It's here...our step-by-step barbecue ribs recipe for your sure-fire path to backyard barbecue fame by following this recipe, and our "6 Secrets to Smoking Meat"
We believe that... "Barbecue is the Mystical Communion of Fire, Smoke and Meat"
We barbecue on a charcoal grill using the indirect cooking method. This means that the ribs are placed next to, rather than directly over, the fire. The heat is kept low, and the ribs cooked slowly. Patience pays big dividends! All to attain that incredible smoke flavor, with the moist, cooked to perfection result that alludes so many!
Patience Low and slow is the real secret to traditional barbecue ribs. We're talking low heat (180 - 250 F/80 - 121C) for an extended cooking period. This is not the fastest method, but the "bestest"! You'll need a full bucket of this virtue when cooking ribs on a charcoal grill. Figure about 1.5 hours/pound.
Meat Try to buy fresh! If the frozen (or "previously frozen") vacuum packed "slab-o-ribs" is all that is available, it will do fine as long as they are not "enhanced" with water, salt, flavorings and goodness knows what else.
Spices Use the best spices you can get.
Charcoal grill Grill must be large enough to have the coals placed to one side, and at least a slab of ribs on the opposite side. The kettle type, or horizontal barrel style, work great. Our favorite comes from Weber because it is easy to use, produces exceptional results, and is extremely sturdy. We love the American classic Weber 22 1/2-Inch One-Touch Silver Kettle Grill for its unbeatable versatility.
Charcoal/charcoal briquettes There are advantages to both fuels, however just one maxim applies to both...buy the best you can find. Kingsford brand briquettes top the list for quality, and availability. But please don't buy the "instant light" of any brand! Real charcoal (for you purists) can be difficult to find, and rather expensive, however...
We have found a great resource, reasonably priced, from Milazzo Industries. Their 20LBS of Lump Charcoal is a bargain.
Metal pan Filled with at least 1/2" of water, placed under the cooking rack below the ribs, and used to control the inevitable flare-ups, distribute the heat more evenly and provide some moisture.
Chimney-type charcoal starter Not mandatory, but sure makes starting and maintaining the coals much easier. Our favorite top performer is the Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter. Lot of chimney starters out there, but this is the champ.
Mop tool For the barbecue ribs basting sauce (mop). Yep, a mop...just a miniature version (12-18" long) of a string-mop you might have for cleaning the kitchen! For ease of cleaning and long reach, we prefer this Sauce Mop, with a Removable Head. More on this subject in the "Prepare a Mop?" section, below.
Oven/Grill thermometer This tool is the only way you will really know what's going on inside the grill! For exceptional accuracy, we trust the Taylor Classic Oven Thermometer, and the Taylor Connoisseur Oven Thermometer.
Instant-read thermometer This is pork! Be safe and ensure the meat has reached the ideal temperature of 205 F (93 C). This will assure you get those tender, luscious barbecue ribs you pay a whole bunch for at the local "rib joint"! Our "hands down" choice for speed of read, accuracy and price is the CDN Proaccurate Stainless Digital Thermometer. The only instant-read thermometer that that we know to be faster, and another choice of professionals (albeit rather expensive), is the Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen - Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
Tongs You need a darn good pair of tongs to handle those ribs. Long and strong is the secret, so we suggest the professional type Lodge Camp Dutch Oven 16-Inch Stainless Steel Tongs, or the Oxo Good Grips 16-Inch Locking Tongs.
Rib Rack This tool is the answer to cooking ribs with limited grill space! You need one that is strong enough to hold the ribs upright, and regardless of price, few do. We found one that fits the bill with Steven Raichlen's Ultimate Rib Rack. A little pricey, but it works!
Spare Ribs, Country Style or Baby Back Ribs? It's your choice! It's all good but...we prefer traditional spare ribs barbecue ribs on a charcoal grill, especially St. Louis Style. This recipe is our way to barbecue this American classic. What's the difference...?
Well, Country Style and Back Ribs (Baby Back or Canadian Back) are both pork loin back cuts. See the word loin? Yep, it's loin and not rib meat! We love that rib meat, so for us it will be...
Spare Ribs, St. Louis Style, with the brisket bones and backbone removed. If the intact (whole) spare rib slabs are all that is available, have the meat cutter remove the brisket bones and backbone for "best bet" ribs.
We think that the best spare ribs are less than 3 lbs.(1.4kg) (with at least an 11 rib count) but if you get some that weigh more, no worries, you'll just have to increase the cooking time. We cook and love it all!
NOTE: Ribs should be always kept in the refrigerator (approx. 40 F/4.4 C) before preparation.
The ribs are first "rubbed" with a simple, dry, spice-accented rub recipe. All for that unforgettable tender, perfectly seasoned, eating experience!
Now, for some great barbecue ribs, let's start with this truly classic rub that will impart all of the flavors your drooling chops are hankerin' for.Do not let the simplicity of this basic rub fool you. It works great, and you can adjust the recipe (as the "pros" do) to make it "yours". Check out our Barbecue Rub Secrets page for more on this.
Mix together thoroughly the following:
This recipe is enough for 3 to 4 racks of ribs and can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 months.
Do barbecue ribs need a mop?A long time favorite with many experienced rib cookers (and we've learned to love it) is to frequently apply a mop (baste sauce), during the cooking cycle, to flavor and keep the meat moist. Mops are usually a watery mixture of vinegar, water and spices applied with a basting "mop".
Notice the spices in the basting sauce are similar to the rub? You want to compliment the flavors of your rub and it is OK to use just the basic spices of the rub (with vinegar and water). Experiment and have fun!
Here is a simple favorite:
Mix well in a bowl, to be applied with a mop tool or...you can use just the water, vinegar and oil, in a spray bottle. Many folks use just apple juice! If using the mop tool, stir each time before mopping. Never save mop sauce left in the bowl (it is tainted with the meat's raw juices). Otherwise the sauce will last a long time in the refrigerator.
If you wish, to maximize the flavor, apply the rub a few hours (up to a day) before cooking time. Just wrap the ribs in plastic-wrap, or a covered glass/plastic container, and put them into the refrigerator.
NOTE: Please, do not use charcoal lighter fluid. There are several good "fire-starters" on the market that will not taint the meat, or impart potentially dangerous chemicals to the food.
...warm, cut individually and for the Cookin' Cousins" taste, eat 'em just as they are, but... Many folks like a "finishing sauce". This is nothing more than a barbecue sauce, of your choice, served as a side dish (or two), for the folks who would like to put something more on their ribs. Lets eat!