Friday, April 4, 2008



I must admit I came to ribs relatively late, in fact, late enough to realize that there were as many ways of cooking pork spareribs outdoors as there are cooks, and that the way to the "best" ribs was to get all the basics down and then experiment. The only time ribs ever graced our dinner table when I was growing up was when my mother made "pork and noodles"--spareribs braised with lots of onions and other vegetables and served with egg noodles. I loved them, but for the longest time that was all I knew to do with ribs. I think somebody actually had to introduce this new thing to me--barbecued ribs--and I've been a goner ever since. Now, they're right up there with scallops and fried chicken (my own, of course) as food fit for the gods.

Notes: If you like your ribs sweet and saucy and falling-off-the-bone tender, this recipe isn't for you. I like mine chewy and suitable as finger food, and there's no tomato in what passes for a sauce (the "mop"). This is an eastern North Carolina style mop based on plain cider vinegar flavored with just a few other things. I know purists say you can't really "barbecue" in a kettle grill. Well, I beg to differ. I use real wood byproduct--charcoal--like the big pros. And I use the "indirect" cooking method, which means the ribs cook in proximity to the heat source but not directly on it. And I use dampened wood chips to get smoke flavor. That's as close to real barbecue as a back yard cook can get, and it's close enough for me. (I really did try to learn gas grilling--I appreciate that it's cleaner and easier to use. But I never really "got" it--it felt like cooking on my gas stove inside. And I could never get the smoke flavor I think must be there. For me, cooking outdoors equals a real wood fire, with smoke. Otherwise, what's the point?) I use a special piece of equipment that not everybody does: a rib rack from Weber. The rack lets you stand the ribs up as they cook; that way they receive the smoke directly as it wafts over them, and at the same time fat drips more efficiently into a pan below. I really like the results, but the rack isn't totally necessary. Sorry if all these particulars leave some of you out. But I bet you'd eat these anyway if they were out down in front of you!

1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. table salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder

2 cups cider vinegar
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. table salt
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco

3 1/2 lbs. baby back ribs, cut into two equal-size racks

Hickory chips

Open vents all the way in grill and grill cover. Bank charcoal on one side of a charcoal grill so that at the highest point it comes up the side of the grill almost to the rack. Light charcoal and heat for 20 minutes to a half hour, until white ash is visible.

While charcoal is heating, place a generous handful of hickory chips in a bucket and cover with water.

Combine all rub ingredients in a container with a lid and shake to combine. Do same for mop ingredients in a separate container.

Run ribs under cold water and dry thoroughly. Sprinkle liberally with rub and press to adhere as much rub as possible to ribs. Place ribs in rack, if using.

When charcoal is ready, sprinkle wet wood chips over hot coals, position grill, and place ribs so that they are opposite the charcoal, meat side facing it. Place cover so that vents are over the meat. This will cause the smoke to waft directly over the ribs as it escapes through the vents. Cook ribs 60 to 90 minutes without disturbing.

When done, remove ribs from rack if using and place on a board or platter. Shake mop again and immediately brush liberally over hot ribs. Allow ribs to rest 15 minutes, brush with more mop, and then separate the ribs and serve individually on a platter.

Let everybody dig in!


Marilyn said...

OK, so this is EXACTLY the way I love ribs - sans tomatoey-sweet sauce! But, how can I adapt the wood chips to our gas grill?

I am SO hungry, right now, looking at those ribs...YUM!!


Ralph said...

Actually, Marilyn, I've seen little steel boxes you can put wet chips in for gas grills. In fact, I used to have one--forget where I got it now. Probably Home Depot.

Cuidado said...

I'm having ribs today too but slow cooked in the oven. I'm the rib's queen around here but the truth is I never flavor them the same way twice other than the slow, slow roasting.

Ralph said...

They're good that way, too, Cuidado. Entirely different, but delicious. Bon appétit!

Ralph said...

They're good that way, too, Cuidado. Entirely different, but delicious. Bon appétit!

Anonymous said...

I go the Bar b que route and will post a favorite recipe on my blog or maybe come back to see if you want to try it. It is excellent and the ribs are inhaled they are so good.

Ralph said...

Can't wait!

Anonymous said...

This is my simple recipe for ribs but God they taste fantastic. We use this recipe at least once a week and for special company.
2lbs back ribs
1 large lemon, sliced thinly
3 tbs of seasoning salt
3 or 4 cups of barbecue sauce for basting.

Rub ribs with seasoned salt on all sides. 2. Place in long casserole meat side down and place the lemon on top evenly spaced, not overlapping. 3. Fill casserole with about an inch of water. 4. Cover with tin foil and bake at 325 for about 2 hours. Check periodically to make sure there is enough water and meat is NOT falling off the bone. Very important. You have to capture this part of the recipe just in time. 5.Baste with your favorite BBQ sauce and put on the grill for 5 mins each side. Serve with plenty of napkins but no knife.

Ralph said...

Z&M, this looks like an easy and delicious way to enjoy ribs year round. I'll do this in the winter and finish them under the broiler instead of on the grill. Thanks for a great idea.