BARBEQUE BABY BACK RIBS
You’ve got something on your face: I’ve always been a big fan of Baby Back Ribs. Give me a big pile of moist, fall off the bone Baby Backs. I like a little heat on my bones too, so, for side dishes I like something cold like coleslaw or potato salad. Add a pile of good baked beans and a fresh ear of sweet corn and I’m a happy man. I don’t order them out that often unless I’m at a strictly Barbeque joint. Ribs are just too messy and I’m too messy when I eat them. I may take another bite before I wipe the sauce off my face and frighten the people in the next booth. To avoid that scene, I make my ribs at home.
The bone pile: I’ve cooked ribs a lot of different ways. I used to boil them first, and then put them on the grill. I’ve tried cooking them entirely on the grill, right out of the package. I’ve tried cooking ribs with just dry rub. I’ve tried cooking ribs with just wet sauce. I’ve tried soaking them in oil and vinegar. After trial and error I landed on my favorite method.
That’s a nice trophy: I was showing a home to a buyer friend of mine and the seller happened to be home. In his back yard was a large brick oven. The seller had some interesting awards and trophies in the house. We struck up a conversation about the oven (my client happened to be a chef) and eventually got around to talking about food. Soon, the conversations moved to the seller’s awards, and, guess what? The seller was a rib and chili “cook off” champion. He then proceeded to share a few of his “secrets”. Hs best, “Cook your ribs at a low enough temperature so you never render the fat”. That’s how he cooked his and how I like to do mine.
Belt and suspenders: I like to put a dry rub on my ribs before I put them in the oven. I think it deepens the flavor of the meat. Many commercial rubs have too much salt so I like to make my own. It’s very easy to do and almost anything can go in your rub. The rub can be put on the ribs the night before (and then refrigerated) or just a few minutes before cooking. The longer the rub is on the meat the deeper the flavor. The wet sauce goes on the ribs when they hit the grill, and only
near the end. If the sauce goes on too soon the sugar in the sauce tends to burn. Hold on, put on an old shirt because we’re about to make a mess.
BBQ Baby Backs
For the rub
- 1 cup of light brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons Ancho Chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon of Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1 Tablespoon of fresh ground Black Pepper
For the sauce
- 2 cups of BBQ sauce
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Ancho Chili powder
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 – 12oz. can beer
For the ribs
- 3 or 4 racks of Pork back ribs (Baby Back) 3-4 lbs each.
Peel the inside membrane from the ribs using a dull knife to start. I find it easier to begin from the narrow end and work my way down the rack. Rinse the racks under cold water. Cut the racks in ½. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Mix the dry rub ingredients in a bowl. With bare hands, rub the ribs until all the mixture is used and the surfaces of the ribs are kinda gooey (from the brown sugar). Your hands will be a bit orange from the chili powder and paprika. Put the ribs in a roasting pan with a rack and separate if possible. Cover tightly with foil. Put in a preheated 300F oven. After 30 minutes in the oven turn the temperature down to 240F. Oven temps vary, but between 225F and 250F is optimal. Cook covered for 20 minutes per pound of ribs so plan on 3-4 hours. Remove from oven and take off the foil. Let the ribs cool.
In a saucepan combine the BBQ sauce, vinegar, spices and beer. Whisk and simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. At this time taste the sauce for heat, spices, and vinegar. Add more BBQ sauce if too vinegary, more beer if too thick, cayenne for more heat, etc. I like the sauce to be fairly thin in viscosity. Put the ribs on the grill over low heat, bone side down. When the meat starts to drip fat, turn the ribs over. Repeat until the ribs start to get browned, always grilling on low. At this time, start to apply the wet sauce. Turn when the sugar starts to caramelize on the ribs. Apply sauce and turn. When the ribs are evenly caramelized, remove. Serve the ½ racks or cut the ribs individually. Reserve some sauce for the table.
Tips: There are some very good commercial sauces on the market. Many “designer” and “organic” sauces that will set you back a pretty penny. The ones I like best tend to be the end product of the sauce I doctor. So I buy sauce that isn’t overly expensive but know it has the base ingredients I like. I prefer the tomato based sauces versus the mustard based sauces. I look for sauces that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup but sugar instead. From that ingredient forward most sauces are basically the same. Tomato puree, sugar, spices, vinegar and some sort of preservative. From that base I look to make a sauce that is not too sweet and not too sticky. If you like the flavor of a base sauce (and read the ingredient list) add those simple ingredients to make it better. Some rib cooks add granulated garlic and onion powder to their rubs. If you like that flavor, give it a try.