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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Old School Ribs - Excellent Read for Rib Novices Out There

Over the weekend we celebrated the Grillin Fool's birthday with some serious grillin, chillin and poker shillin. Ribs, Bacon Wrapped Deer Tenderloin, Grilled Beans and an entire Chub of Bologna. Dad did the ribs as well as the prep work on the Deer Tenderloin. For the ribs he didn't bother with the latest Rib crazes right now like the 3-2-1 method or trying to produce a flavor "bark" with loads of rub. This was simple, indirect grilling of ribs along with some fruit wood smoke for extra flavor. Would you believe that the smoke ring above was produced in less than 2 hours on a grill that is not a designated smoker?

This is the perfect post for those of you that have not done ribs or are new to cooking ribs. I took some pics of what to look for to figure out when your ribs are done (hint the top pic above is a good indicator). Also, for those of you without dedicated smokers this proves that you can cook some mean ribs without having to have a special grill for it. Click the link below to see what I am talking about.

It was quite a gathering at Fool’s Pappy’s house for the Fool’s birthday and what else would occur but firing up a few grills? Fool indicated he would like ribs for his big day and I obliged (since I’m the supreme griller of ribs among the Fools).**Editor's note - The other two Grillin Fools beg to differ**

Very meaty baby back ribs were obtained from a couple of local grocers and the stage was set. Five full slabs were cut into ten ½ slabs for easier handling and fitting into the rib racks on the grill. The Ribs prior to being sliced in half:

Prep was very simple but the first step is very crucial to having a good result. The ribs must be ‘skinned’. This is mandatory if you want to have tender tasty ribs. ‘Skinning’ the ribs refers to the removal of the membrane (skin) on the back or bone side of the ribs. Getting this started is sometimes difficult. I usually insert a finger between two bones at one end of the rack and work the skin loose. Occasionally a knife or opposite end of a spoon is required to get it started. I then grab a paper towel to grab the skin (it’s naturally slippery and the towel enhances the grip) and peel the skin the length of the rack as shown. Removal of the skin eliminates toughness when you bite into it and the skin really has no flavor. Removal also allows what ever dry rub used to penetrate the meat (also the wood smoke) thus enhancing flavor. For maximum flavor and tenderness, ‘skin your ribs’:

The dry rub spices were applied next with the first application being a light dusting on both sides of granulated garlic. This was followed by a light application of KC Sweet and Smoky Rub (Master Griller Steve Raichlen’s recipe with a bit less salt). The spices were then ‘patted’ into the meat and not actually rubbed. Some experts I’ve read suggest ‘patting’ the meat aids in preserving tenderness as opposed to actual ‘rubbing’. I don’t know if there is a lot of credence to this but I’ve been doing it for quite a while with good results. Utilizing a ‘light’ amount of spices enhances the flavor of the meat. Many grillers ‘cake’ the ribs to the point of obtaining an overpowering crust on the ribs. I try to avoid that. The rub was applied a few hours before the ribs hit the grill:

Did anyone notice the big candle on the platter of ribs before cooking? It was just the special touch befitting the Grillin’ Fool on his birthday.**Editor's Note - the candle would've been more recognizeable had he actually gotten the flame in the only pic he took of it**

Before using a rib rack, always spray with Pam or a similar product prior to placing the ribs in the rack. This will make cleanup later much easier:

The fire is ready on both grills and it’s time to grill. Two grills were used as half the ribs were smoked with cherry chunks and the other half with apple wood just to have bit of variety. Cooking time was approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes using the indirect method (I had the coals on the left side of the grill and the ribs on the right).

Closeup of ribs on left grill:

Closeup of the ribs on the right grill:

Notice how the ribs are staggered in the rack? The first slab is pushed farther to the back, the next farther to the front, the next farther to the back, etc? This is to allow the heat and smoke to penetrate the meat better. While rib racks allow for more ribs per square inch of grilling space, they also inhibit the permeation of smoke and serve to insulate the ribs against each other. Staggering them like this helps to alleviate both problems.

45 minutes later the ribs on the left:

The half rack in front is cooking at a much faster pace than the rest of the ribs. Time to rearrange:

Not only did I put the half slab that was cooking too fast to the back, I turned the other ribs to be perpendicular to the heat and put some space between the slabs to allow the smoke to circulate in and around them better - basically the theory of staggering them taken a bit farther with the extra room in this rib rack. Here we have a shot that shows how much room there is between them:

And while that half slab that was on front was cooking faster than the other four, the ribs on the other grill were cooking faster as well, but not as quickly of the darkest slab in the pic above:

A pic from above even shows a slight bit of meat separating from the bone:

**Editor's note - Some are going to ask at what temp the grill on the right was cooking at. Well that's a little tough to tell. Here is a shot of the grill on the right with the lid closed:

And here is a close up of the thermometer:

good luck checking the temp on that thing.

Here is the grill on the left:

And the temp on the side with the coals:

And the temp on the side with the ribs:

The true temp of the Brinkmann is somewhat higher than these thermometers indicate considering the cold weather we were grillin in. The Brinkmann was probably over 250 and the old Charbroil on the right was hotter than that. Probably at the 275-300 range on the side with the coals.

Wish I had some solid numbers here. This was my fault. I forgot my remote thermometer**

30 minutes later (75 minutes in) ribs on the left along with the Chub of bologna and the beans (more on those later):

Those are coming along nicely but the ones on the right are doing even better:

This pic is a bit dark so I hope you can see the meat pulling back from the bone. This is what you are looking for:

20 minutes later (95 minutes into the process) the ones on the right are looking fantastic. Meat is really pulling away from the bone:

10 minute later (105 minutes in) I pulled them out of the rib rack to get this pic before taking them inside:

I took the half racks above along with the the half rack that was cooking too quickly from the left grill and placed them into disposable tin trays with a little beer in the pan and foil on top and into a 150 degree oven to keep warm:

The other slabs were placed over on the grill to the right in order to finish up as that grill stayed hotter than the Brinkman. Those 4 slabs took about a total of 2 hours.

When served the knife went through them like they were warm butter, not falling off the bone though. Properly cooked ribs should not fall off the bone. They should maintain a texture that is pleasing, tender, and slightly chewy. Usually if you are served ribs that fall off the bone they have been cooked improperly or parboiled (ugh!). This batch came out perfect as many of the guests that night exclaimed. You may have noticed the lack of barbeque sauce. There was none offered and certainly none needed. Occasionally I will add sauce to the mix and try to ‘glaze’ a coat or two on the ribs as some prefer that addition.

Money shot: Notice the meatiness of these ribs! They were very tasty and the smoke ring was readily apparent as you can see. There were no leftovers on this evening!

**Editor's note - Excellent Job Dad!!!

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