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My Method for Barbecued Ribs

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 January 2010 at 16:45

My Method for Spare Ribs

Note - this basic method works well, but certain elements of execution have evolved over time within it. To get a well-rounded idea of producing great ribs, please read the entire thread, and feel free to add comments, opinions and of corse suggestions.

(This method is the result of my reading, testing, tweaking and fiddling - it took 3rd in the 2008 Chinook Annual Rib Cook-off - separated from 1st place by only 3 votes! It's a "method," which means that it's versatile; your ribs will be great this way, but please see the notes on suggestions for using this method to personalise the ribs to your tastes.)

Stuff needed –

  • Plain, Yellow Mustard
  • Your favourite home-made or commercial rib rub
  • Low-sodium soy sauce (Kikkoman is good, ponzu is recommended)
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Dark Brown Sugar

Before cooking:

·  IMPORTANT! If necessary, remove membrane from bone-side of ribs!

·  Brush with a light but thorough coating of mustard; if you don't like mustard, trust me and try it anyway - you won't be sorry with the results.

·  Apply rub generously.

·  Cover and let rub work in overnight in refrigerator.

·  Next morning, get smoker up to 230-250 degrees – sprinkle on a little more rub.

During cooking (250 degrees is a great average temperature):

·  About 90 minutes or so into the cooking, once the rub has "set," brush or spritz with mop (1/3 cup olive oil, 1 cup Dr. Pepper and 2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce – mix well with hand blender before each use) every 45 minutes to an hour or so, concurrent with your fire tending.

·  Turn and rotate ribs around on grates as necessary if using horizontal smoker (optional but not necessary w/vertical water smoker).

·  Keep a thin, almost-blue smoke, and resist the urge to peek at the ribs.

·  Cooking time can be anywhere from three to five hours depending on conditions; see notes below regarding some tips on improving smoke ring and bark formation.

·  When the ribs are about done and the meat pulls from bones a ways, they are ready for final stage.

Final Stage:

·  In the latter stages of the barbecue, mix together in a small saucepan the ingredients for finishing glaze (1/3 cup mustard, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/3 cup dark brown sugar) over low heat until completely dissolved and thoroughly blended. Cover and set aside to cool.

·  30 to 45 minutes before the ribs are to come off, brush with a thin layer of glaze (both sides); continue again every 15 minutes or so, until you are ready to remove them from the heat. Only 2 or 3 layers are necessary; keep the layers thin and let the glaze "set" between applications.

·  As soon as ribs are pulled off, brush with one final thin layer of glaze again (both sides).

BBQ sauce?

·  Ribs cooked this way shouldn’t need any, but it is always good to serve some on the side, for those who don’t know that! ;)

Here are a couple of pictures of the results using this method - the ribs themselves are a little thin, but the colour and over-all look is what I was trying to convey:
 

This in my mind is a really, REALLY good way to barbecue ribs, but I want to emphasise that it is not the ONLY way to make ribs. mMy suggestion is to do it just like this a couple of times, and then branch out a bit, spread the wings and try a variation here and there. For instance, a person can put a Florida-style kiss on this by using 7-up or Squirt (or a combination of both) in the mop, rather than Dr. Pepper, and perhaps pineapple juice in the glaze, rather than apple cider vinegar. Or maybe for an Asian twist, substitute teriyaki and orange juice in the mop rather than soy and Dr. pepper - or some sort of cherry flavor in the glaze. Develop a rub that you like, or add stuff to the mustard slather. Brush on a favorite store-bought or home-made sauce just before you serve them, if you want.

Start with this method as-written; then, feel free to tweak it a little. But then please, after that, think outside the box and share your experiences here!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2013 at 11:16
Tips for getting a great bark:
 
It has many names: bark, crust, and Mr. Brown - It's that dark, crusty-crunchy-savory crust that develops on good ribs as they cook. It's found on all barbecue, but can be particularly elusive on ribs.
  
Here are a few suggestions that can help. All suggestions are based on my experience with my well-modified offset smoker (first Brinkmann, then Char-Broil - they are identical), using charcoal or wood as fuel:
Your pit and fuel may require slight adjustments.

Sugar in the rub is a given, but too much will toss the flavour out of balance and also could lead to carbonisation; if that happens, the ribs will look bad, but still taste fine - however, if presentation is important, this is something to keep in mind. Turbinado sugar (also known as sugar in the raw) is better than brown sugar for preventing carbonisation, and light years better than white sugar.

Mustard slather before the rub is applied definitely helps! I've had the best results brushing on a thin layer of "plain, ol' yeller mustard" (French's or Wal-Mart each seem to work quite well - Koops was really good, too, but I have limited availibility to that one). I've tried olive oil and other things, but mustard gives the best results, and there WILL NOT be any "mustardy" taste on the finished ribs - believe me, if there were, I would know! lol

Go ahead and put a little more rub on when you throw the ribs on the grate - it can't hurt!

Where cooking temperatures are concerned, I keep them in the 240 to 260 range, with an average of about 242, probably. I tend to start the ribs at the low-end of the range (or even a bit lower, as long as it's above 212), and gradually work them over to the high end of the range as the cook progresses. The lower end at the beginning helps with the smoke ring, while the rub "sets." About 45 minutes or so before the end of the cook, they are as close to the heat source as they can get without scorching (in my offset, they would be almost all the way on the left-hand side near the firebox). The higher temp at the end helps with the bark and glazing.

I start the cook with a water pan in my offset (large-sized bread pan filled with boiling-temperature water) placed right in front of the "hole" between the firebox and the cooking chamber. I've found that the water pan REALLY improves not only smoke ring development, but also the way the smoke works into the meat. It's important to keep temps above 212 at a minimum to avoid creosote. more reading on this concept here:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/smoke-ring-in-barbeque-meats_topic2373.html

The water in the pan gradually boils away of course, but no need to refill it - as the cook progresses, smoke ring development loses its importance and bark development gains in importance. The gradually-dryer atmosphere as the water simmers away will dovetail with these priorities.

Please, please please - do NOT foil the ribs! The moisture from the steam in the foil will give you braised ribs with a soft exterior and a potentially-mushy interior. I know that "fall of the bone" ribs are popular in the big restaurants, and if you really want them to be that way, this is the way to do it - BUT! If a good bark is your goal, then save the foil for something else!

Spritzing/mopping - go ahead and do it, but keep it to once every 45 minutes to an hour. Two things that really help are a) to wait an hour or so into the cook, maybe even two hours, until the rub "sets." You will know when it happens, because the rub won't look like it's going to slough off at the slightest touch. Another thing is to have some sort of fat going onto the ribs at the same time that you're spritzing them. You can do this either by adding a little olive oil (or some other oil) to the spritz (be sure to shake or blend it right before applying), OR by brushing a little onto the ribs - by a little, I do mean a little. As the ribs start to render their own fat, brush it around on them as well. This provides a basting effect that works with the rub and the mop to really cook everything in and give you a nice bark. PS - it's easy to over-do the spritzing, but I think that the basting can't be over-done.

A glaze will indeed help - it can be anything you want as long as it is at least sorta thick and contains some sort of sugar element. It can be as simple as honey or quite elaborate. One really good one I've found that is well-balanced and works like a charm comes from Danny Gaulden - it consists of equal parts (about 1/4 or 1/3 cup each) of brown sugar, yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar. Heat on the stove, stirring often, until everything is incorporated and dissolved - and just starting to "cook" and darken; then let it cool. This tastes great and provides a beautiful, deep-mohogany colour along with a crackle and shine. Two common mistakes with glaze are applying too much and applying it too often; start 30 or 45 minutes before you expect to be finished. Brush on a THIN layer, then another 15 mintues or so later, and then perhaps one more. Each time, the heat (which is now much dryer than at the beginning, due to the lower moisture) will "shrink-dry" the glaze onto the ribs and cook it in. Keep an eye out to avoid blackening, which comes from heat that is too high or too close. Right as you pull the ribs off the heat, brush one final THIN layer on, and you're good to go; the residual heat will set it in and provide the final touch.

Those are some ideas - I have tried them all; some alone, some in combination and sometimes all within one cook - good results every time. Look everything over and if you have any questions, just ask. Any or all should help improve your bark development. The key, I think, is to "stick to basics" and not be too elaborate. Everything up there looks back to the old school, and the little things they would do to make good ribs just a little better, edging toward great barbecue!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2013 at 11:32
The master speaks! I saved this info. Thanks!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 May 2013 at 11:38
Hey, Rod - that info in the posts above is solid and it is definitely the outline for what I still do when I make ribs, unless I am trying something specifically different. I went though and updated the opening thread a bit, elaborating and clarifying as needed. If you saved a copy of the method, you might want to get the updated version! Wink
 
As always - if you have any questions, just ask ~ and do give it a shot ~ it's good stuff!
 
 
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OK, thanks.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AK1 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 May 2013 at 14:45
Good stuff. I'll give 'em a try.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bkleinsmid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 May 2013 at 17:25
Tas........I just bought a 3 pack of spares yesterday (along with the pork belly and pork loin roast......Porchetta is coming). I will pull one rack out tonight and give it a try on Sunday. It looks ssooo good.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Margi Cintrano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 May 2013 at 07:13
Tas,
 
En buena hora = Congratulations on your stunning Ribs ... Que buena pinta = Fabulous looking !
 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Rod Franklin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2013 at 14:56
Hey Tas, I'm probably gonna try this soon as the weather clears around here. What kind of cooker is pictured in your first post? I have a Weber bullet and that is what I would be using. Would you have any Weber bullet specific instructions you would add?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2013 at 15:10
hey hey - you're gonna love these, i think! the weber bullet will be a great way to go with this. the cooker i used was brinkmann's economy version of weber's bullet, which we often call the ECB (el cheapo brinkmann). they basically operate the same way, except the weber is probably a better cooker, needing less "tinkering."
 
i can't think of any special instructions - if you're basically familiar with doing ribs and temperature control, then you will be fine. i tend to go more for a temperature range than to try to stick dead on a specififc cooking temperature; toward 225 at the beginning, and edging maybe 265 at the end - average temps for me during the majority of the time seem to be right around 240 to 250 - basic stuff.
 
I tend to let the water pan evaporate as the cook goes and not re-fill it because at the beginning, the moisture from it helps with the smoke ring, but toward the end, the dryer climate caused by letting it evaporate helps with bark formation, if that makes sense.
 
those photos i have above are not the best because i was using ribs that were especially thin, but what you're looking for the same general results - the biggest share of the fat should render itself out, leaving juicy, tender bacon-on-a-stick ribs that have just a tug left on the bone and a great taste that is a blend of everything you used.
 
good luck - ask any questions you might have, take photos, and let me know how you like them!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2013 at 19:37
Interestingly, I have never used a water pan when grilling or smoking. No particular reason, I just never learned that way. But after your comments here, and elsewhere, maybe it's time I gave it a try.

ribs that have just a tug left on the bone

That's the way they should be, Ron. I don't know how or where this "fall off the bone" idea got started, but it is not the way ribs should be done. This is one of the few times that competition cooking and real cooking are the same.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote bkleinsmid Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 May 2013 at 19:44
Foodie........I have to agree. Mush on a bone is not good eats. Sounds like something Mac would serve.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 May 2013 at 08:29
I go back-and-forth when it comes to water pan usage; over time, I've learned that it does have value in the beginning half of the cook for sure. It helps to regulate the temperature and keeps the meat from drying too fast; it also helps in a lot of ways with the smoke ring formation, and the integration of smoke flavouring into the meat. I'm not going to claim to know all the science behind it, but a pretty good discussion on the issue can be found here:
 
 
I'm pretty sure I haven't completely integrated the concept into my cooking, but I'm on the fringes of it, and it has indeed improved my barbecue.
 
As important as the water pan in the beginning half of the cook is, I believe that allowing it to evaporate toward the end of the cook is just as important. The reduced moisture comes in handy for forming bark and allows temperatures to climb as well, which contributes to rendering the fat as well as making sure that the glaze does its job.
 
I'm not saying that the use of a water pan is the best way or only way to go, but over time, it has become my "go-to" way to go, unless there's a reason not to. It's certainly worth trying a few times, in order to compare to other methods.
 
And yep, "fall off the bone" ribs just don't do it for me. There's no good, true bark, the meat tends to be mushy, and the ribs, to me, lose a lot of flavour, ending up tasting boiled or steamed (which in a way is exactly what happens, I guess.) I've tried foiling or various versions of the "3/2/1" method a few times and have discarded the method as not my cup of tea; having said that, if someone is looking for fall-of-the-bone ribs, then it is the way to go.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 April 2014 at 22:35
Since making the opening post, my ideas on barbecuing ribs have evolved a bit. The information in the opening post is definitely good, but it seems to me that this post will expand on it a bit, applying things that I've learned through experience. If you have a method for ribs that you love, then stick with it; perhaps this post might offer an idea or two. If you're looking for a great way to barbecue ribs, then try this, and let me know what you think:

The night before:

1. remove ribs from packaging; pat them dry with paper towels and place them on a rack and/or on a foil-lined cookie sheet or platter.

2. If they are spare ribs, trim off the bottom and side "brisket" and also the flap of meat on the back, leaving a rack of ribs and the trimmed brisket. This helps promote more even cooking and simply looks nicer as well. If you're cooking baby backs, no cutting is required. 

3. With both baby backs and spares, be sure to also trim the white membrane off of the "back side" of the ribs. This might be a chore, but it is absolutely 100% worth it in the end. In theory, it peels right off, but in reality, there is often a little more work involved than that.

4. Brush with a light coating of plain, yellow mustard to both sides. Yes, I know, but you will NOT taste the mustard when the ribs are done, so no worries. Trust me on this, I know it sounds weird but it helps with rub absorption and bark formation. I've tried other mediums such as olive oil, catsup, vinegar, orange juice, butter and others; nothing works as well as plain, old yellow mustard, and there is never a "mustardy" taste. It took a leap of faith for me to try this, but I am glad I did.

5. Apply barbecue rub of your choice to both sides - be on the generous side, but not TOO much. If you're looking for a rub, let me know; you can make your own or buy a one. The main thing is that any rub you like is the right one to use.

6. Cover the ribs with saran wrap and place them in the refrigerator overnight. Doing this prep work the night before has led to better ribs every time. If you do the work right before cooking, your ribs will be fine, but they will be better if you take the time the night before.

The next day:

1. Get your smoking wood (sticks, chunks, chips, pellets, whatever) and your fuel (charcoal, wood, whatever) lined up and ready for the day. Also a bucket and small gardening shovel to keep the firebox free of excess ash, if applicable. Tongs, gloves and anything else you might need? Set it up, now. If your smoker is set up for (or can accommodate) a water pan, start heating the water now up to boiling.

2. The hard work is done! Put on some music, set out a full cooler and some chairs. Crack open a beer or other beverage of your choice.

3. Depending on what type of pit you're using, light it up and get it to a steady temperature of at least 212 degrees (note the significance of that particular temperature - it does make a difference). Never use charcoal fluid or any other "starter." A charcoal chimney is cheap and effective, and you won't have to wonder what chemicals are getting onto your food.

4. While the pit is heating up, it's a good time to see if anything else needs done - or, take a look at your smoker for anything it needs in terms of maintenance, and then either act on it or make note of it for future reference. One thing I like to do is see if I am getting any rust anywhere on the pit; if so, give the rusty area a quick brushing with a wire brush and then spray a little Pam (or similar cooking spray); you can of course rub down with a little cooking oil, lard or whatever. Wipe off the excess with a paper towel. As the pit heats up, it bakes the fat into the surface of the pit, seasoning it like a cast iron pan, stopping rust and turning black for a nice finish.

5. If you're using a water pan, fill it up now with the boiling (or almost boiling) water when the pit gets to 212. The temperature will probably drop again for a few minutes, but will go back up. Now is also a good time to add your smoking wood. You only need a little - just enough to maintain a thin, blue stream of smoke that you can barely see. If the smoke is black, dark grey, billowing white or heavy, you're doing something wrong - you probably need to get more oxygen on the fire and improve airflow.

6. Once the pit crosses 212, remove your meat from the refrigerator and apply a little more rub, if you'd like. Put the meat on the grates. 

7. Close the lid and keep it closed. Try to disturb the ribs as little as possible for at least an hour; maybe 90 minutes. Maintain a temperature of around 225 for an hour or two, allowing the smoke to penetrate into the ribs and for the rub to set.

8. Temperature control: Keep the exhaust vent/smokestack fully open at all times. You can control the temperature with the intake, shuttering it open to raise the temperature and closing it off a bit to lower the temperature if needed. Do not close it all the way. If the pit over-heats, simply open up the firebox (or in extreme cases, crack open the smoking chamber a bit) to dump the extra heat. Try to keep the cooking temperatures between 225 and 235 at this stage. Add fuel if you need to in order to maintain temperature; it pays to shove the existing fuel to one side and set the new fuel near - but not touching - the existing fuel. This is also a good practice when adding smoking wood. Preheating the fuel and/or smoking wood in this way does a lot to maintain a good temperature curve and especially promote clean, efficient burning of fuel and wood for best results.

9. After 90 minutes or so, I like to apply a "mop," also referred to as a "spritz." This can be as simple as plain old apple or orange juice, or more elaborate. Pretty much any combination you like is good, as long as it is relatively thin and moist. It is also very good to have a bit of oil or fat (I use olive oil) in there. I don't know exactly why, but my ribs are better when it's there, so I do it. I think it has to do with a basting effect. A combination that I've found to work very well for ribs involves a mixture of Dr. Pepper (about 1 cup, maybe 1-and-a-quarter), low-sodium soy sauce (about 1/2 cup) and a little olive oil (about 1/4 cup); I've also used many variations on this with different beverages and sauces, depending on the desired effect - but the basic one never fails. mix the mop well, apply the mop to the ribs, then flip them over and rotate them to promote even cooking. Apply mop to the other side. I like to apply the mop every hour or so, which is also usually a good time to add fuel, a chunk of smoking wood or whatever. Be sure to flip and rotate the ribs, while you're at it.

10. After the first couple of hours, bump the temperature up to around 250 degrees, although if it is 10 degrees on either side of this, it's no big deal. Maintain this temperature range throughout the cook until you're close to the very end. Allow the water pan to evaporate down to nothing - no need to add more water as in my experience the benefits happen during the early stages and there are diminishing returns as the cook gets toward the end.

11. Baby backs will usually take around four hours; spares around five; depending on temperature control issues, I always assume that they will take an hour or so longer than that, too. Toward the end, when you judge that you are maybe an hour from being done, you can, if you want, start applying a glaze in a few very thin layers. My "go-to" glaze that I recommend consists of equal parts brown sugar, yellow mustard and apple cider vinegar. Once again, I know that it sounds weird, but it works and works well, taking three weird flavours and making a whole new one. Take 1/3 of a cup of each, and heat them on the stove on medium until everything is dissolved and mixed well, then set aside and allow to cool. As with my "basic" mop recipe above, it can be modified to fit the occasion, using different things such as orange or pineapple juice, catsup etc. - but the basic one never fails. When the time comes to start applying it, use a brush and apply in a very thin layer to both sides of the ribs. Allow the glaze to "cook in" for 20 minutes or so, then repeat. Four or five applications should be enough, but if you want more, then go for it. This glaze will make good ribs better, and will also give the ribs a beautiful, mahogany sheen. Apply the last coating of glaze just a minute or two before the ribs come off the heat, if you want them to be a little wet, or 10 minutes or so before, if you want them to be dry.

12. The ribs are ready! I honestly don't know how I know when they are ready, but it's usually just a while after I THINK they are ready. Knowing when they are ready is a bit difficult; meat that is "done" and meat that is "barbecue" are two different things, as barbecue involves higher finished temperatures necessitated by the time and temperatures required to render fat and melt connective tissues. This is the reason barbecue is done "low and slow" rather than "hot and fast" as is done with grilling lean cuts such as steaks, chops etc. I see no point in trying to do a probe temperature reading on ribs due to the thin meat, but as I recall one source says that an internal temperature of 172 represents great ribs. If you use a thermometer, that's a good temperature to try - maybe 180, probably no higher than 185. Some people measure readiness by "pullback" of the meat from the bones, and this is as good as any way that I've found to determine when to remove the meat from the heat. Mainly, they simply look and feel ready. Experience is the best teacher.

13. Remove the ribs from the heat to a platter, cover them with foil to keep them arm and allow them to rest for a few minutes while you get out the paper plates, napkins etc.

14. Cut the ribs into serving portions as you desire, serve and enjoy. Sauce is almost never necessary, but it's okay to set some out for those who don't know any better.  

Important things to remember:

a) Maintain good airflow throughout the cook. Lack of airflow leads to bitter, ashtray-tasting meat due to condensation and the formation of creosote.

b) Maintain temperature and your fire as consistently as possible. The best fire is a small, efficient fire based on coals rather than flames; too big or two small, and you have problems. Learn to think ahead when it comes to adding fuel to the firebox.

c) You do not need as much smoke as you probably think you do. As long as you have an almost-invisible, clear, blue-grey smoke, you are in great shape. Any change in this condition means you need to set the beer down and look at your fire or airflow. Billowing, white smoke might look impressive as the neighbours drive by to see what's going on, but for smoking meat, it isn't any good.

d) Experimentation leads to great things! Try some different things and see how you like the results. 19 times out of 20, even the "screw-ups" will be better than anything you can buy downtown.

That is a good, general over-view, any questions, just ask. 
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Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 August 2014 at 14:36
If you look at the photos in the opening post, you see some ribs with good colour, but that's about it; they don't tell much of a story, and they never seemed - to me - to really show how well this method works in creating delicious layers of flavour. The photos represent a decent way to use decent flavours to get decent-tasting ribs; nothing wrong with that, but nothing special, either. Earlier this summer, I set out to improve this thread with some "better" photos; but as the project evolved, I realised that I was also demonstrating what I've learned over the years about barbecue and cooking in general. I think I have succeeded in applying these easy techniques in order to make good barbecue into exceptional barbecue, and I want to share this development with you.

This cook is from 1 June 2014; I deliberately and closely followed my method in the opening post for the express purpose of demonstrating this method, with an eye toward using helpful and beneficial techniques as my experience has grown. I'll leave it to you to judge the results!

Here we are, right after putting the meat to the heat at about 1130:


I had prepared the ribs as described above in my opening post:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/my-method-for-barbecued-ribs_topic52.html

The spare ribs are trimmed Saint Louis style, lightly slathered with yellow mustard and then generously dusted with my rub - in this case, I used my go-to rub: Rich's General Purpose Rub from Mad HunkyMeats:

http://www.madhunkymeats.com

After 90 minutes, the rub had "set" well into the mustard slather and ribs, forming a solid foundation for a wonderful, savory, crispy bark. At this time, I began "spritzing" the ribs with my time-honoured, olive-oil-based, Dr. Pepper/soy mop:


I also threw some sausages on, as you can see, so that they could pick up some smoke and flavour for a late lunch.

The primary purpose of the mop is to protect the meat from the heat so that it doesn't burn or dry out, providing many of the benefits that meat will get when basting in its own drippings as it turns on a rotisserie or spit. It also adds to the layers of flavour and colour in the final product. I am sure that there is plenty of science behind it, but all I know is that my barbecue looks and tastes better when I use some form of mop, so I use it.

My normal practice is to mop once each hour (give or take a few minutes); at the same time, I add fuel or smoking wood, clean ash out of the firebox or otherwise maintain the fire as necessary. Here's how the ribs looked at 1400:


Since temperatures, airflow and other important variables in barbecue cooking are in flux during these "pit stops," it is a good opportunity to quickly open the lid and do a brief check of the meat while spritzing et cetera; as you can see here, it's also a fine time to turn the meat over and rotate it if necessary for even cooking.

This picture was probably taken at 1500, but a lot of things were happening by now, so I neglected to really keep track of time:


The important thing here is to keep rotating the meat around so that everything cooks evenly, and to continue to apply whatever mop you choose to use; also, at about this point in time (the back half of the cook), I tend to bump the cooking temperatures up from the 225-235 range (for promoting a good smoke ring) to the 245 to 250 range (for colour and good rendering of fat/connective tissue). I also lighten the amount of smoke on the meat, but for ribs I still keep some on almost throughout the entire cook.

If you look here, you will see that something is missing:


The sausages! The crowd could wait no longer, so off they came; also, it was at about this time that the "flap meat" that was trimmed from the ribs began to go missing.

The benefits of the mopping and slow cooking can be seen here; the colour of the darkening meat shows good evidence of the Maillard Reaction, without burning or carbonisation of the sugars, and the ribs are starting to render their own fat quite nicely. At this point, you can - if you wish - discontinue the mopping, as the rendered fat can be brushed all over the meat when you rotate it. Or, you can continue spritzing/mopping as you rotate, if you prefer.

I apologise for the smudge on this and the next photo; I didn't know that was there:


The ribs are entering their final 30 or 45 minutes here as I began applying my mustard/brown sugar/apple-cider vinegar glaze in thin layers, allowing 10 minutes or so between applications for the glaze to set in a beautiful, crackling sheen. I probably could have bumped the heat up a bit to 260 or so, in order to get some final pull-back from the bone, but didn't think of it at the time. The ribs look great to me, but I'll let you decide.

And here we are, fresh off the heat and resting for a few minutes while last-minute preparations are made for side dishes, beverages etc.:


I really love the way that this method provides such deep and warm colours; the rich, mahogany reds and the mellow, golden browns are - to me - a beautiful representation of what perfectly-barbecued meats should look like on the outside. There are dozens of legitimate ways to achieve these results, but this, for me, works best. (Note - no foil!)

For this particular party, I cut the racks into two-rib portions:


As you can see, this cook yielded an adequate smoke ring, but it could have been better; the flavours and aromas, however, were out of this world! Every single component - from the zesty rub to the sweet hickory smoke to the savory mop to the piquant glaze - contributed to elevating the pork toward the final story, which was full of rich, treasure-filled layers that would make a geologist smile in appreciation. Further, the more I learn about cooking, the more I am understanding just how important textures can be in food, allowing me to appreciate the crisp, crunchy bark in contrast with the bursting juciness and tenderness of the beautifully-rendered meat underneath, which was done to perfection and provided only a slight tug before removing itself cleanly from the bone.


The difference between the opening post and this one truly represents my evolution in the art and craft of barbecue. It has remained essentially the same over several years where the ingredients and flavour profile are concerned; however, as I have learned more - not just about barbecue, but about food and cooking as well - I've been able to apply my knowledge and experience in order to substantially improve what I have found to be an outstanding basic method for truly delicious ribs. I have tried many different techniques and flavour profiles from all over the world, and have never really been dis-satisfied with any of them; so this is by no means the only way to barbecue ribs, but it is certainly is my way. I'd be honoured if you gave it a try, and would be grateful for any feedback. As always, if you have any questions, please do ask

Ron
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