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tommy

Pork Ribs -- Baby Back and Spare

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i'm going to make baby back ribs for mother's day. i figure i'll do 'em on the (gas) grill.

i've read a few things about cooking ribs, all which seem to make sense.

1) low indirect heat

2) do not boil first

3) put in oven on low heat first to render some of the fat out

do any of you fine folks have any advice on how to make tender, juicy, falling off the bone baby back ribs?!?! thanks in advance.

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brine meaning water with equal parts of sugar, salt, and sarcasm?  or regular old brine with just water, sugar, and salt.  the distinction, obviously, is important here.

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Regular oold brine, dear tommy. Although I often add peppercorns and mustard seeds or mustard powder. :wink:

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over night?  

i am one of those people that thinks that brining doesn't do a whole lot.  but i've never brined.

any additional ideas on preparation in general? i was going to do the standard store-bought BBQ sauce.  i know there is probably a whole lot more i could do, and i wouldn't be averse to doing a few different preps.  maybe a dry rub for some?  maybe a homemade sauce concoction?

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Brining does work.  It is not a myth.  However, I have never brined ribs.  It is my understanding the brining primarily imparts flavor into the meat, not tenderness.  It is the internal fat in the meat that causes it to be tender.  If you cook it low and slow, the fat slowly renders and bastes the meat.  People who boil or bake their ribs first are doing so because they are going to place the ribs on direct heat just to sear on the barbeque sauce.  This is a terrible mistake, and in my opinion misses the whole point of cooking ribs.  Ribs must be cooked slowly with low indirect heat and lots of hardwood smoke.  Prior to cooking remove the membrane over the meat and coat well with a dry-rub.  If you like your ribs "wet" then use a mop soaked with your favorite sauce during the cooking period.  Good luck.

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Try making a brine from Old Bay Crab Boil sometime.

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I just smoked up some ribs last Thursday and they turned out pretty well. The most important thing you can do is brine them first and don't throw them in an oven.

I always brine my ribs for at least an hour before I smoke 'em. It's a simple brine of a cup of salt to a gallon of water. That's all you need. However I also add a bottle of Crytal's extra hot hot sauce, a cup of brown sugar and a cup of vinegar. Occasionally I'll also add a cup of lemon or lime juice too. I've fooled around with all sorts of brining like adding coffee and bourbon and a litany of herbs, but really all you need is salt and water. If you only have time for an hour brine, you might want to double up on the salt.

I don't have direct experience smoking ribs on a gas grill, but you'll want to get wood chips. Hickory or mesquite will work well. Long, slow and low lindirect heating is the way to go. My ribs are best after 4 hours and the temperature of the smoker stays around 150 to 175 degrees F but you can go as high as 200, just make sure to mop it at least every half hour to ensure they don't dry out.

When I first started out with ribs, I grilled 'em on the weber for about 45 minutes and they came out really tasty. If they were brined, they were juicy and bursting with flavor. They just weren't falling off the bone. Now that I have a smoker though they're almost as juicy, smokey and falling off the bone.

Here's a look at my ribs (and me). Mrs. Fat Guy took the picture. There are three racks of back ribs, one in the front left, one in the back left and one perpendicular in the middle. Man do I love ribs.

klinkq.jpg

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I can't cite the chemistry (maybe someone else here can), but brining definitely results in a moister, more tender meat. Something to do with the salt. I've done it with chicken and pork chops, never ribs.

Without a doubt, cook ribs "low and slow". Make sauce from scratch and serve it on the side. There's a zillion sauce combinations, undoubtedly available online. Making any of them amounts to little more than combining a long list of ingredients.

Better than store bought.

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herr klink is handsome and looks very much like i did 5 years ago.  very strange indeed.

thanks for the tips.

edit: "clink/klink", what's the difference.

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I don't serve my ribs with sauce, but I do use a "mop" that some would call a sauce. Basically it's a mustard, vinegar/hot sauce and olive oil sauce to keep everything nice and moist. Sometimes I'll through some brown sugar in for good measure, like the last time.

If y'all are interested, you can read about that bbq here (click me).

re edit: one's a man, the other is a prison. Of course that man did run a prison of sorts.

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Ah, the Colonel has checked in. There's yer man for this sort of thing.

Brining draws water from meat, making it more intensely flavourful, and also infuses flavour.

I highly recommend it.

tommy, are you making these ribs for your Mom?

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I've heard that BBQ sauce shouldn't be added until the end -- otherwise it will burn on the ribs.

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It depends on how much sugar is in the sauce and how hot the smoker is. If you're grilling or smoking at a high temperature (above 250 degrees F), then the sugar will burn and you'll be unhappy with the outcome. If you smoke at a lower temperature though you won't have any problems with it.

I've found that if you use tomato-based sauces, it dramatically hides the smoke flavors. At which point you end up asking yourself: "Why did I go through all of the trouble of smoking it then?" It's not that I don't like tomato-based sauces, but they're more suitable for grilling rather than smoking and to sub-par cuts of meat. Or occasions where you don't care about the taste of the meat. :biggrin:

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tommy, are you making these ribs for your Mom?

yes.

regarding brining drawing out water and intensifying flavor, i can't imagine that there will be much of a noticable difference with ribs once you put BBQ sauce on them.

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tommy, are you making these ribs for your Mom?

yes.

regarding brining drawing out water and intensifying flavor, i can't imagine that there will be much of a noticable difference with ribs once you put BBQ sauce on them.

That's sweet, tommy. :smile:

Barbecue sauce just sits on the surface of the meat. Brining gives flavour deeeep into the actual meat. In my opinion, worth doing.

If you're going to use a sauce, I'd get a bottled sauce and mix some minced shallots, Chinese oyster sauce, shoyu, and Dijon into it. I rarely use sauces, especially those I don't make, but I've done this and it was more than reasonably good.

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I have never brined baby backs, although I have no philosophical objection to doing so.

My smoker is designed like a Japanese kamado.  I put the ribs in a rib rack, thick end down to start, and put the rack directly over the coals.  They usually take 4 to 4.5 hours at a grill temp of 225-240.  Midway through I check them, and usually switch the slabs around and flip them end to end so they cook evenly.  The goal for me is NOT fall-off-the-bone.  I want the meat to pull away cleanly with a tug of the teeth, and still have some bite to it.  

I don't sauce, but I use a rub/paste from John Thorne's 'Serious Pig' that everyone loves:  it's posted here.

Among my barbeque buds these are informally known as Cat's Ribs, which makes them sound far less appetizing than they are.

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 The goal for me is NOT fall-off-the-bone.  I want the meat to pull away cleanly with a tug of the teeth, and still have some bite to it.  

I don't sauce, but I use a rub/paste from John Thorne's 'Serious Pig'

I have to agree with this, to me if the meat is literally falling off the bone it often has a disagreeable mushy texture.  I like my ribs "al dente."  Also, for long smoking I prefer spares to babybacks. I know that spares are generally fattier than babybacks, but with long smoking in excess of 4 hours this fat renders off, basting the meat while making them leaner.

I don't usually sauce the meat while smoking but have been turned on to a great finishing sauce that can be added at the end or served on the side:

South Carolina Mustard Barbecue Sauce

2/3   cup yellow prepared mustard

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

2 T chili powder

    (I use guajullo molido and ancho instead)

1 t black pepper

1 t white pepper

1/2 t cayenne pepper

(I add crushed red pepper and if I want it even hotter I use fresh ground pequins)

4 drops Tabasco

(I use Louisiana style hot sauce and lots of it instead)

1/2 t soy sauce

2 T butter

Combine all ingredients except the soy sauce and butter in a saucepan and simmer 10 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in soy sauce and butter.  May be used as a basting sauce for barbecue meat or as a condiment.

I also added the juice of 1 lime and spiced it up quite a bit.

Experiment and enjoy!

ribs.jpg

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WOW is all i can say.  i took the advice of some of these egulletters and made 4 different kinds of ribs.  

saturday night was a test run, with a marinade of garlic, and a bunch of other stuff.  i forget where i got the recipe, but if i find it, i'll post it.  i'm pretty sure i got it from egullet somewhere.  they didn't have much time to brine, but i cooked 'em slow and lo for a few hours.  turned out super.  the garlic sweetened up so much that it's hard to put into words.

on mother's day, i made 3 different types of ribs.

first was col klink's dry rub, which can be found on the pacific northwest board.  i'll copy it here as well:

1/2 cup dried garlic

2 tbsps cayenne pepper

1/4 cup paprika

1/4 cup sumac

3 tbsps turmeric

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried parsley

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup coarse ground pepper

i had and have no idea what sumac is, but my research tells me it is distinctive and sweet.  i didn't have any so i left it out.  this was the first dry rub i've ever worked with.  it was quite good, and my mother-in-law's favorite of the 3 (although, she thought it was a little too spicy, but hey, it's supposed to be!).

the second rack when on naked.  i used bottle BBQ sauce to appease the people who wanted the standard.

the 3rd rack was =mark's south carolina mustard bbq sauce (recipe above in this thread).  HELLO!?!?!?!!  this was incredible.  it would be foolish to doubt anything =mark has to say about cooking pork i would say.  it was a great sauce, and i'll be using it next weekend for about 30 people.  they will no doubt be pleased.  i marinated the ribs in it for a while, and kept brushing it on during the cooking process.

again, cooked 'em slo and lo.  probably took 2.5 hours or so on the grill.  i also brined these overnight, with salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, black peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a few sichuan peppercorns, just cause i wanted to use them.  the meat was certainly tender and tasty, although i didn't do a comparison to non-brined meat to determine if the brine actually did anything.  :wink:

thanks again to all.  nice job.  you made mom's day a bbq success!

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I can't cite the chemistry (maybe someone else here can), but brining definitely results in a moister, more tender meat. Something to do with the salt. I've done it with chicken and pork chops, never ribs.

Does it have something to do with the relative concentration of the salt inside the meat's cells vs. outside the cells? It seems to me that nature would want to equalize the salt concentration on either side of the cell wall, so during the brining process the cells draw in the brining solution (and the flavor) while kicking out some of the existing plain water inside the cell until the salt concentration is the same both inside and outside the cell. At least that's my theory (no, I haven't read McGee yet! Does he discuss brining?).

Now please excuse me as I continue licking the screen. *drool drool*. I ADORE bbq ribs.....

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Does it have something to do with the relative concentration of the salt inside the meat's cells vs. outside the cells? It seems to me that nature would want to equalize the salt concentration on either side of the cell wall, so during the brining process the cells draw in the brining solution (and the flavor) while kicking out some of the existing plain water inside the cell until the salt concentration is the same both inside and outside the cell. At least that's my theory (no, I haven't read McGee yet! Does he discuss brining?).

indeed it does.  equilibrium.  it also, from what i read, has to do with the fact that the process never actually stops.  that is, it doesn't ever really reach a static equilibrium, so the flow in and out of the meat continues on and on.  pretty neat.  alton brown, from the tv food network, has a good explanation of it.  

click me

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Tommy tell us more about equilibrium sometime.

And, it's ALL YOUR FAULT, but I too cooked baby back ribs on Mother's Day, for various and sundry mothers, and the males present, too.  It was 100 degrees, good rib weather--one hopes it's good for SOMEthing.  

Brined 'em, mopped 'em, as per CK's expert admonitions, slowly cooked 'em on the semi-poxy Weber, provided sauce (which I make, when I'm not looking, according to combining-various-canned-and-bottled-goods tradition).  Pretty good results, although inferior to the smoked product, texturally, in my opinion, although I know others who disagree.

Priscilla

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Last summer when my father-n-law visited, I made baby backs. I used a combo, oven braising (really almost steaming) and grilling with hickory wood chips. For the braising, I used soy sauce, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, onion, garlic and the zests of the fruit. Then, I rubbed the meat with a mixture of kosher salt, cracked black pepper, paprika, cayenne, ground coriander, and cumin. Next, I braised the ribs in a slow oven until tender, about 2 hrs. While the meat braised, I soaked my wood chips thoroughly.

When the ribs came out, and at this point they can be stored in the fridge if you like to plan ahead, I mopped them with a sauce made from pureed anchos, tomato sauce, molasses, citrus juices and zests. Grilled over smokey hickory chips for a taste of Sunny Florida!

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