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Babyback Ribs

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hello all...I have a meat question - specifically ribs.

My brother-in-law and I are going head-to-head in 3 weeks on a rib-off and I am soliciting your advice like a slow-pitch softball team would solicit a ringer...

Here is my question. I do not have the equipment to smoke the ribs, so that is out. I probably do not have 6-8 hours to cook them slow, but this can be considered if you feel it is necessary. I have been experimenting with boiling the ribs in seasoned water for 2 hours. This seems to make them very moist and tender. I then place them on the grill with a home made BBQ sauce in order to get them charred.

What suggestions do you have for cooking ribs? Any special tricks I can pull out of my sleeve that you can suggest?

What about BBQ sauce recipes? Do you have good one you can share? I like mine, but I just began experimenting with it...I am still working on it. I know that some consider BBQ recipes a secret and you may have to kill me after you tell me, but if you are willing, I want to give it a try.
post #2 of 19
Boiling them leaches most of the flavor out of the ribs. Don't do it.

You can do a good rib indirectly on the grill in a few hours with real smoke from wood chunks. You'll beat him easily.

I wouldn't use baby backs. They're not forgiving as they have a very narrow window of doneness. Too easy to overshoot. And not enough fat to produce a really succulent peice of meat.

Use spare ribs and trim them in a St. Louis cut. See Trimming spareribs St Louis style They'll look better and taste better than his ribs.

You'll also note in those instructions that they pull off the silverskin. This is important to do.

Rub your ribs with your spice rub and refrigerate overnight. Prior to cooking let your ribs come to room temp.

You can cook indirectly on charcoal or gas, your choice. You need to cook them covered indirectly at a low temperature adding hickory, oak, mesquite or alder chunks for smoke flavor.

Glaze lightly with sauce in the last half hour of cooking but do not let burn. There should be no char on a properly barbecued rib. Now wrap them and let them rest at least 30 minutes in an insulated space--a standard camping cooler is ideal. No ice of course as you want the ribs to stay warm.

Sauce-wise, I have no good home-cooked sauce. But Stubbs Spicy and Stubbs mesquite are excellent commercial sauces.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 19
I was going to suggest the same thing. Cook indirect and use wood chips on the grill. If you can get it, cherry would be awesome with ribs! If not, you can use the hickory that's available just about everywhere I've seen charcoal grills sold.

I agree completely with Phatch's advice. As for sauce, there are many on the market and you can add a little honey to them and make them taste a bit different. I hear that Sweet Baby Ray's cut with honey is awesome. I've never tried it. I make my own and it's a secret recipe so I won't share it. However, I do have a recipe from "Marlboro's Cook Like a Man" book on grilling that is awesome. It's called "Red Hot Mama's BBQ Sauce". I've used it on chicken and pork chops and am sure it would be great on ribs, too. I can pm it if you'd like.
post #4 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the input, Phatch...got a question...how long do you cook them slow for? When doing so, do you ever wrap them in plastic wrap and then foil? I heard that doing so makes them tender, but I have never tried it. Also, whenever I have ever had StL style ribs, I always found them to be tougher...not fall off the bone. Is there a reason why? I prefer fall off the bone, and am not sure if I just have not had goon StL ribs or if that is indeed the way they are supposed to be...
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Allie. If you dont mind, please PM me the recipe. I am still working on mine and maybe I can steal ideas from that one.
post #6 of 19
It varies. You're shooting for about 1/3 an inch of the bone sticking out the end of the rib. Timing to that point can vary with your equipment and how well you manage heat. You can certainly do it in 2 hours and be pretty good, but if you can extend that time out to 3, they'll be better Ideally, you'll cook them at about 250 degrees which will take you about 4-6 hours. Most grills don't manage temps that low very well so they usually cook at about 300 and the cooking is faster. plus with a trimmed rib, you're working with a smaller piece of meat so it's faster anyway.

I'll wrap in plastic for the resting period.

I've wrapped in foil to change the cooking but this is usually for pork shoulder that I'll cook to a higher temp than I do for ribs. This creates more of a steam environment though and is not so good at creating a good exterior color and finish. It cooks a bit faster this way and is a sort of a braise so it does help tenderize the meat usually used in barbecue. You also won't get any more smoke flavor in the food once you wrap in foil.

Let me clarify. There is a StL cut, which is as I explained. It's only about trimming the meat. It won't change the result. How it's cooked does that.

And there is a StL style of barbecue, which as I understand it is a slow open style of grilling. That's not as moist of a method as pit barbecue and could contribute some to toughness, but read below.

Good barbecue ribs should NOT fall off the bone. Yes, that's a matter of preference, but the idealized competition and serious hobby barbecuer shoots for a "toothy-tug" in biting off the meat from the ribs. This isn't what I would call tough, but it's not fall off the bone tender either. That could be what you're describing as tough.

Lots of what you're asking about is a controversial subject known in barbecue circles as the plateau. Cook's illustrated touches on this subject in noting that tough meat barbecued in excess of 180 degrees is moist and tender while cooked below 180 is not so moist and tender. Brisket and shoulder are the two prime examples.

A pork shoulder for example heats up to 180 and hangs out at that temp for a while. This is indicative of a phase change. For example. you boil water at 212. It won't get any hotter but the extra energy goes to create steam at the same temperature--a phase change. Same for ice melting to water. It's32 as ice and 32 as water. In meat, collagen begins to melt at around 180 degrees. As its melts it creates a moistness in the meat while it's melting away and is melting makes the meat tender as it was the collagen that was tough.

Ribs are usually treated differently and not cooked to as high of a temperature.

There are times a fall off the bone rib is good, but barbecue isn't one of those times in my opinion.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Phil...you are a wealth of information.

How do you measure the heat levels? I would be using a standard Webber grill and intend on using the indirect heat as you described above, but I am not sure how one holds the tempurature at a constant level. Or, for that matter, even knows what the tempurature is at grill level. Do you have any suggestions?

Sorry for all the questions. I have to completely change my game plan now that you told me that boiling takes the flavor out (I guess I aways just tasted the BBQ sauce, then, huh?).
post #8 of 19
Holding the heat at a temp is mostly about experience with your cooking equipment and how it acts in different weather. I've not used a Webber charcoal grill so I don't have any specifics to offer you.

Working with Charcoal, you're going to have a higher initial heat and a dropping temperature as the coals burn down. Don't let it cool down too much. You'll have to replenish coals as you cook. Light them in a chimney starter, it's the easiest. Depending on your grill, you can dump them through trap doors in the grill or you may have to remove the grill grate and add coals.

Start with Steve Raichlen's barbecue basics Barbecue University® There's 4 links to help you get started with working the grill indirectly. Lots of other good stuff there too and surely some recipes and sauces for you to try.

An oven thermometer placed on the indirect side will help you know what the heat is. Every time you lift the lid, it takes about 10-15 minutes to get back up to temperature so avoid lifting the lid just to peek. Most cooks get to using a hand test above the bed of coals. Raichlen describes these tests.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #9 of 19
Another Q-Tip :rolleyes: is to rub your ribs with plain 'ole yellow mustard after trimming and removing the silverskin. It'll act like a glue for your dry rub, which you'll apply right afterwards.

Don't worry, the mustard taste won't be noticeable. It will just be a bit of background depth.

Oh! One more Q-Tip. Cover the face of your oven thermometer with some foil, peeling it away for peeks. Otherwise, the smoke will collect on the face and leave it unreadable.
post #10 of 19
OK... I'll give up the family secrets,just for you :cool:


1tspchili powder
1tspcelery seed(this is the secret ingredient)
1tsplemon zest
1Tbspbrown sugar(or 2 Tbsp molasses or sorghum)
1/4cupcider vinegar
1/4cupWorcestershire sauce
1cuptomato catsup(could use chili sauce)
2cupswater(or use 1 cup beer or red wine, 1 cup water)
3clovesgarlic, pressed (put the pulp in after pressing)
4quartersfresh ginger (also pressed to extract juice- add this pulp also)
1TbspTobasco sauce
1/2tspred pepper flakes
or both, live dangerously

Mix all ingredients, simmer very slowly to reduce by one-third.
If you're smart you'll make a double recipe every time. Keeps very well frozen.
Believe it or not this started with a recipe in the Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking
School Cookbook, in an edition printed about 45 years ago!. The celery seeds
are the "secret" ingredient. Arthur Bryant's sauce uses them, too.

I added the garlic and ginger. If you add onions the sauce will get considerably sweeter

Mike :chef:
travelling gourmand
travelling gourmand
post #11 of 19
Hi Goose,

I would suggest you go to Welcome to Weber Nation! and log in. They have videos by their chef, Jamie Purvience, and he explains grilling/smoking ribs on the Weber kettle in one of them. He uses baby backs, but shows the peeling, rubbing, spraying, saucing, woodchips, etc. There is a number of grilling videos on other subjects too. Jamie also has some books with great foodporn photos in the bookstores.

As for doneness, there is a number of tests, including the bend test, tear test, toothpick test, bonetwist test, etc. If you go to either of these sites you will find incredible messages on ribs and other bbq, both on grills and smokers. Also tons of recipes for homemade rubs and sauces. It will also recommend methods of temp control and bbq thermometers.
The Virtual Weber Bullet - For the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker enthusiast
The Smoke Ring- All you need to know about barbecue

As for personal preferences of doness, I will strongly agree with Phil that competition quality ribs do not fall off the bone. You'd be judged poorly for that. However, I know several competitors that like it that way at home, and is the preference of their families and friends. Just don't let it turn to mush.

If you have a whetted appetite for BBQ, I'd suggest acquiring a Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM) smoker. It's awesome, can carry temps for 10 hours or more on a single fuel loading, and is used by some competitors. Your friends and neighbors will be quite impressed.

Like CastIronChef, I'm a mustard slatherer, it helps hold on the rub, which can give your ribs some great flavor. I also think MikeLM's sauce recipe looks good, not terribly oversweet like commercial sauces. I'll have to try it.

As a sidenote, I was watching Raichlen on BBQ university several days ago. He was doing ribs on the kettle. After a few hours he foiled them, and added butter and brown sugar to the ribs. Never had seen that done before!

Let us know how your rib competition with the bro-in-law turns out.

post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Mike and Henry...

Thank you both! I appreciate your feeback as well as everyone else's. It looks like I have a lot of experimenting to do before the rib-off. Guess what the wife and I are having for dinner 3-4 times a week until the rib-off? :p
post #13 of 19
If you're eating Q that often, you're going to have some leftovers. Here's some ideas for using those up.

Barbecue salad. Add some barbecued meat to a basic lettuce salad. Spice up the dressing with some barbecue sauce. The classic is half Ranch dressing and half barbecue sauce. That's also a great combination for smoked hot wings.

Barbecued Nachos. Nachos in the classic style, but add 'Q'ed meat along with the beans, cheese and chili if used. A sprinkle of your barbecue rub is a good addition.

Red Beans and Rice. Add some leftover Q to the beans and add a bit of barbecue sauce too.

Barbecue Pie. Think pot pie but with barbecue. So the filling is leftover Q meat, barbecued baked beans, some peppers, tomatoes, extra barbecue rub and top it with a corn bread crust.

Barbecue spaghetti. Doctor the tomato sauce with a little barbecue sauce and add some leftover Q.

I usually have some pulled pork in my freezer so I can doctor up dishes as the mood strikes me. But the pulled pork has become a mainstay in my red beans and rice.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #14 of 19
I slather pork shoulder, but I've not slathered ribs much lately.

My opinions on good slathering technique.

Have a finely ground rub. Chunks tend to clumpup in a slather and inhibit even flavoring.

Rub the meat lightly first with the spice rub. Then lightly brush with mustard, then another light coating of rub.

I also prefer a mopping sauce when I slather. Apple juice, cider vinegar, lemon juice, worcesterhire sauce, lots of black pepper and some barbecue rub. Simmer for 30 mins. Strain well. brush or spray on the meat every 30 minutes or so.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #15 of 19
Here's one more tip I just remembered for serving ribs to impress people. Carve on both sides of every other rib. This gives a double portion of meat to the ribs you serve. And some scrap ribs for the cook to nibble or use in a reduced barbecue stock for your secret barbecue sauce.

Here's a quick sketch. Cut at the Vs (and the Ws that they form:roll:)

For the barbecue circuit. ribs are often brushed on LIGHTLY with sauce so they appear juicy and succulent in the presentation box. You might give that a try too.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #16 of 19
Another idea for leftover pulled pork is bbq pizza!! Just make up your favorite crust recipe, spread on bbq sauce, toss pieces of pulled pork on, top with cheese (cheddar is good!) and sliced red or green onions. YUMM!! My kids beg for this!
post #17 of 19
My rib cooking suggestion is this.

Use Backribs, rather than St Louis Ribs or Spare Ribs (which includes the St Louis Rib). They are leaner and the fat renders easier, since you are limited with time.

Mix 1 cup liquid smoke with 2 quarts of water.
Remove skin membrane from underside of ribs.
Place liquid smoke/water in a 4 inch hotel pan
Season ribs with your preferred rub
Place in pan (preferrably on a rack/grate)
Seal the top with generous tin foil.

Place on burner, flat top or grill and steam them for 3 hours.
350 is the best temp.
Make sure you allow the pressure to build up while cooking. If you don't see any puffing of the foil, or steam venting, it's not sealed enough.

At this point, you can put the ribs directly on the BBQ and glaze and serve, OR cool, wrap and grill later.

Try this and the results will amaze you

Cat Man
post #18 of 19

Ribs in the smoker

Here's a pic of some trimmed ribs cooking in my smoker today. These have been in about an hour.

I'll post a pic later of the finished product.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #19 of 19
Just cooked some awsome baby back ribs yesterday.
Marinated them overnight, put them on indirect heat on a charcoal grill and they were done in less then 2 hours!
Used hardwood charcoal and wood chips/chunks and they were absolutely delish!
I do like my ribs very tender and these were.
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