A recent topic on Ed Levine’s quite excellent SeriousEats.com site gave me a serious craving for BBQ ribs over the Memorial Day weekend. So I decided to head over to one of my favorite butchers, Kocher’s Meats in Ridgefield, and picked up a couple of racks of baby backs and some spare ribs for some good eatin’.
Wanna learn how to make ribs that come out like this? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
Now, I don’t pretend to be a barbecue expert. There are people out there that know WAY the hell more about the subject of making BBQ ribs than I do. In fact, I don’t even own proper ‘Q equipment — I have a Weber Genesis Silver C grill, which is a fine gas grill, but it is not a BBQ smoking rig. As you might know, “Barbecue” is the process by which meat is slow cooked with low temperatures using hardwood coals and hard and fruit woods as “seasoning” in order to produce smoke. This is NOT grilling.
That being said, it is possible to effectively barbecue ribs using a standard, 3 burner gas outdoor grill, provided you follow a simple methodology. In fact, a gas grill is way better for doing this than a charcoal kettle-type grill, because it is a lot easier to maintain a low cooking temperature over several hours.
First, you want to liberally apply a dry rub to both sides of your ribs, and put them in a plastic bag to absorb the seasoning mix overnight in your fridge.
There are a number of good commercial dry rubs out there, and you can obviously make your own. In this instance I used the dry rub from The Salt Lick, a well known BBQ restaurant in Driftwood, Texas. Place the ribs vertically on rib racks, which you can usually buy at the store you can buy grills from.
In the morning or early afternoon, prepare a “Mop Sauce”. A mop sauce is essentially a cup of vinegar (I use cider vinegar) with some olive or vegetable oil, your favorite brown booze (I use dark rum or bourbon, depending on my mood) a bit of mustard, ground black pepper, and a few squirts of hot sauce. The purpose of the mop is to baste the ribs periodically (I do it every 30-45 minutes) so they do not dry out and it adds a bit of flavor as well. I learned this technique from Mike Mills, 3 time grand champion of Memphis in May.
Place a few packets of aluminum foil filled with smoking wood chips (hickory, mesquite, cherry, apple, alder, etc.) that have been soaked in water for several hours or overnight underneath your grill grates, directly on top of the burner area on your gas grill. You can get the wood chips from your local grill reseller. Weber makes a couple different flavors of these.
Ignite the center/starter burner, and then set the back burner halfway between medium and high. Then turn off the center burner and leave only the back burner going. Yeah, the outside of the grill is filthy. So sue me.
Place your rib rack(s) directly on top of the grates, all the way towards the front of the grill, so that they get indirect heat from the rear burner. Close the lid. With the burner setting configured as above, you should be able to maintain a temperature of 225-250 degrees without any problems. Check the temperature every half hour during each basting run to tweak the burner setting if necessary, you’ll get slight variation but not that much. This is exactly the temperature zone you want to be in for the duration of your cooking process, which should be about 4 to 5 hours, depending on how fatty the ribs are. Spare ribs have a higher fat content than back ribs, so they will cook longer. After about 4 hours, check the back ribs by pulling on one of the ribs to see if it comes off easily — if it does, and the meat looks fully cooked, its done.
Here’s the ribs after 1 hour of cooking. Every 45 minutes, you want to baste your ribs with the Mop Sauce using a large basting brush or paintbrush you have bought specifically for basting use.
Ribs after 4 and a half hours of cooking. Let rest for 15 minutes.
Sauce with your favorite sauce and grill for just a few minutes, in order to heat up the sauce and get it to caramelize a little bit.
Baby Back Ribs. Note the pink meat color, which is referred to as a “Smoke Ring”. This meat is fully cooked.