If you think barbequing ribs is hard, read this article. I have eaten barbeque in half of the 50 United States and I've been cooking it for over 20 years. My grandmother first introduced me to barbequing when I was just a kid. Some people call cooking meat on a grill "barbequing", some call it "smoking" meat, and some people just call it "grilling" meat. Believe it or not, these terms are not really interchangeable. They are all different methods of preparing what is generally known as "barbeque" and cooking GOOD barbeque is NOT easy.
I could eat barbequed beef, pork, fish, or chicken every day. Good barbeque is among the best food on earth but my absolute favorite, bar none, is barbequed pork ribs. The smoky flavorful rib is untouchable when it's prepared correctly but really getting ribs correct can be easier said than done. It takes not only knowledge, but patience to get good barbequed ribs. Many people pull out the grill, throw some meat on it, slop sauce all over it, and call it barbeque. HA! Surely you jest!
Barbeque Ribs: The Basics
You probably need to get some practice before you really attempt to barbeque some ribs. Because of their relatively small amount of meat, they are very easy to mess up. It's probably best to start off with a bigger cut like a pork shoulder or Boston Butt. They are a lot harder to burn and dry out and good choice to learn the fine art of seasoning. Yes, ribs can be difficult, especially if you try to rush them, but there is NOTHING better to eat. The pork spare rib, not the babyback, is my rib of choice. It's the first thing that people ask for when they ask for barbeque. There are a few ways to screw up ribs and I'll describe a few of them before you go getting any bright ideas about how you're going to prepare your own.
This is the number 1 rib sin. I have known people to be arrested by the police and incarcerated for boiling ribs. In fact, some say that the reason the economy is so bad today is because members of Congress were boiling ribs in the White House.
Using an open flame to cook ribs is not barbequing, it's cooking. Many restaurants offer their "baby backs" prepared like this. Flame broiled ribs are kind of like crack cocaine: You may think you like it, but you really do not and it will absolutely kill you.
I have eaten rocks prepared in the oven but only because it was a choice between that and boiled squid. Anyone who tells you that they can get ribs from the oven that taste as good as ribs off a grill is either lying, crazy, or both. Ribs are prepared on a grill. Cake is prepared in an oven.
Barbeque Rib Recipe # 1:
If you did not already know, barbeque is regional. It is different here in the South, than it is in Chicago or Memphis or New York. In the South, we prefer a dry rub on our ribs. Other parts of the country prefer them "wet" (more on that later). The main ingredient in just about any dry rub is paprika. Below is an easy dry rub for you to try. Some people do not care for a "spicy hot" barbeque so you can scale back the pepper or add some brown sugar to mellow it out.
1/2 cup of paprika
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of garlic salt
1 teaspoon of dry yellow mustard
1 tablespoon of cumin You can also add some brown sugar if you want to mellow out the cayenne and black pepper.
Mix your dry ingredients in a bowl. Do not be afraid to taste your mixture. If it tastes bad on your finger, it'll taste bad on your ribs.
The first thing you'll want to do is rinse your rack (ribs) in cool water. If you're making spare ribs, there may be a boneless cut of meat on the underside of the rack. I usually trim that off and cook it separately. It cooks faster and makes for great samples or goes well in your baked beans. You'll also want to trim any excess fat off the ribs. Next, massage your rub into the ribs; do not be shy, get in there and rub 'em down good with the dry rub on both sides until you've got a good, thick coating. Next, wrap the slab up in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight. Good barbeque is a two day process.
Slow cook your ribs away from the direct heat on your grill. Start them with the meat side up. A good cooking time is about 6 hours at about 180-200 degrees. Unless you have a "rib rack" in your grill, you'll need to flip them about three quarters of the way through. You'll know when they're done when the meat starts to shrink and pull away from the bone. To keep them from drying out, mist them with a mixture of half apple juice and water once or twice while they cook.