delectable.

No doubt: delicious and delectable.

Once the ribs are finished cooking, I let them rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting them into single ribs. To be sure, though serving the half-slabs together is impressive, cutting them down makes for a nice presentation of the bright pink smoke-ring and makes for easier handling throughout your delightful consumption.

Holy pork! Look at that smoke-ring!  [not even edited in the least]

Holy pork! Look at that smoke-ring! [not even edited in the least]

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About Adam Godbold

husband, father, pastor, and more View all posts by Adam Godbold

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