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.
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.