I visited Tony Roma’s recently, and they had good ribs, but despite the fact that I heard good things about them, I didn’t think they were the best I’d had. They weren’t as good as the ones I’d had at a place called Red, Hot and Blue, for instance. At that place I normally get the ‘dry’ style apparently emblematic in Memphis, but I find their wet ribs good as well (especially since the one time I tried it, it came with sweet potato fries, which struck me as a good idea). I do like to cook ribs at home, and although with slow cooking I haven’t had any trouble producing something I’m glad to eat, I’m always wondering what I could do to make it better.
So, I thought I’d put it to Le Dopant Droit.
The theory, as I understand it, is that around 80 degrees Celsius the fat renders and pours out of the meat. I’m not clear on what dissolves the tissues that make the meat tough, but the meat has to be brought to the temprature at which that occurs slowly so that it doesn’t simply burn, and somehow these tissues also melt away.
The two other issues seem to be the rub and the sauce.
Any seasonings can add to the flavor, of course, but I don’t know any theory behind designing a rub except that paprika and brown sugar seem to be favorite as main components, and after that recipies tend to call for garlic and onion powder as well as cayenne pepper.
Going by the Good Eats technique, if you use the pouch method, you can boil down the resulting liquid to make a pretty good sauce. Other than that, the only commercial barbecue sauce I’ve been impressed with is Sweet Baby Ray’s.
As far as method, given that I mostly cook in an oven and am not really enthusiastic about dealing with an outdoor grill, there seem to be two techniques – braising and basting. Wrapping up the ribs in foil seems pretty effective and doesn’t easily go wrong, but it tends to lead to moister ribs. But the basting method seems to lead to ribs with more flavorful surfaces, and the meat is tighter and less soppy.
There is also this issue in a lot of recipies of removing the layer of fat on the underside of the ribs, like in a nice rack of beef ribs. No clear guidelines are given as to how this is done, and it looks like it would be a pain in the ass, so I usually skip this step. It has not been my observation that this fat simply renders away. Am I doing something wrong?