With Father's Day upon us, it's a prime weekend to show the man some love and respect. That's right, it's time to stoke up the smoker and put on a rack of ribs.
We went to a couple of classes for tips on grilling ribs. The first was BBQ 101 with the men who own Colorado BBQ Outfitters at 6850 N. Academy Blvd.
"Grilling is hot and fast," said Darin Daniels, who with Dan MacDonald opened the store in 2012. "Barbecue is low and slow, giving enough time to break down fibers in less tender cuts of meat to tenderize it."
MacDonald recommends using pork baby back ribs and slowly smoking them for several hours.
"Ribs should take a little bit to pull off the bone," he said. "A sure sign of restaurant ribs is falling-off-the-bone meat."
He pointed out that restaurants don't have time to smoke ribs for six or more hours to develop flavor and tenderness.
"They boil the ribs and then slather them in sauce to cover up the fact that they boiled the flavor out of the meat," he said.
There are three basic types of pork ribs: spareribs, baby back ribs and country-style ribs.
- Spareribs - These come from the underbelly and side of the pig. They contain the least amount of meat on the bone, but that, apparently, is a plus - Karen Adler, co-author of "The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue," says it means more flavor. A subcategory is St. Louis-style ribs, which come from pork spareribs. The brisket bone is removed, which exposes the brisket bone side.
- Baby back ribs - These are from the blade or center section of the loin. They have more meat per amount of bone than spareribs.
- Country-style ribs - These come from the rib end and the loin, and contain the most meat per bone.
"Personally, pork spareribs are my favorite, though I've never turned down a baby back rib, either," Adler says.
The type you choose is a matter of preference. One thing to consider if you opt for spareribs is how much to buy.
"Most barbecuers refer to the best pork ribs as being 2 and under," she says, meaning a slab (13 bones) weighs less than 2 pounds. "I've had great luck with slabs that weigh 3 and 4 pounds, too ... but stay away from the 5-plus pounders - these are usually really cheap and really tough."
According to texascooking.com, figure that pork spareribs will produce 11/4 servings per pound, raw weight. Back ribs will yield about 11/2 servings per pound, and the country-style ribs give about 2 servings per pound.
Before you cook pork spareribs, get out your knife, said Steven Raichlen, during his Barbecue University class last June at The Broadmoor.
"On the underside of the sparerib, there is a membrane that holds the meat to the bone," he said. "Because the membrane can often be tough and chewy, we remove it before smoking. This allows for greater smoke penetration of the meat, and the sauce will absorb better."
Like MacDonald, Raichlen prefers using baby back ribs. Because the ribs are in the middle of the pig's back, they get less movement and the meat is more tender.
"I recommend a good rub (seasoning) for ribs," MacDonald says.
At his store, you'll find a wide variety of sauces and rubs. In the class, he used Bone Suckin Rub. There are several good ones you can buy at the grocery store, or experiment and come up with your own. Check out today's recipes, where you'll find one of Adler's favorite rub mixtures. After giving the ribs a seasoning, they should be placed in a plastic bag or covered tightly with plastic wrap to rest in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.
Light the fire
Great ribs call for a smoker. There are several models available.
"Ribs are tricky to do at home," says MacDonald, "because you need to have a good smoker that will cook them at about 220 degrees for several hours."
They sell several models of smokers that will maintain a constant temperature for 10 to12 hours.
"Smoking meat is like salting," he said. "You can overdo it and you can't take it away. You'll end up with meat that tastes like an ash tray."
If a grill is all you have, make sure you don't overdo the heat.
"Cooking the ribs themselves, for true American barbecue, means slow-smoked over low-burning fire," Adler says. "Not pre-baked, not parboiled, not grilled. Please don't call them 'barbecued' ribs simply because you have sauce on them."
Smother with sauce
Barbecue sauces (sometimes referred to as glazes) usually contain sugar, which will burn if left too long over the heat. To avoid scorching the ribs, apply the sauce during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking or according to the recipe. Barbecue sauce gives the ribs a pretty sheen and color.
If you respect dad and those ribs, buy the best, season them right and cook them properly.
Now pass the napkins.
SMOKED PORK RIBS
Yield: 8 servings
3 whole slabs (1-1 1/2 pounds each) baby back ribs 1 cup medium-colored honey, divided 1 (12-ounce) squeeze bottle margarine, divided 1 (14-ounce) bottle smoky, spicy barbecue sauce of choice, divided
The day before cooking, remove membrane from back of ribs. Sprinkle on both sides with rub of choice. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Prepare an indirect fire in a smoker.
Place ribs in smoker, cover and smoke at 220-225 degrees. After 2 hours, rib meat should have pulled back from tips of bones. Turn ribs over and drizzle with half the honey and half the margarine. Brush to distribute honey and margarine evenly over surface of meat. Cover and cook 30 minutes.
Turn ribs again, drizzle with remaining honey and margarine, and brush meat again. Cover and cook 30 minutes.
As a glaze, brush ribs on both sides with some barbecue sauce, then smoke for a final 15 minutes. To serve, leave as whole slabs or cut into individual ribs. Serve remaining sauce on the side.
Source: "The BBQ Queens' Big Book of Barbecue," by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig
A few years ago, shopping for a home smoker was like "looking for a poker game in the Vatican," Bill and Cheryl Jamison write in their cookbook, "Sublime Smoke." These days, smokers are much easier to find, as detailed in the book:
There are three basic types, each waist-high and cylindrical - charcoal, gas and electric. All are roomy enough to handle up to 50 pounds of meat and are equipped for perhaps the most popular form of smoking - water smoking. In water smoking, a pan of water is set over the heat source to keep the food moist while adding additional flavor.
Which one's better? It depends on how much you want to spend and how hands-on you want to be. Electric and gas smokers are more expensive, but they provide steady heat and require less fuss. Water smokers generally are available at hardware, department, sporting goods and discount stores.
If you want to complicate your decision, you can add other types of smokers to your list. A standalone smokehouse is on the high end of the spectrum; a stovetop smoker is one of the least expensive types. The stovetops look like lasagna pans with steel lids. It takes just a few wood chips to get the smoke rolling inside the closed boxes. The main drawback is they fill the house with fumes; however, they produce good-tasting food.
Almost any covered grill can be adapted to slow smoking. Here's how:
Get about 25 briquettes fired up at one side of the bottom of the grill. When the briquettes turn to gray ash, sprinkle soaked wood chips on top. Place a metal loaf pan full of water next to the briquettes. Put food on a grate directly above the water, as far from the direct heat of the charcoal as possible. Cover the grill. Open the vent in top of the lid and insert a candy or deep-fry thermometer into the vent so the probe dangles inside the grill. Maintain a steady temperature of 220 degrees. Check hourly, adding more charcoal or soaked wood as needed. The Gazette