Mmm, riiiibs… (I said that in Homer Simpson’s voice, by the way). I love them – always have, always will. As I’m sure you can imagine, Texas boasts quite an abundance of barbecue joints, so I was quite exposed to them growing up. Also, my mom makes them at home from time to time. Definitely a fave.
Ribs are the subject of such debates though. So many personal preferences out there. Baby back ribs or spare ribs? Smoked or oven-roasted? Dry or wet? Toothsome texture or falling off the bone? What are your personal preferences?
Matt has very strong opinions about ribs. He always wants dry rubbed, smoked, toothsome baby back ribs, preferably with a bit of spicy kick in the spice rub. I like mine dry rubbed then glazed, so you get a bit of lacquer going on; I definitely prefer smoked to oven roasted and I like mine to be a tad toothsome. I’ll say that right now I tend to favor baby backs, but I should also admit that I’m probably a bit biased because I rarely had spare ribs growing up. Every time I’ve had them I’ve loved them, but seeing as ribs are so fatty, I reserve them for splurge occasions and I don’t tend to make them all that frequently.
These ribs were spice crusted then glazed with a maple syrup concoction which made them pleasantly sticky and richly flavored. We both approved. Our method for cooking ribs has taken awhile to perfect, but it’s awesome. It will result in more toothsome ribs. They will not be fall-off-the-bone texture. But they are moist and tender and delicious. Everyone who has tried them has fallen in love. So try this method and see what you think – hopefully you’ll be smitten too. And when I say “our” method I really should say Matt’s method. He is so amazing at the grill, and he really came up with the specifics. I’ve detailed it in the directions below, down to the amount of charcoal and the exact timing.
Source: adapted from Ribs, Ribs, Outrageous Ribs by Steven Raichlen
2 tbs turbinado, or raw sugar
1 tbs dry mustard
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs black pepper
1 tbs ground or dried sage
2 racks of pork baby back ribs
1 cup maple syrup
3 tbs ketchup
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tbs prepared horseradish
½ turbinado, or raw sugar
1 ½ cups wood chips, soaked in water for 1 hour
To make the rub, combine the 2 tbs turbinado, dry mustard, salt, black pepper, and sage in a small bowl.
Prep the ribs by removing the thin, papery membrane from the back of them. Using needlenose pliers is honestly the best method for doing this. Pat the meat very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle the rub on both sides of both the racks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the glaze and prep the grill.
To make the glaze, combine the maple syrup, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar, and horseradish in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking to mix. Reduce the heat to medium and let the glaze simmer gently until thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Set the glaze aside.
Set up your grill for indirect grilling to low heat (about 25 briquettes). Place a handful of wood chips over the coals, and place a drip pan on one side (beside the coals). Brush the grill grate with oil. Place the ribs meat side up over the drip pan and away from the heat. The grill’s top vent should be about 50% open. Every 30 minutes, place on 7-8 more briquettes and another handful of wood chips.
The ribs will cook for a total of 2 to 2 ½ hours. You will know they are ready when the meat has pulled back about a quarter inch from the tips of the bones.
Liberally glaze the ribs with the maple glaze at 1 hour, 1 ½ hours and once again when you have determined they are done cooking.
When the ribs are done and glazed one last time, sprinkle them with the remaining ½ cup turbinado and place them over the hot coals to caramelize the sugars, about 3 minutes.
Remove to a large cutting board and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into individual ribs with a serrated knife and serve.