Pork ribs are purchased in SLABS, consisting of about 15 bones in each
slab. A RACK is a SLAB cut in half (6-8 bones). Ribs come in four
categories, defined by the location on the hogs rib cage they are cut from:
COUNTRY STYLE...these are more like pork chops and not considered a true
rib...pork chop shaped bone. At opposite end of loin backs. Sold in pieces.
LOIN BACK....this is the cut closest to the spine..where the tenderloin is
located.. Short and very curved bones. Sold in slabs or half-slabs (racks)
and usually weigh 2 and down (1.75 - 2 pounds a slab). (The BABY BACK is
simply a loin back off a baby hog..or hog under 85# when dressed Babyback
slabs usually weigh 1 3/4 and down. Sold in slabs, it is a Gourmet cut of
SPARE....more of the middle and lower section of the ribcage. Spares have
flat oval bones. Largest of the rib categories..and usually have an extra
piece of meat on the underside of the rib, called the Brisket, or tip,
which is trimmed off prior to cooking. Usually weighs 3 and down. For
BBQ'ing, spares are trimmed somewhat similar the shape of the State of
Tennessee..flat on left, angled on right..and straight even on top and
bottom, with brisket removed (and cooked separate, if desired, known as the
ST. LOUIS CUT...this is a cut of ribs that is the border area between the
loin and the spare...in essence..it is a flat oval shaped bone slab,
similar to the spare, but from the top it looks like a loin back. Great for
outdoor BBQ'ing for friends, and a must for Texas Style competitions.
Which is best to cook? Well...I guess it depends on how much room you have
on your grill, and what is the occasion. Spares are for feeding the
masses..and the loin backs are better for small dinners or picnics, on
smaller grills. Figure on providing a full slab for heavy eaters and a rack
for normal appetites.
The best place to buy Loin back Ribs now in small quantities is Sam's Club.
They come 3 slabs to the cryrovac package. I know lots of professional BBQ
cookers who get their championship ribs from Sam's.
You should never pay more than: $6-7 a slab for loins, $6 for spares, and
$6-7 a slab for St. Louis.
The two most critical points of cooking any type of BBQ is....time and
temperature....both low and slow! This is how I prepare Ribs for
I choose Loin back's 2 and down...and keep them iced down (not Frozen)
before time to cook. While I start my fire and get the grill up to a warm
temp. of about 180 F, I take the ribs out and set them on a table to come
close room temp. (as you should with ALL meats you grill or BBQ).
I take a slab and remove the back membrane by twisting and bending the slab
like an accordion, and then placing the slab on a flat surface and running
a small Phillips head screwdriver down a bone in the MIDDLE of the slab,
CAREFULLY separating the bone from the membrane (also known as the tallow).
Working the blade of the screwdriver slowly sideways on one end of the
slab, until a space big enough for my index finger to enter the pocket
created between the bone and the membrane. I then CAREFULLY work to the
opposite end of the slab..until two, then three fingers are to the other
side....then I lift STRAIGHT UP AND AWAY FROM THE middle of the slab...this
pulls the membrane away from the middle of the slab and slowly releases
from the slab...until it is joined only at the tips....just lift this
membrane off and discard it. REMEMBER to take your time for the first
one..and it gets easier to do as you go along. Just work the membrane off
slowly and try to remove it as one piece, if some of it tears and stays on
the slab, don't worry..just leave it. You do not have to do this part..but
it is worth the effort! REMOVE MEMBRANES ON LOIN BACK'S ONLY!!! Spares are
darned near impossible to totally remove!
Next..I trim the two end bones off each tip...leaving a 12 bone slab. I do
this because it looks better, cooks better, and sometimes there are bone
fragments in the tips, no fun for judges to bite into!
Then...while the fire is still heating, I squirt some Italian Dressing on
both sides of the ribs. This adds a unique flavor and gives the dry rub
something to stick to while the ribs are smoking. I then sprinkle a dry rub
on both sides of the slab. Try OLD BAY seasoning, found in the seafood
section of Kroger by the meat case. All that Rendezvous Seasoning utilizes
is Old bay with some cracked white peppercorns!! You can make you own dry
rub from scratch, make it spicy or mild. This is the fun part of ribs..the
experimentation with the rub. You don't have to rub the spice,
just sprinkle over the top, bottom (if you get the membranes off) ends and
sides of the slab. A good rule of thumb is to make sure there is no
unspiced red meat exposed anywhere! WARNING: Stay away from large amounts
of salt in your rub, it draws moisture out of this delicate cut of meat,
and will dry it out! SUGAR in the rub will caramelize during cooking and
will blacken your ribs unnecessarily. Leave the rub on about 10 minutes
before putting the slabs on the grill.
NEVER put the ribs on the cooker meat side down, always put the slab BONE
SIDE to the fire, You should rotate your slabs if the fire is hotter on one
side of the grill than the other...or rotate the slabs 180 degrees, but
don't move them from their starting spots, etc. Point is, don't expose
meats to a hot spot on the grill for very long, but keep them rotated, so
that all the pieces get some of the hot spot!
If you are cooking on a gas grill, it is imperative you do the following:
Cook at as low a temp. as you can without your burner flaming out. Cook as
far away from the flame as you can, if a double burner, put meat over the
unlit side, for example. AVOID FLAIRUPS!! Remember..time and temperatureYou MUST introduce smoke to the meat, or it will not be BBQ. Period. Use
some hardwood pellets or moistened Chips of hickory or mesquite combo
applied to your lava rocks. Oak is fine. NEVER USE RESINOUS WOOD, such as
cedar or pine..the resin can impart toxins to the meat and make everyone
sick. Smoke flavor is imparted to meats only within the first 2 hours and
at below temps of 200F. Excessive smoking can only serve to blacken the
meat, or overpower the flavor with smoke. After two hours the meat 'seals'
and nothing else can penetrate the meat...that is why the low temps are so
critical to imparting the BBQ spices and smoke deeper into the meat early
on in the process.
If you can not impart smoke to the meat, there is one other
alternative...marinate the ribs in large ziplock freezer bags with each two
slabs getting one cup of Worcestershire Sauce, one half cup of Wicker's
marinade, and one tablespoon of Liquid Smoke, which is a product found in
the same section as the Wicker's. Marinade overnight..or for at least 8
hours before applying dry rub. It gives a false flavor, but it is better
than no smoke flavor at all.
It should take about 6 hours at 200 degrees (get an oven thermometer and
place it on the grill close to the meat...this is the thermometer to pay
attention to!), or 5 hours at 225, or 4 hours at 250. NEVER COOK HIGHER
THAN 250F!! All you are doing at that temp. is grilling, and you cannot
successfully grill any cut of rib, except for Country Style Ribs.
Apply Smoke for first 2 hours. After one hour, baste ribs with anything!
Beer, wine, Wickers, Gramma's favorite pork baste, whatever...just don't
let the ribs tryout!
After two hours of smoking, wrap EACH SLAB in HEAVY DUTY aluminum foil. Be
careful not to punch holes in foil. This is the STEAMING process, which is
the secret part that makes the ribs so tender. To further tenderize the
meat, pour a 1/3 cup of marinade, or Citric liquid (OJ or pineapple juice
works best) into the foil over the meat, before carefully sealing the top
of the foil. Wrap tight BUT WATCH FOR HOLES IN THE FOIL. Double or triple
wrap, if necessary! That is why the extra heavy-duty foil is so important.
Cook in foil another 2 hours, at the lower temps and 1.5 hours if cooking
NOTE: at the end of the foil process, when you open the foil of one slab to
inspect, look for bones shining at you...this means they are steaming too
fast and remove from grill immediately! If there is still mostly meat over
the top of the slab, you are ok. After 1.5 to 2 hours in the foil, take one
slab off the grill and open the foil. Watch for hot steam! When you see
this small amount of BLACK LIQUID (rendered fat) at the bottom of the foil,
that is the signal to remove the slabs from the foil. This Black stuff is
the so called "pig taste" that good rib cooks replace with pure BBQ
flavoring. If you are not careful, the black liquid will literally be
reabsorbed into the meat, making them a little more 'porky' in flavor. I
sometimes stack my slabs on their side...like dominos to allow the Fat to
slow off the slabs into the bottom of the foil. Again, watch out for
pinholes in the foil!
At the appropriate time, remove the foil and place the slabs back on the
grill....this will finish the cooking and firm up the ribs if they have gotten too tender. About 30 minutes before serving...paintbrush on a
8 parts BBQ Sauce (Cattleman's, Kraft or your own recipe will do) 2 parts
honey some rub (to your taste)
NOT TOO MUCH if you prefer a dry rib...SWAB IT ON if you want a wet rib.
When the ribs are done, take off grill and let cool for about 10 minutes
(as again, you should do with ALL grilled foods) before serving. Just
before serving, lightly dust the slabs with your dry rub. Cut into 3 or 4
bone sections, and ENJOY! Make sure you have plenty of Moist Towlettes or
warm strips of cloth soaked in lemon juice, to fix up the sticky fingers.
Serve with French Bread or Texas Toast, BBQ Beans and Potato Salad, with
the sauce on the side for those who prefer.
Ribs can be frozen after cooking. Wrap in clear film or foil and place in
the freezer. Leave in foil off the grill if you plan on freezing and
cooking later. That required last hour of grilling/finishing will be
achieved in the warming oven at a later date.
To cook frozen ribs, remove from freezer and let thaw for two hours.
Wrapped foil, and put in an oven at 220 for 45 minutes, they are almost as
good as hot off the grill! Don't forget the sauce!
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