The sci­ence of ribs

The Hamilton Spectator - - FOOD - DAVE LOBECK

I im­plore you, please try to smoke a rack of ribs this year.

This en­tails hav­ing a ket­tle char­coal grill or a smoker and, most im­por­tantly, pa­tience. Some peo­ple take a rack of ribs, slather them in a store-bought sauce and then throw them di­rectly over the flames. If you are do­ing this, you should have your bar­be­cue and grilling rights re­voked un­til fur­ther no­tice or at least un­til you have fin­ished read­ing this.

Here’s the sci­ence and the se­cret to cook­ing great pork ribs. Ribs are full of con­nec­tive tis­sue called col­la­gen. This col­la­gen, if cooked prop­erly, will slowly melt down to some­thing called gelatin. And yes, this is the stuff Jell-O is made of. It’s the gelatin which gives ribs that silky, moist tex­ture. But, if you cook the ribs too quickly over di­rect heat, the col­la­gen sim­ply hard­ens up and be­comes a li­a­bil­ity ver­sus an as­set. So, the key is low and slow with ribs to re­sult in gelatin.

And it helps to have the cor­rect equip­ment on hand. One of my most used grilling uten­sils hap­pens to be a rib rack. It al­lows you to po­si­tion three to four racks of ribs in one ket­tle grill or smoker. They are in­ex­pen­sive and you will be­come a rib pro­fes­sional if you get one.

Hav­ing judged and com­peted in Kansas City Bar­be­cue So­ci­ety events, I can also tell you that a “fall off the bone” rib is pe­nal­ized and frowned on. It is a sign of an over­cooked rib. Liz (my wife) humbly dis­agrees with this as­ser­tion. She loves ribs when they are “fall off the bone” ten­der. But, I can re­port that a well cooked rib, at least in the com­pe­ti­tion world, is one where the meat pulls cleanly from the bone but isn’t fall­ing off. Per­son­ally, I love ribs ei­ther way. So, set up your ket­tle grill with in­di­rect heat, mean­ing you have hot coals piled on one side of the grill. Use paper towel and pull the mem­brane off the bone side of the ribs. The paper towel al­lows you to grip the mem­brane and pull it off in a full sheet.

Coat both sides of the ribs with nor­mal yel­low mus­tard, then lib­er­ally ap­ply a rub to both sides. (I have in­cluded my favourite rub recipe be­low.)

Open the vents to 50 per cent, add your favourite wood chips to the hot coals, place your ribs in the rack and po­si­tion them on the side of the grill op­po­site to the hot coals. Place the lid on the grill and cook the ribs for two hours or so.

Now, brush your favourite sauce (try mak­ing your own, it’s easy) on both sides of your ribs. Place the ribs over the coals and al­low the sauce to caramelize slightly. Wrap the ribs in foil and place them in an oven at 225 F to keep warm un­til you are ready to eat.

Dave’s Pork Rub Recipe

½ cup brown sugar ½ cup pa­prika 3 ta­ble­spoons salt 3 tbsp coarsely ground black pep­per 1 tea­spoon ground cumin 2 tsp chili pow­der 1 tsp cayenne pep­per 1½ tsp gran­u­lated gar­lic


Try your hand at smok­ing a rack of ribs this year.

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