Posted by johngl
One of my secret “guilty” pleasures is reading through my annual compendiums (1993-2011) of Cook’s Illustrated magazines put out by the good folks at America’s Test Kitchen. What attracts me to these folks’ publications is the total lack of advertizing. And, more importantly, these folks actually cook! They test things ad nauseum and while I’ve found them (absolutely) wrong on occasion (e.g. when to salt beef), they eventually see the error in their ways and aren’t afraid to admit it. In the nearly 20 years I’ve been reading these things — and I do read them cover to cover — I’ve grown to trust them. So, when the same folks started Cook’s Country a couple of years ago, I bit. In my 2011 compendium of Cook’s Country, in the June/July issue, I found, in the Cooking Class section, the rather bold statement: How to Barbecue Ribs. Well, firstly, I totally disagree with the way they spelled barbeque. It isn’t abbreviated BBC, it’s BBQ. But who am I to nitpick?
Secondly, that’s a pretty bold statement: How to Cook Ribs. I like bold and direct statements, so I decided I’d give it a whirl.
These are St. Louis Cut Spareribs. I’d never used them as I lean in favor of baby backs. Yes, these SLCs were even recommended in the article. I actually managed to follow their first instruction.
They are called “spareribs” because they are what’s left after the “back” ribs are cut off. The “St. Louis Cut” part (SLC) comes into play when the oddly shaped tips are cut away. Imagine, if you will, your ribcage. The part closest to your spinal column are the “back” ribs and they would run about 4″-5″ out from the spine. The next 4″-5″ span of ribs are the St. Louis Cut. The oddly shaped remnants that come around the front are traditional “spare” ribs.
Now that we’ve got that part figured out, we’ll move on to seasoning these St. Louis bad boys.
I’ve finally learned to lay out my plastic wrap underneath ribs prior to hitting them with a dry rub. It’s a really simple thing, but it makes this job a lot less messy.
And here is where I started deviating from the instructions: The Dry Rub. I didn’t make it very far. But hey, they inspired me, so how can that be bad?
What you will get here is my version of a rub. If you want their exact version, you’ll have to visit them here.
Rib Rub (adapted and modified from the Cook’s Country original)
2 T sweet paprika
2 T dark brown cane sugar
1 T smoked (Spanish) paprika
1 T fresh ground black pepper
2 t kosher salt
1 t smoked sea salt (mine is from Maine, is hand harvested and smoked)
1 t shallot powder (dried, ground shallots available from Penzey’s)
1 t ground guajillo
1/4 t granulated garlic
1/8 t pequin powder (I grow my own pequin, but they too are available from Penzey’s)
All of the above are put into a spice grinder (or coffee grinder, whichever you happen to have) and spun into a fine powder.
This then gets sprinkled over the rack of ribs. Be sure and remove the silver skin that’s usually on one side of the racks. One of my racks had the silver skin removed, the other didn’t.
You may notice that strainer with the spice rub in the jar. Yeah, that’s what I use to get an even coat of rub over all of the meat. It also keeps me from getting my hands covered in spices. Just load it up and tap-tap-tap the lip of the strainer with a spoon and dust the meat. It’s a snap! If you feel the need to press the rub into the meat, use the back of a tablespoon.
I used two sets of tongs (one in each hand) to flip the meat, then added the spice rub to that side. Once that was done, I wrapped the ribs up in the plastic that is under the rack in the photo. No mess, no fuss, and clean hands! I did the same thing to the second rack, then put them in the fridge for two whole days. This part is consistent with the Cook’s Country instructions and is very important! Don’t rush it!
Two days later, I fired up my Big Green Egg and put the Plate Setter in place (Cook’s Country uses a Weber Kettle with the charcoal stacked to one side). It was chilly and windy that day and my usual settings of the venting that normally got me to the 200-225° range only managed to generate about 150°. I opened the vents just a little farther to get a bit higher temp.
Before dropping my custom-made heavy duty steel grate in place, I took some pre-soaked apple wood chips, wrapped them in heavy-duty foil, then poked some holes in the packet. I then placed the packet directly on top of the coals in the Egg. Note: my apple wood chips don’t come pre-soaked, I soaked them in water for about an hour prior to getting the Egg fired up. This method is consistent with the Cook’s Country instructions.
Again, deviating from instructions, I put the racks of ribs in my rib rack. Say that last bit three times really fast. Don’t you feel foolish?
These are really large racks so I just let’m hang loose. It’s a lot like certain women I know.
The Egg was ready: the top vents were dumping some good quality smoke, the grate was in place, and the temp was near 200°. I put the ribs in and forgot about them for right around three hours.
While the ribs were smokin’, I went back to the recipe Cook’s Country had for their home made sauce. It sounded good, so I rooted around to find some ingredients. Again, this is my version which, while inspired by their version, isn’t their version.
Barbeque Sauce (adapted and modified from the Cook’s Country original)
1/4 c ketchup
2 T unsulphered molasses
1 T red wine vinegar (homemade)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T stone ground mustard (I like Inglehoffer)
1 t shallot powder
1/2 t granulated garlic
1/2 t ground guajillo
1/4 t smoked (Spanish) paprika
1/4 t chili powder
1/4 t pequin powder
1/4 t mustard powder
Mix all ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes and turn off the heat.
The nice thing about this sauce is that it isn’t overly sweet. There is a deep, rich aroma that will permeate your home as the sauce is heated. If you like loads of sauce, you’ll probably want to double the recipe.
Back to the ribs…
After three hours, I took these out of the Egg. They smelled great, but were obviously not cooked through. The Cook’s Country instructions called for a two-stage process and I had completed stage one.
For stage two, again, reasonably consistent with the Cook’s Country instructions, I tore off two lengths of heavy-duty foil, then placed one rack on each piece of foil. I lightly brushed each side of both racks with some of that sauce, then sealed each rack in a foil cocoon. The two racks were placed on a sheet pan and popped into a 200° oven for roughly six hours. If you can’t wait six hours, turn up the heat to 250° and you could knock off a couple of hours. To check for doneness, open one of the foil packs, grab onto the end of one of the rib bones (with tongs!) and give it a wiggle. When it’s done, it will feel a little “loose”. When it’s overdone, the bone will pull right out. Use your own judgement on how “done” you want your ribs. I like mine when there is a little “tug” left between the meat and the bone.
When you’re ready to serve, heat up that sauce again, then brush another thin coat on the racks.
Then, just slice and serve!
This method is most definitely a keeper and I thank the good folks at Cook’s Country for their inspiration and hope that they continue keeping their TV shows and magazines commercial free!