Grilling ribs has been something I've always wanted to try and something I've always been intimidated to do. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was memories of my mom making spare ribs as a child, I seem to recall a lot of work, boiling, grilling, you name it. Maybe it was the fear of eating them (I don't even want to think about the Weight Watcher points involved) but whatever it was, I never made them ... until last Friday.
The Setting for Rib Night
Chris has been hankering for them too. At first, he had the bright idea for us to invite some friends over to join us in this culinary endeavor but I quickly talked him down from that (i.e., "What are you crazy?" and "Uh, no!" seemed to do the trick). But he wouldn't be detered from the overall pursuit of the ribs so we decided to visit Whole Foods on Thursday night, buy the best ribs money could buy (well, we think at least better than Shop Rite), and picked a recipe.
For our first attempt at ribs, we searched Epicurious.com (yeah, you can bet I searched Cooking Light - uh, not much in options there) and we came up with a classic, Memphis Style Ribs from the Barbecue Bible.
Hickory wood chips (soak these for about an hour before your ready to grill)
3 racks baby back pork ribs (about 7 pounds - we only had 1 1/2 racks)
1/4 cup sweet paprika (Chris grabbed the hot paprika - don't know if this is what made ours overly hot or if Chris mismeasured the cayenne but next time I'll do the measuring to see)
4 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2teaspoons celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
For the mop sauce (they say this is optional - we didn't use it)
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup yellow (ballpark) mustard
2 teaspoons salt
Grilling Method: Indirect Grilling (this means push the coals to the side and put the racks in the middle of the grill, so they're not over the coals - did I mention we use a charcoal grill?).
1. Prepare the ribs and rub: Remove the thin, papery skin from the back of each rack of ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers. Okay - we didn't get this step at all, and didn't do it but as we were eating it, we got what thin papery area they were talking about and will make sure we do it right next time.
2. Combine the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, celery salt, cayenne, garlic powder, dry mustard, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to mix. Rub two thirds of this mixture over the ribs on both sides, then transfer the ribs to a roasting pan. Cover and let cure, in the refrigerator, for 4 to 8 hours.
3. Prepare the mop sauce (if using): Mix together the cider vinegar, mustard, and salt in a bowl and set aside.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling and place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips in the smoker box and preheat the grill to high; when smoke appears, reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, preheat it to medium. Okay - we had some trouble figuring out what medium was on our hot grill. We looked around and figured it was about 350 on the thermometer on our charcoal grill.
5. When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss the wood chips on the coals. Brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the ribs on the hot grate over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke cook the ribs for 1 hour. Patience is a virtue, don't keep peaking. Actually, it surprises me that men came up with this form of grilling; it requires such patience, I'm thinking it had to be a woman.
6. When the ribs have cooked for an hour, uncover the grill and brush the ribs with the mop sauce (if using). Re-cover the grill and continue cooking the ribs until tender and almost done, 1/4 to 1/2 hour longer for baby back ribs. The ribs are done when the meat is very tender and has shrunk back from the ends of the bones. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 10 to 12 fresh coals to each side after 1 hour. Fifteen minutes before the ribs are done, season them with the remaining rub, sprinkling it on.
7. To serve, cut the racks in half or, for a plate-burying effect, just leave them whole. Chris served them on two slices of bread, a trick he learned in Missouri. It keeps the ribs from sliding on the plate when you slice them.
Gotta tell you these were some of the best ribs ever (though a bit too spicy). Chris said his favorite places for ribs now are the Montgomery Inn and our deck.