Monday, February 19, 2018

Ribs Glorious Ribs!

Pork ribs are the kind of thing that brings out opinions in everybody who makes them, and eats them--especially if they don't know anything about what went into them. Some people like them falling off the bone. Some like them to have a little tooth--the need to work for the meat a little more. Some pre boil or cook them in an oven, then finish them on a grill. Some go low and slow for a loooooong time. Some go for rubs, some brine, some marinate. Some spritz every hour with water or apple juice. Some want a vinegary finish. Some want a sauce glaze finish. Here's what I'm getting too--everybody brings their own expectations to the table when it comes to ribs, and in the end it mostly doesn't matter--ribs are not hard to cook, and not easy to mess up, but undercooked ribs are never pleasant in my book.

I come from the school that puts a rub on the ribs a day in advance. My rib rub usually has brown sugar, kosher salt, hot pepper flakes, cayenne, Old Bay, and oregano. I don't want to overwhelm the natural sweetness of the meat, so no garlic or onion in this one. Also, I'm not as fond of the vinegar heavy spritzes--just not to my taste.

I start by drying my ribs and removing the silver skin from the back of the rack. Then I pour on a pile of rub and work it into the meat. Wrap the ribs tightly and put them back in the fridge for a day.

If I'm doing only one or two racks, I'll use a Weber kettle and cook the ribs indirectly. When I have 3 or more racks, I break out my UDS (Ugly Drum Smoker) made for me by a friend out of an old vegetable oil 55 gallon drum.

In the bottom of the drum, I've piled a number of things to give the coal some space off the bottom of the barrel. At the bottom, I have a square vented grill basket with about 1-1/2 inch sloped walls and foil in the bottom to catch the ash. On top of that is a cast iron grate, and the weber charcoal baskets are on top of that. When I first started using the barrel, I just poured charcoal onto the floor of the barrel, but I couldn't get good sustained even heat until I lifted the charcoal out of its ash.

Pour a layer of unlit coal in the bottom of the charcoal baskets, then dump a canister of lit coal on top.

Place your smoking wood on top of the coal. This barrel can accomodate hanging the meat or placing the meat on a grill suspended on two bolts and the BBQ thermometer protruding into the barrel.

In this case, I'm using a grill and rib rack.

This is 6 slabs of ribs--4 St. Louis cut and 2 full slabs. Every hour I come out and spritz the meat with water and move the ribs around so they cook evenly. This cook has the ribs on for about 4 hours at about 250-275 degrees.

After 4 hours I wrap the ribs in foil and set them on grill (or oven) for another hours. I feel that an hour in foil finishes cooking the ribs to my desired tenderness--not completely falling off the bone, but not making me work for it either. It's a Goldilocks thing I guess.

After unwrapping, the bones are protruding some, but not completely. Cut up the ribs and serve. I serve them with my sauce warmed on the side for those that like to dip, but they are just as good on their own.


  1. Wow, I’m getting hungry just reading this. Looks great!

  2. Thank you Harley--Join me for a rack sometime!