Memorial Day is coming. Are you ready to slap some folks in the face with a flavor party? Barbecue ribs are a fantastic place to start! Most people don't venture down that lane because they are intimidated by it but let's put that to rest and make some fantastic ribs.
You can make really great ribs in a smoker, gas grill, or charcoal grill. But every great rack of ribs start with a great rub. Traditional ingredients in rubs include paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Other options in a rub are cinnamon, brown sugar, coffee, cumin, chili powder, etc... Ingredients are based on your taste. However, by the time you buy all these ingredients you could buy a pre-made rub and save some serious money. No shame in that game unless you're planning on going competitive. Here is the rub that I went with:
I like cooking baby back ribs. They have a higher fat content so you can cook them at a higher temperature in less time than spare ribs. Before you can put the rub on the ribs you have to prep the ribs! Turn the ribs over and you will find a very tough film that is on the back of ribs. If you don't remove this film, you will have a finished product that is very difficult to eat.
The way to remove this is to take something sharp like a food thermometer and slide it under the film at the bone.
Pull the film back a few inches, then take a paper towel and pull the remaining film off. The paper towel is a huge help in having a grip on the film. Peel that entire bad boy off the back of the rib.
Now you can put plenty of dry rub on the front and back and massage the rub in gently. Don't let the rub sit any longer than four hours or it's going to start to dry the meat out because of the salt in the rub.
Thirty minutes out from starting the ribs you need to do two things: 1. Start soaking your preferred wood. I will be using a charcoal grill so I used a mixture of apple wood chips and hickory chips.
2. Start your fire and prep for indirect grilling.
This is what it looks like on a gas grill using indirect chambers.
If you are using a gas grill, light the outside burners and leave the middle burners off. Remember that when using a gas grill you are going to take the soaked chips, wrap them in foil, poke lots of holes in the foil, and then place them right on one of the burners on the side that is lit.
I had a lot of ribs to cook so I used for the first time a rib rack, a little tool that allows you to cook multiple ribs and conserve space. If you are using one, make sure to leave the fatty side up so all that wonderful fat renders down into the meat to make it tasty and tender. I also found out it takes longer to cook when using the rack.
The ideal temperature is between 300 and 350 degrees. Remember, that is higher than usual for smoking meat but the fat level is high and it will help render that fat on baby back ribs. Right before you put on your ribs on the gril put your wood chips on the fire to get that wonderful smoke going. Now, put the ribs on and close that sucker. If you are using a charcoal grill, make sure to put the vent on the lid over the ribs so that the smoke is drawn over the meat.
The next piece to ribs is a mop sauce. Again, mop sauces can be made with lots of ingredients. Beer can be a great mop sauce but today I am going to keep it a real simple mixture of one part apple juice to three parts water.
I diluted the apple juice because of the sugar content. These ribes are going to cook for at least an hour and half so if I use a mop sauce that has to high of a sugar content that sugar is first going to crust but then its going to burn before the meat is done. I purchased an actual barbecue mop, which is why it's called a mop sauce, some people like to use a squirt bottle and spray the ribs. Mop sauces are for helping the outside of the meat to not dry up in the midst of all that smoke. Obviously, ribs are a protein so the moisture of the meat inside comes from the fat content. A mop sauce will also give that first bite flavor. I apply the mop sauce about every thirty minutes when I have to add more wood chips to my charcoals.
The nice thing about ribs is that they come with a built in meat thermometer. Once the meat has shrunk back and about a quarter inch of bone is showing, your ribs are probably done.
Here is a little trick though. As your ribs are getting close to being done, turn your oven on to 300 degrees. Take your ribs off of the grill and wrap them in tinfoil. Put them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
Cooking them in the oven or back on your grill wrapped in tinfoil will make them so tender!
If you are a Kansas City-ian, take the ribs out of the foil, put some sauce on them and put them back on the grill over the heat so that they caramelize. And boom! You have now made the absolute amazing ribs!