Cooking Ribs

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?


So, are you asking a question or writing a dissertation on the art and science of cooking ribs? :confused:

My advice (with a caveat that I’ve not prepared ribs myself) is to check out the books by Steven Raichlen as he’s got a number of different ways to prepare ribs in several of his cookbooks, and if they’re as tasty as the other recipes, then you’ll find something you love (he’s also got all kinds of important cooking tips and instructions as well in his books). You can see some sample recipes on his website, along with tips, and, if you’re really gung ho, you can sign up for his “bootcamp” and learn from a professional.

This could turn from a post into a book or two.
Ribs, are we taking beef or pork? Spares or baby backs?
In general:
ribs have connective tissue that makes them tough. proper cooking breaks down that connective tissue and makes them tender.
You are correct that Tony Romas isn’t that good.
Rubs add flavor.
Brown sugar is a major compenent in many rubs. So is paprika. But not in every rub.

speaking about baby back or spares (St. Louis cut is my preference) here is what I do.
I may brine them for a short period of time (1-2 hours)
I apply a rub (whatever strikes a fancy this week, I use many different ones)
I put them on the grill direct at a very low temp (200-250F)
Turn every 30-45 minutes
after 3 hours I put the racks into tightly wrapped foil, and return them to the BBQ
After 1 hour in foil, back on the grill direct.
add sauce (if you wish, I usually don’t)
Turn every few minutes until ready to go. (about another 30-60 minutes)
Eat, enjoy.

Ribs will be done when the meat has pulled back from the bones by about 1/2-3/4" When properly done, a simple twist of the wrist will remove the bone clean from the meat.
If you want more feel free to e mail me, addy is in my profile.

I take lots of shortcuts. In the morning before I go to work, I put the ribs in my crockpot (before I put them in the refrigerator the night before, I put a rub on the ribs), and cook them on low for 10+ hours till I get home. Then, I put the ribs on a baking sheet and crank the oven temperature to about 350° and baste them every ten minutes (for about 30 minutes total) with a commercial BBQ sauce that is smoky, sweet and not too spicy. I load up my plate with lip smacking, fall off the bone ribs and coleslaw that, along with a cold beer, prove to me that God loves me and wants me to be happy. By the way, if you line the baking sheet with a silicone mat, the clean up is a lot easier.

Holy Crap! That’s a long time to grill ribs. Wow. I guess I’m too impatient to spend a day cooking something on the grill.

Sounds yummy though!

Aaah, but when you’ve tasted something prepared that way, you realize that it was more than worth the wait.

I find that my (pork/spare) ribs are done after a mere 2 or 2 1/2 hours on a 200-250 grill. I use a dry rub and let them sit in it for at least six hours beforehand.

If you’re in more of a hurry than that, try James Beard’s fave rib recipe – salt and pepper heavily, then stick in a 400 oven for an hour, turning halfway through. This makes a delightful rack, and you really taste the pork.

Generally I cook for 4 hours at 225, basting periodically if I’m heating them directly, or just leaving them be if I’ve got them wrapped in foil. I’m thinking that finishing them off at 350 for half an hour, like medstar is suggesting could get me closer to the kind of texture I’m looking for.

I have found that I like the Memphis-style dry rub, which can be used in lieu of sauce, but It seems almost superfluous to use it as a rub. I mean, it’s nice that it’s nearly impossible to overdo it, but it seems like I could be using a different rub and then seasoning with the Memphis rub afterward.

But what to put in a rub? Brown sugar seems to be favored. Garlic and onion powder also seem pretty universal. Then there’s Cayenne pepper. What else would be really scrummy?

Here’s a link to the dry rub I use

Rustic Rub