Cooking BBQ Pork Ribs

From small office meetings and trainings to large regional events Chilternscatering.com.au Corporate Catering would be able to handle it. have you always wanted to learn to cook incredible baby back and spare pork ribs? Looking for a great barbecue ribs recipe? Here is a crash course on grilling pork ribs.

Pork baby back ribs (loin back or back ribs are all interchangeable terms) run from just below the backbone (top) to the midpoint of the circle. Spare ribs continue from the midpoint all the way to the sternum. So each carcass supplies 2 racks (slabs) of baby backs and 2 racks of spares. Since baby back ribs come from the upper part of the pig near the tenderloin, they tend to be much more expensive than spare ribs which are lower on the pig so often deemed less valuable.

Baby back ribs have less fat, less meat and are often more tender than spares and are typically smaller in size (1.25 to 2.25 pounds per rack). Spare ribs have more meat, more fat and are usually less tender than baby backs. Spares arguably have more flavor due to the higher fat content and are close to the belly where the bacon comes from. Spares are larger in size (2-4 pounds per rack) and take longer to cook.

Rib Selection

Although not always easy to find, fresh ribs seem to be the best in quality. Try to avoid frozen or previously frozen ribs. Often ribs are packed two or three to a package so it is not always easy to inspect individual racks before purchase.

Try to find racks without large patches of visible fat. Fat renders well on Boston butts or shoulders, but that is not always the case with ribs. Often fat patches can actually become hard when cooking. Where possible, avoid racks with bones showing in the middle of the rack (referred to as shiners) as the meat can pull away from the rack and cause the ribs to separate during the cook.

Rib Preparation

Typically spare ribs are sold untrimmed (unless the package specifically is labeled ‘St. Louis’). Untrimmed have the brisket (sternum) attached with a flap of meat (often referred to as skirt). St. Louis style has been trimmed with the brisket and skirt already removed. Typically, it is more cost effective to buy spares untrimmed and trim them yourself.

The skirt and brisket (often called rib tips) are excellent for smoking and make a great snack while waiting for the whole racks to cook. A typical butcher shop or grocery store tends to charge more money for St. Louis style, yet you are actually getting less meat.

To remove the skirt, hold it up perpendicular to the cutting board and lay your knife on the bone of the rib and slowly cut flush with the rack until the skirt has been cut out completely. Save this piece for some rub and throw it on the smoker with the rest of the meat.

The next step is the most difficult step to perform. Many cooks will cook the entire rack with the brisket and skirt attached, but most prefer to cook the ribs St. Louis style. Cooking an untrimmed rack can cause issues with cook times where the brisket portion requires more time to cook than the ribs themselves which can result in overcooked ribs to finish the brisket. You can run your fingers along the brisket and feel where the ends of the ribs attach to the brisket. Cut straight along that line with a sharp knife to separate the ribs from the brisket. Once this step is completed, the spare ribs now look similar to a rack of baby backs.

The last prep step is to add your favorite barbecue rub. The rub is an extremely important step. Apply liberally but not excessively. Be careful with your rub. Many rubs are interchangeable, but some do not work well on ribs due to the surface area of the meat. A spicy rub that works well with a Boston butt or brisket may be too spicy for ribs.

Cooking Ribs

Ribs are actually pretty easy to cook with the right equipment. A good smoker with your favorite wood and following these directions can deliver consistent results. Among the barbecue community, there is a number formula for cooking ‘fall off the bone ribs’. For baby backs, the number is 2-2-1 and for spares, 3-2-1. The first number represents the number of hours cooked straight on the rack of your smoker. The second number is the number of hours wrapped in foil and the last number is the number of hours without foil. So, for baby backs, two hours ‘naked’, then 2 hours in foil and 1 hour naked. This will result in great tender ribs.

The last hour of cooking is a good time to baste with your favorite sauce. This time is meant to enhance the flavor and caramelize a good sauce. Be careful to monitor closely though with sauces high in sugar because they can easily burn. During the cooking process many cooks will use liquids to enhance the flavor and tenderness. Liquids like apple juice, butter, honey, molasses or even alcohol. An interesting combination is to mix half bourbon and half apple juice and use a spray bottle to mist on the ribs during the last hour.

Use the ‘bend test’ to make sure they are done. Grab the rack in the middle with your tongs and lift off the rack. If the other end is bouncy and springy, they need to cook longer. If they bend about 45 degrees and look like the end will break off, they are done.

Best smoke temperature is 225 degrees. Ribs go well with many different woods because of their surface area to meat ratio. I typically use mostly hickory, but ribs do well using other smoking woods like cherry, peach, pecan or mesquite.

Lastly, any barbecue purist will tell you to NEVER boil (parboil) your ribs. You are literally boiling the flavor right out of them. Parboiling is a technique for those cooking ribs in the oven. Doing so cuts down the cook time significantly but is a step that I would never do. For the best barbecue meal you may visit us here.

This should give you a great start on cooking bbq ribs with your best bbq ribs recipe.

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