Anyone who knows me and has talked about food with me will very likely be aware of my love for all things pork. Pig in it’s various forms is without a doubt my favorite edible animal.
In many ways the pinnacle of porkyness is the BBQ rib. This is a treat I’ve had the great pleasure to sample in numerous forms. I’ve come to love all of the many versions that one can find across the American South. I’ve eaten BBQ ribs from West Texas to Eastern North Carolina & everywhere in between, so while it’s impossible to say which one I like the best I will say that I tend to like sweet and sticky sauces. It’s for this reason that when it came time to come up with a BBQ rib recipe for myself I chose this version.
What follows is TRUE BBQ. I’m talking about cooking LOW & SLOW. I’ve even employed a tried and true method by which one can smoke the ribs on your grill prior to cooking them. These ribs are brined and dry-rubbed as well. This is a combination that produces an amazingly good rib. Now while it takes a great deal of time and effort is very much worth it in the end. The name says it all…
I’d like to thank MeatHead the “BBQ Whisperer & Zen Master of Ribs” for his contributions to this recipe.
- 1 litre Dr. Pepper
- 1 litre pineapple juice, unsweetened
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high.
- Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ¾ cup white sugar
- ½ cup paprika
- ¼ cup sea salt
- ¼ cup garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons rosemary
- Grind spices together with mortar & pestle.
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. If the brown sugar is lumpy, crumble the lumps by hand or on the side of the bowl with a fork
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 2 cups ketchup
- ½ cup yellow mustard
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup steak sauce
- ¼ cup black strap molasses
- 4 medium cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
- ¼ cup liquid honey
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons tamarind chutney
- In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, black pepper, and salt.
- In a large bowl add the ketchup, mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, steak sauce, molasses, honey, hot sauce, tamarind chutney and brown sugar. Mix them until well combined.
- Over medium heat, warm the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sauté until limp and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook for another minute. Add the dry mix and stir for about 2 minutes to extract the oil-soluble flavours.
- Add the wet ingredients to pan. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes to thicken somewhat. You can remove chunks with an emersion blender if you wish.
- Refrigerate overnight for best results.
- 1 gas grill
- 1 tank of propane. No, you won’t need it all, however until you get used to this technique don’t risk running out by starting with a partial tank.
- 1 in-grill smoke box.
- 8 ounces by weight of hardwood chunks or chips. It doesn’t matter how many slabs you are cooking, 8 ounces should be enough. I prefer apple and/or hickory. Never use any kind of pine unless you want meat that tastes like turpentine. Never use construction lumber because it’s often treated with toxic chemicals. You do not need to soak the wood.
- 1 pair of long handled tongs
- 1 sauce brush
- 1 good digital thermometer with remote sensor
- 1 six pack of beer (for the cook, not the meat)
- 1 lawn chair
- 2 slabs of St. Louis Cut (SLC) ribs. That’s ½ slab per adult. If you use baby back ribs, get a whole slab per adult. You can use baby back ribs if you prefer. They are smaller and cook faster. Get fresh, not frozen meat if possible. Fresh meat has the best pork flavour and the most moisture. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane on the back side.
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- The Soak
- ½ cup of The Rub
- 1 cup of The Sauce
Prep the Meat:
- Skin ‘n’ Trim. If the butcher has not removed the membrane from the back side of your ribs, do it yourself. It gets leathery and hard to chew, it keeps fat in, and it keeps smoke and sauce out. Insert a butter knife under the membrane, then your fingers, work a section loose, grip it with a paper towel, and peel it off. Finally, trim the excess fat from both sides. If you can’t get the skin off, with a sharp knife, cut slashes through it every inch so some of the fat will render out during the cooking.
- Soak ‘n’ Rinse. Put rib racks in a large zipper bag or baking pan and cover with marinade mixture. Place in fridge for 2 hours. Remove and rinse the ribs under cool water to remove any bone fragments from the butchering. Pat dry with paper towel.
- Rub. Coat the meat with a thin layer of vegetable oil. This is done because most of the flavourings in the rub are oil soluble, not water soluble. Sprinkle enough rub to coat all surfaces but not so much that the meat doesn’t show through. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons per side of a large slab of St. Louis Cut ribs. To prevent contaminating your rub with uncooked meat juices, spoon out the proper amount before you start and seal the rest for future use. Wrap the ribs in plastic film and refrigerate them overnight
Prep the Grill:
Set up your gas grill for 2-Zone Indirect cooking. This is the method best suited for gas grills and also the one I use.
- Remove your cooking grates.
- Remove any lava rocks if you have any in your grill.
- Adjust the temp. Preheat your grill to about 225°F. This will take some time. Try to keep it there throughout the smoke/cook. Cooking at 225°F will allow the meat to roast low and slow, liquefying the collagen in connective tissues and melting fats without getting the proteins knotted in a bunch. It’s this magic temperature that creates great texture, retains moisture and keeps the meat tender. If you can’t hit 225°F, get as close as you can. Don’t go under 200°F and try not to go over 250°F.
- Place a disposable foil roasting pan full of water under the cooking grate(s) on the side you will be placing the ribs (unheated side). Make sure it’s large enough to have its edges as close to the walls of your grill as you can.
- Place half of the wood you chose for smoking (4oz) in the smoke box and set it over the section above where the heat will be. Put the smoke box as close to the flame as possible. Resist the temptation to add more wood. Nothing will ruin a meal faster and waste money better than over smoked meat. You can always add more the next time you cook, but you cannot take it away if you over smoke.
- Replace the cooking grates.
- Put the ribs on the grill over the indirect or non heated area, meaty side up. Close the lid and go drink a beer, read a book, or make love.
- When the smoke dwindles after 20 to 30 minutes, add the remaining 4 ounces of wood. That’s it. Stop adding wood. If you have more than one slab on, halfway through the cook you will need to move the ribs closest to the fire away from the heat, and the slabs farthest from the flame in closer. Leave the meat side up. There is no need to flip the slabs. Otherwise, keep your lid on. Opening it just upsets the delicate balance of heat, moisture, and oxygen inside your grill. It can also significantly lengthen the cooking time. No peeking. If you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’.
- Allow 5 to 6 hours for St. Louis Cut ribs or 3 to 4 hours for baby back ribs. The exact time will depend on how thick the slabs are and how steady you have kept the temp. If you use rib holders so they are crammed close to each other, add about 1 hour. To check to see if the ribs are ready. Use the bend test. Pick up a slab with tongs and bounce it gently. If the surface cracks, it’s ready.
- Now brush both sides of the ribs with sauce and put them directly over the hottest part of the grill in order to caramelize and crisp the sauce. With the lid open so you don’t roast the meat from above, sizzle the sauce on one side and then the other. Stand by your grill and watch because sweet sauce can go from caramelized to carbonised in less than a minute! One coat should be enough, but if you need two, go ahead, but no more! Don’t hide all the fabulous flavours under too much sauce. If you think you’ll want more sauce, put some in a bowl on the table.
- If you’ve done all this correctly you’ll notice that there is a thin pink layer beneath the surface of the meat. This does not mean it is undercooked. Rather it is the highly prized smoke ring caused by the combustion gases and the smoke. It’s one sign of Amazing Ribs.