Outdoor Chefs: In Search of World-Class Ribs

Okay, I confess: My grilling/barbequeing talents suck.

When I prepare babyback ribs–usually using a charcoal Weber–I I keep it simple. I sprinkle some seasoning salt on the ribs, grill them for about 30 minutes, then slather on some Masterpiece original BBQ sauce during the last five minutes. That’s it. (When I’m using my propane grill, ditto.)

A friend recently suggested I boil the babyback ribs in beer first, then grill them.

I don’t have a smoker and do not want another backyard gadget. And, yes, I’m aware of all kinds of regional BBQ’s–Carolina, Memphis, Texas, etc.

Please give me ideas how to prepare OUTSTANDING babyback ribs.

Boiling in beer is good, but I think it sucks the goodness out of ribs. What I like to do is peel the membrane off the back (the bone side, give them a good dry rub on both sides (salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, habanero, and a few other spices) and then put them in a covered roasting pan with about half a cup of beer or wine, and put them in the oven at no more than 200 degrees for about two hours. Pull them out and toss them on the grill for about 30 minutes to get a bit of a crust going and some good smoke flavor, then sauce them up for the last 5 or 10 minutes if you don’t like dry rub only. Serious, falling off the bone good eating. You’ll have to be very carefull handling them because they can easily disintegrate on you. This also works wonders on pork and beef spareribs. Purists yell when you mention the word oven, but it can’t be beat if you don’t want to tend the grill for a couple hours.

Cooking low and slow, removing the membrane, and a good dry rub mixture are my keys to good ribs.

And for the love of Pete, man, throw away the seasoning salt!!! If nothing else, use some Old Bay on them. It makes for a tasty rub in it’s own right, if you don’t want to mess with making your own.

Also, if you continue with boiling methods, don’t use a rolling boil. Light simmering is easy on the meat. And forgot to mention above that instead of beer, try using a pack of Crab Boil. Very tasty.

For baby-back ribs, I tend to either braise them in the oven followed by broiling, or just a few minutes on a very hot grill. I just don’t think that they have the fat and collagen that long, slow barbequeing brings out. I refer, of course, to true barbecue, which is long, slow cooking over wood and charcoal. Not grilling, which is dry, short heat over charcoal and slathered with “barbecue sauce”.
There’s a difference, as I’m sure Fenris will be in along to attest.

If I do ribs outside, they’ll generally be in a smoker, and they’ll be the full side. I recently tried Alton Brown’s baby-back recipe, and was very pleased.


A little different, but tasty nonetheless.

As it happens, I’m preparing ribs for tomorrow’s family reunion. Here’s what I did, and I’ll let you know how well it succeeded.

First, I made a Jack Daniels barbecue sauce this morning. Got the recipe from a website (although not JD’s website, curiously).

Then, I cut the ribs into 3 - 4 bone sections, for ease in cooking and distributing. I simmered them for 40 minutes in water that contained one and a half onions, cut in quarters (the remaining half onion is in the sauce), some minced garlic, two bay leaves, salt, pepper, dried basil, oregano and parsley. I didn’t measure anything, but I have to say that while it was simmering, it smelled so good, I wanted to drink the water.

They are now marinating in the barbecue sauce and will be cooked over a relatively small to medium sized bed of coals – not too hot. As they are, effectively cooked already, this will serve to char the sauce and re-heat the meat.

See, the boiling thing is something that I’ve never really understood. If you want to make stock, you throw meaty bones and aromatics in water, right? Ever tasted the bones that remain? All the flavor’s gone into the liquid. I figure, if you want the flavor to stay in the meat, then leave it in the meat. This is why I like braising in foil packets with a minimal amount of liquid, followed by a broil or trip to the grill. Keeps the meat moist, and the flavor where it belongs.

Boiling sausages and simmering whole chickens in beer before they go to the grill, now that I understand. Boiling pork ribs just leaches out the sweet porky flavor that I like.

Just as an aside, I agree with False God, especially about Alton Brown’s ribs. MMmm-mmmm good!