Do-It-Yourself Ribs

Recipe for Ribs

Robb Scharetg

Do-It-Yourself Ribs – Hog Wild

If a person were to order competition barbecue in a restaurant, says Andy Stoddard, of Pork in the Park Grand Champion team Stoddard and Brown, “it would probably cost you $75 for a rack of ribs, because of the labor that goes into it.” But anyone who’s got a smoker (or even an oven and a grill) can produce barbeque ribs of close to the same quality—especially since Cool Smoke’s Tuffy Stone kindly shares some of his barbeque secrets with us: a rub, a sauce, the Texas Crutch and the 3-2-1 method to barbequed ribs. Start with a “good meaty rib,” he says, fresh and from a reliable source, preferably with no sodium added, and make sure they have no “shiners”—no rib bones exposed.

BASIC BARBEQUE RUB

1⁄2 cup paprika

1⁄4 cup kosher salt

1⁄4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1⁄4 cup chili powder

1⁄4 cup ground cumin

2 tablespoons ground black pepper

1⁄4 cup granulated garlic

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

TOMATO BARBEQUE SAUCE

Combine and cook over low heat for 30 minutes:

1 cup tomato ketchup

1⁄2 cup light brown sugar

3 tablespoons white vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder

1⁄4 teaspoon onion powder

2 racks of ribs, either St. Louis or baby back

To prepare the ribs, remove the membranes from the inside (lift a corner of the membrane with a knife, then grab hold with a paper towel and pull). Keep meat refrigerated until ready to cook.

One hour before cooking, light a carefully cleaned bullet smoker using the Minion method, which allows for a longer burn: After filling the charcoal ring with good-quality charcoal (not instant-light, and no lighter fluid), light 20 or so briquets in a charcoal chimney, then add them to the charcoal in the ring. Fill the water pan with water, and add to the coals a couple of chunks of hardwood (apple, hickory, oak, etc.—no need to soak). When the temperature’s about 250 and it’s burning clean, says Tuffy, the ribs can go in.

Thirty minutes before cooking, season both sides of the ribs with a moderate coating of rub, concave side first, then meat side. Seasoning earlier than that, says Tuffy, causes the salt content of the rub to leach moisture, leading to dryer ribs. Let the meat rest on the counter for that half-hour.

Place ribs in the smoker meat-side-up and cook for “somewhere between three and two hours,” until the meat has achieved “a nice color—a reddish mahogany. Black is not good. Less smoke is better than more smoke.” This is the 3 part of 3-2-1. (This part can be accomplished on a grill—with careful watching, lest the sugar burn. Then finish the rest in a 250-degree oven.)

Next comes the “Texas crutch,” a.k.a. aluminum foil. Place each rack of ribs meat-side-up on an 18- to 20-inch-long sheet of foil, and add “whatever you fancy—a light coat of brown sugar, squiggles or squirts of honey, preserves, butter or margarine, a spritz of fruit or apple juice, more rub.” Repeat on the bone side, then fold the foil to make a tight package (don’t puncture the foil with the bones) and return the ribs to the smoker meat-side-down for another two hours at 250.

To check for tenderness, open the packet a little and see if the meat is beginning to pull away from the bones—that’s the first sign. Pierce the meat to check if it feels tender. Bend the rack gently—“If the meat tears a little, it’s probably tender enough,” says Tuffy. “As they say in competition barbeque, ‘Overs beat unders’—overdone beats underdone.”

Once tender, carefully remove the ribs from the foil. Brush each side with sauce, then return to the cooker for one hour, or until the sauce sets. Serve with your favorite slaw and beans.

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