Why cook indoors?
One of the great things about cooking ribs in the oven is putting things under the ribs to roast in the rendering fat and ascend to paradise.
Why remove the membrane?
You remove the thin, clear membrane so you can season the back, but mostly to make the ribs easier to eat. If you're cooking over direct heat, it's an unnecessary step as the membrane will crack and partly burn off. One of the great pleasures of ribs can be scraping the cooked meat off with your teeth. Koukouvagia, you are one stylish carnivore.
To foil or not to foil:
I foil or not as the mood strikes me; but consider foiling "3,2,1" for spares and "2,1,1" for BBs to be a very good idea for beginners or anyone using a drafty pit or for any pit which won't hold a constant temperature. Not everyone has a Klose or a Traeger. It's a really good idea for a noobie to get some success under her belt -- even if that means doing things "the easy way" -- before moving onwards and upwards to more advanced techniques. Start by learning what "done" looks like using the bend and bite tests.
To mop or not to mop:
The more frequently you open the pit to mop during the first 2/3 of the cooking process, the more hot, humid air is replaced by cold, dry air and the drier your meats are likely to be. Of course, this depends a great deal on how tight your cooker is -- and a lot of other things as well. Many a great rack has been cooked "open pit" with plenty of mopping.
Got any videos?
No. But do have some pictures illustrating one way to do a good job.
Let's start with butchering.
Both of these racks of spares have been partly trimmed -- chine bones; flaps; small tangled end bones; and membrane removed -- and rubbed with a very straightforward pork rub. A standard "St. Louis" trim would have taken the tips, but I like to keep the tips with the ribs most of the time.
Alas, no pictures of the untrimmed ribs -- but here's one of the trim.
I smoke and use the chines for flavoring all sorts of things, the flaps as "burnt ends," and -- when I trim them -- the tips for lunch. Notice that the cuts are all straight and even, with no hesitation marks. Next stop, serial killing.
Trimmed, rubbed, and ready to lock and load.
This is what the slabs looked like after about 2-1/2 hours at 250.
I like to foil in a baking pan with a (donut) rack. Pans are great. They're a little looser than a straight foil wrap, and the rack allows you to be freer with the amount of liquid you use without as much risk of making the meat mush or ruining the bark. In this case, said liquid is peach schnapps. Yes. I know.
Here they are, foiled in their pan.
Can you tell which shelf has the ribs and which the chicken?
The never-fail bend test told me they were done; ready to pull, portion and plate.
Notice, the visible differences between half and fully done are relatively subtle. You can see that the meat has pulled back to reveal more of the bones, but the color is still "competition red," and the surface looks nicely barked, but not dried out. These ribs were foiled for about forty-five minutes, then "finished" uncovered for another thirty. Notice also, that despite their time under foil, they were not by any means, "wet."
Pinch the center rib along its long axis with your tongs, and gently lift the slab. If the sides bend almost straight down in an upside down "U," the ribs are perfectly done. You can tell how much more cooking depending on how much the sides stick out. If the meat offers very little resistance and wants to tear, the slab is somewhat overdone and you want to handle it very carefully.
No pictures of portioned ribs, you'll have to trust me when I tell you the cut sides were shiny-moist with meat juice.
There wasn't much resistance to the tooth, the meat was as tender as it could be, but still leave a clear bite mark and not "fall off the bone." That is the "bite" test for doneness. Worth saying that at a certain level of what's either sophistication or competition orientation, you realize that "fall of the bone" is not the goal. However, if "falling off the bone" is what you like, there's no reason it shouldn't be your goal. De gustibus, and all that.
Be all the rib you can be.
I'm neither saying nor implying these are the best looking ribs ever, but perhaps they're up there, tied with a great many others. The same might be said of their overall quality.
The first visual test is checking to see if the meat has shrunk back from the bones, and, if so, how much. However, that can be deceptive. Actually the first serious, tactile test you should try is wiggling the bones in their sockets. If they don't wiggle at all, the slab is far from cooked. If they wiggle very freely and feel as though you can pull them out without much resistance, the ribs are overdone and should be removed immediately. Don't even try the bend test, then -- or the slab will break and you'll have meat everywhere.
The Bottom Line.
There are a lot of ways to make great ribs. The styles which will work best for you depend partly on what you want, and partly on what equipment you're using to cook them.
Edited by boar_d_laze - 10/12/11 at 5:33pm