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Monday
May282007

Smoky Barbeque Ribs

BBQ pork back ribs are not hard to make, but they do take time. Allow a half day for these babies to cook, but the end result is worth the wait!

The key to great ribs is to apply your dry rub the day before so the spices can penetrate and flavor the ribs. The rub you make (or buy) is a personal preference, for example, we don't like the ribs to be too hot, so my recipe below has only one teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

The Rub
2 Tbs. Onion Powder
2 Tbs. Garlic Powder
2 Tbs. Sweet Paprika
2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
3 tsp. Ground Cumin
2 tsp. Ground Coriander
2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (if you like things spicy add more)
Begin by peeling back the silverskin that coats the rear of the ribs. This tough membrane must be removed or the ribs will be chewy and the flavor won't penetrate as well.
We cut the full slab in half to make them easier to handle and because my rack and grill (you'll see it below) accepts them better this way. Place your rub mixture in some kind of shaker container (it does not have the be from Emril) and apply a liberal coat of the mixture.

Massage it evenly over the front and back of the ribs.

Place the ribs in a plastic bag and put it in the refrigerator overnight. I usually keep the bags in a tray or container just in case there is some leakage.
A few years ago, I bought this rack that holds the ribs vertically. This works well since I'm not using a 'true' smoker but rather my Weber grill. This will be a long slow process so you don't want the ribs exposed to direct heat. Here, I have the coals set on the sides, and a drip pan with water under the ribs.

We're cooking at 220-250 for several hours (this will vary but allow for about 4-5 hours total cooking time). As with the standing rib roast, I placed my mesquite chips in foil pouches with one tiny hole for the smoke to come out. These are placed directly on the hot coals.

I started cooking these at about 12:00 noon, and because we need to add about 5-10 coals per side, I use a chimney starter. Steady temperature is very important and because of the nature of charcoal a bit harder to maintain. However, by checking the temperature every 1/2 hour, you'll be able to gauge when you need to start up a new batch of coals.
After about 3 hours, the ribs have taken on a nice color and have absorbed as much smoke flavor as they can. If you (carefully it's hot) grab a bone and give it a twist, you'll see that it's still held firm by the meat.
I find that there is little need to keep the ribs exposed to direct heat at this point, so I like to wrap them in foil for the last 1-2 hours of cooking. On this batch, I still had plenty of heat on my grill, so I placed them back outside. Sometimes, I'll just set them in a 220 degree oven.
After an hour, open up the foil and give a rib bone a quick twist. If it moves freely, you're done! If not, back in the oven or grill for another hour.
You may notice that until now, I haven't added any BBQ sauce. This is because the sugars in all sauces will burn during the long cooking process. Just before you're ready to serve, apply a coat of your favorite sauce and stick it in the oven under the broiler for a few minutes to give the ribs a nice deep brown color. This also helps to reheat them if you finished early.

As you can see, the ribs are "fall off the bone" tender and not dried out. I think this is because I put them in the foil for the last bit of cooking. The pink you see below is not an indication that it's undercooked. It's the ring that all slow cooked meats exhibit when they're exposed to smoke.
There is a lot of room for variations here, use your imagination! The important thing is that you cook 'em "low and slow" because that's where the flavor and texture comes from.

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