I know I said last year I was done with ribs. I know I should have read my blogs again to remind myself that me and ribs are not meant to be, but time heals all wounds and how quickly we forget.
This year I used a different technique hoping a avoid last year’s failure.
I bought 3 racks of St. Louis style ribs from Kroger’s. In hind sight I think I could have gotten away with 2 racks. We had baked beans, salad, and corn on the cob; never made it to the watermelon. Maybe we’ll turn the left overs into pulled pork via the slow cooker.
First, marinate the ribs in apple juice for 2 hours.
Next, I coated both sides in Gulden’s spicy brown mustard.
Next, I coated both sides in Nolan Ryan’s BBQ rub. It was spicy, but not too spicy.
Then, the ribs cooked on the grill – indirect heat of course – for 3 hours at between 200 and 300 degrees. (I think the unsteady temperature is the primary reason for my rib failures.)
Next, I bathed the ribs in sauce and wrapped them in aluminum foil. They went back on the grill for another 2 hours.
Finally, I took them off the grill and let them rest for nearly an hour. They weren’t fall off the bone, but they weren’t tough either. I still haven’t found my holy grail, my fountain of youth, my….Maybe next year. (Maybe next year I’ll wise-up and buy the cooked ribs.)
But seriously, temperature is the number one factor to affect tenderness. I think I need a good thermometer and I need to stabilize the temperature.
My wife wanted to try this recipe for oven baked spare ribs. Her recipe – or specifically her mom’s recipe – is very simple.
Start with ribs on a rack in a pan, and lay tin foil on top of the meat so it doesn’t burn (don’t wrap). Cook at 350° F for 4 hours.
Take the tin foil off, flip over (bones up), and bast with barbecue sauce. Cook for another 30 minutes.
Turn over (meat up) bast with barbecue sauce. Cook for another 30 minutes.
Repeat the turning process until ribs are tender.
This recipe was originally meant for baby back ribs and the result was semi-tough ribs – like all of our other tries. There has to be a secret recipe out there somewhere for fall-off-the-bone spare ribs.
I started by buying 9 lbs (2 slabs) of spare ribs from the butcher on Friday before Memorial Day. I had them trim the ribs “St. Louis style” which means they cut off the “knuckles” or the gristly rib tips on the edge opposite the “baby back” cut.
On Sunday, I started at 8 AM by trimming the flap of meat and fat off the meat side and removing the membrane on the bone side. I also cut each slabs in half. Then I spread on a thin layer of regular yellow mustard – the key ingredient to tangy St. Louis barbecue taste – and the rub. Then I put the ribs in the refrigerator at 9 AM to let them get happy for 3 hours. I planned on starting the low and slow cooking at 12 noon.
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground ginger powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons rosemary powder
I set up my grill with the left burner on low and a 13×10 drip pan on the right. I filled the pan with about 1/2 inch of apple juice, put the ribs in a rib stand, and put the rib stand into the pan. I added the rib stand this year because I thought the tilted grate method last year didn’t expose the ribs enough to the heat and moisture. This year I found the perfect sized pan, but the problem with the stand is that it’s too big to go into the pan the correct way – so that the ribs rest on the sides of the stand. So, I had to improvise and I put a strip of tin foil down the middle of the inverted stand and let the ribs drape over the strip.
The key is 225°F for five to six hours. Open the lid sparingly (get it spare ribs, sparingly). As Meathead says, if the lid is open, you aint cooking.
My grill isn’t the most consistent thing on the market and I admit I’m cheap when it comes to thermometers so I just use an oven thermometer. My grill will vary by as much as 50 degrees with less than a 1/4 inch turn of the dial. I have to check it every 1/2 hour to make sure it’s not too hot or too cool.
I cooked the ribs for a total of 5 hours. I flipped the ribs in the stand at 2 hours in and 4 hours. In hour 4 I added some locally made, but pre-cooked, sausage. At 5 PM I took a knife to the ribs to test the tenderness – they weren’t tender.
I took the ribs in and put them in a 350°F oven for 20 minutes. That didn’t help. They came out tough.
All that work and money up in smoke, literally. I give up. No more ribs from me.
On the flip side, the sausage was tough but good. The corn wasn’t quite what my wife was aiming for, but the pinto beans came out pretty good.
This is going to be a social media experiment. I want to share my experience as I cook ribs, and maybe get some feedback along the way. I’ll update this post along the way.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and I want to try a new rib rub, Meathead’s Memphis Dust Rub Recipe. I already made wet Memphis ribs back in February, but now it’s hot outside (95 F) and it’s a holiday weekend. Next to July 4th, I think Memorial Day is the best day to bbq. So, this time I’m going dry and rubbed; sauce will be on the table.
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 3/4 cup white sugar 1/2 cup paprika 1/4 cup kosher salt 1/4 cup garlic powder 2 tablespoons ground black pepper 2 tablespoons ground ginger powder 2 tablespoons onion powder 2 teaspoons rosemary powder
2 quarts apple juice
Now, what sides? On Friday, I asked my wife if she would make potato salad. She wanted to make a pasta salad recipe that she found online. I thought maybe a 3-bean salad or corn or baked beans would make a good side dish. That’s how our ‘chat’ online usually goes: we throw out a bunch of ideas and pick one. Well, this time we picked them all. Saturday we went to the store and bought beans for the salad, corn, pasta, fresh parsley, fresh rosemary and a bunch of other things to make all but the baked beans.
Oh yeah, I also bought a big disposable roasting pan. I suggest that you get a slab of ribs and put it in the pan to see if it fits. I made that mistake with the brisket last year. I also bought mesquite chips and a small disposable pan to put them in.
Saturday night while I was preparing the ribs, she was busy making 3-bean salad and pasta salad – from scratch! She was cutting herbs, cooking pasta and beans and bacon, mixing, tasting – hum. That was so time consuming and exhausting that the potato salad would have to wait until Sunday.
My rib rub was a little different from the Memphis Dust ingredients. First, I couldn’t find ginger powder or rosemary powder and I didn’t feel like making them myself. I added about 1 tablespoon ground cumin instead. Second, 1/2 cup paprika is a lot! I ran out at 1/4 cup so that’s all I used. The final rub was plenty spicy so I left out cayenne.
I sprinkled the rub on the meat side of the ribs, wrapped them up in plastic-wrap, and put them in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.
I have a three-burner gas grill so indirect cooking isn’t too hard. I just turn on the left burner and place the pan on the right side of the grill. It is important to let the grill heat up and stabilize between 220 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
I poured about 1 quart of apple juice into the roasting pan, placed it on the right side of the grill, and heated the grill until it stabilized at about 220 degrees.
As you can see from the picture, the pan was a little too big for grill and I had to shape it a little to get it to fit.
Every few hours I would check the apple juice level and added more mesquite chips. You don’t want to open the lid too much because it lowers temperature and lets out all of the smokey, steamy, apple goodness. I think it took about 5 hours for my ribs to finish cooking.
It was hot outside that day – at least 95 degrees. I tried to make a video, but I don’t like it too much.
All in all everything turned out pretty good. The ribs were tender, the potato salad was creamy, the bean salad was crisp, and the pasta salad was still good (after more ranch dressing).
As for the social media part, well, there wasn’t any. I guess I don’t have a big enough following because no one tweeted any suggestions. No one posted on my facebook wall how long to cook ribs or what temperature. And my video only got about 70 views in 1 year, and I was probably half of those.
As for take aways I’d say if you want social media interaction for anything you need keep a lot of people interested. You also need to put out the word well in advance. I made a good rub. I cooked the ribs for enough time to make them tender. Next time I either need a bigger grill or smaller ribs and pan.
In my defense I offer two arguments: 1) it has been about 8 months since I made brisket, 2) tomorrow is the Super Bowl and (2.5) we had good weather today. I wanted some ribs so I found a recipe from Marlboro of all places and decided what the heck.
There is something you need to know about BBQ: all barbecue is not the same. And for god’s sakes don’t slap some barbecue sauce made in New Jersey on a rack of ribs and call it barbecue. I didn’t learn about barbecue styles until I came to Texas, but apparently there are 4 styles in the US.
Memphis style comes wet or dry. The wet is mopped with a mustard and vinegar sauce while cooking. The dry is made with a rub and not mopped.
Carolina style is rubbed and mopped with a vinegar sauce. Variants range from North to South Carolina.
Kansas City style depends on the sauce. The rubbed meat is smoked and then served with sweet sauce at the table.
Texas is so big it has 4 regions of it own. From experience I can say Texas style is cooked with a rub and then a tomato-based sauce at the table – if you really need sauce. In fact they will probably call you a Yankee if you sauce your bbq; it’s all about the rub in Texas.
Well, I’m made wet and sloppy Memphis style ribs today. I rubbed them this morning and let them setup for 5 hours in the refrigerator. Then I made the mop sauce when I lit the gas grill. I setup the grill for indirect cooking as much as one can on a gas grill. For ribs its not really about the low and slow method. These ribs were supposed to cook within 2 hours.
1/4 cup paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp dark brown sugar firmly packed
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp celery salt
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
6 lbs pork ribs (I use two 3lbs racks of baby back ribs)
1/4 cup prepared mustard
1 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
The secret to tender ribs is to pull off the membrane on the back. Make a cut parallel with the ribs in the membrane and insert the knife under the membrane and gently pull it up. Then pull the rest of the membrane up with your fingers.
Combine the rub ingredients and rub about 2/3 on the ribs. Wrap in plastic-wrap and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
When you wait for the grill to come to 200° F, combine the mop ingredients and set aside.
Cook the ribs 1 hour meat-side up then mop the top and let cook for another 30 minutes. Flip them over and mop and let cook for 30 minutes. Continue mopping and cooking for 30 minutes until you run out of mop sauce or the ribs are done. Be sure to check the temperature. I try to keep mine at 200° F the whole time. It took my ribs about 2 1/2 hours to cook.
I served my ribs with baked potatoes and baked beans.
I wanted to chronicle my experience with cooking Brisket on July 4, 2009. First, a few words of prologue, Brisket (with a capital B) scares the hell out of me! That is why I’m writing this post – for future reference. I’ve heard horror stories about how easy it is to f-up brisket, and how it is such a tricky meat. Me and wife decided at the store, “what the heck,” it’s time to give it a go. And at $0.99/lbs for untrimmed brisket we couldn’t loose too much. It was $13.57 for 13.71 lbs untrimmed brisket (July 3, 2009, Kroger special price).
Prepare the meat
I used “Meathead’s” (seriously, that’s his nickname) Big Bad Beef Rub recipe with a few modifications:
3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons table salt
1/2 tablespoon cayenne
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 teaspoons mustard powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the top:
3 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
3 tablespoons table salt
Important Tip: Beef rub is different than pork rub. Pork loves sweetness, but beef does not.
I rubbed the first set of ingredients on the bottom, or meaty side. Then I rubbed the salt and pepper mixture on the top, or fatty side.
We’ll have the Little Penguin Merlot with dinner. The watermelon will be part of a red (watermelon/strawberries), white (RediWhip) and blue (dark cherries) on angel food cake dessert – yum.
After the rub down I wrapped it in plastic wrap and let it set up in the refrigerator overnight.
Prepare the grill
Important Tip: Get the temperature stabilized at about 225 F. It is crucial to keep the temperature low or else the proteins can seize up and squeeze out all the juices. This can happen fast on brisket, so monitor your temperature carefully. Brisket is a lot less forgiving than pork shoulder.
I figured it was going to take 10-12 hours to cook so I woke up at 8:30 AM and got right to work stabilizing the heat. But first, I had a problem. The brisket was too big for my drip pan. Note to self: buy two big, disposable pans when you buy brisket or ribs. So I did what any other quick thinking chef would do, I cut the brisket in half and put the “flat” half in the oven and the “point” half on the grill. The grill heated up to about 225 F on only one burner. I double checked the grill’s thermometer with my handy oven thermometer.
On a side note, the forecast was 101 F and no rain; another scorching day in Texas. I checked on the grill every couple of hours to make sure it stayed at 225 F and that there was liquid in the foil.
Cook the meat
Finally, it was time to cook, check liquid levels and temperature, and cook, and check, and repeat, for 10 hours. Needless to say, I had time to go buy a meat thermometer; actually my wife got a really nice one. It will come in handy especially when you hit the “stall.” That’s when the temperature stays around 140-160 F and takes hours to climb. At about 7 PM – the 10th hour – we were somewhere in the stall. The temperature was 170 F, and everything looked and smelled good.
Some time between 8:00 and 8:30 PM I took both halves off the heat, wrapped them in heavy-duty foil, pored half of bottle of beer in each half, and let them sit in the cooling grill. At 9:00 PM we all sat down to dine on a rather well cooked, dry brisket. It looked good on the outside. The meat near the fat was delicious and soft. My theory is that I should have mopped/basted/injected the meat during the latter part of the stall. I didn’t do that and it dried out.
We still enjoyed the meal. Put some sauce on the dry brisket and it tastes great. The corn was good, the baked potatoes where great, and the red, white, and blue dessert was an explosion of flavor.