So, a guy’s gotta eat, right?
With the advent of Spring I decided to make pork ribs for dinner yesterday. Having grown up in Missouri I have a natural tendency toward good BBQ. Although, “grown up” might be a stretch. Let’s just agree that I lived the first 30 years of my life there and not digress into discussions of my maturity, ok? OK.
Ribs need to be a balance of textures and flavors. You don’t really want “falling off the bone”, that’s limp and mushy. But you definitely want meat that pulls off the bone cleanly and easily. I like a balance of smokey meat flavor and a sweet, tangy crust. Here is what I did:
First, start with some quality pork ribs, either baby back or loin ribs trimmed St. Louis style. Have the butcher pull off the membrane from the bone side, rinse them with cold water and pat them dry. Then I puncture the meat between the bones with a fork from both sides and rub in some lemon juice. Cover liberally with your favorite dry rub and wrap in plastic; leave then to marinate like this for a few hours.
I usually make my own rub, but most of the store bought ones are pretty good. It’s usually a base of salt, pepper, paprika and brown sugar with other spices like cumin, celery seed, chili powder, “smoked” paprika, dry mustard and maybe finely ground coffee. It’s fun to play with.
I prepared the ribs at about 6am and left them in the fridge while I went to work in the morning. Since I had to work from home in the afternoon (my son is on spring break this week) I was home to start cooking them by 1:00. I fired up with smoker with hickory pellets (in truth they are 1/3 hickory and 2/3 oak), put the ribs on and closed the lid. Every hour or so I opened the lid and basted the ribs with either apple juice or beer — I used both this time. The smoker runs at 190-200 degrees. I love this thing, I cook dinner on it almost every night year-round (not always at 190 smokey degrees, it will crank up to about 450 for grilling)
About two or three hours in I decided to start on the baked beans. I use three kinds of beans, and I drain the white and pinto beans. I keep the “sauce” from the canned baked beans. Mix the beans with 1/2 cup of brown sugar (packed) and 1/3 cup of molasses and sorghum syrup. Add in a table spoon each of dry rub, dry mustard and BBQ sauce, and a small can of Tomato paste. Mix in half a bottle of your favorite beer.
Meanwhile brown about 1/3 pound of bacon in a skillet, then add it 1/2 diced onion and some fresh garlic. Saute until the onion and well cooked. The pan will have some crust on the bottom from the bacon, deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup of white vinegar and turn the entire mixture into the pot with the rest of the bean mixture.
Stir and put on the smoker with the ribs. When you do your hourly spritz with beer or apple juice give the beans a stir too.
After the ribs have been smoking for about four hours it’s time to wrap them. I mix together 1/3 cup of the following: butter, honey, packed brown sugar and apple juice. Warm it in the microwave to melt the butter.
Pull the ribs off, put them on a double layer of aluminum foil and pour half of this mixture over each rack. Close the foil tightly and put back on the smoker for another hour or so.
Keep the temp at around 190 degrees, after an hour pop open one of the foil packs to check, you should see about 1/2″ of bone protruding from the edges of the rack. If not you could give it another 15 to 20 minutes wrapped, but be careful. Too much time in the foil will lead to limp, soggy ribs.
Once you’re ready to unwrap the ribs be sure to catch the liquid from the foil pack in a small saucepan. This will be a mix of the apple juice/butter/honey/brown sugar mix plus meat drippings and some of the rub from the outside of the ribs that washed off. Put the ribs back on the smoker for another hour at least. While the ribs continue to smoke bring the saucepan with the catchings from the foil pack inside. Add a couple of tablespoons of your favorite BBQ sauce and simmer to reduce the mixture until it’s about the consistency of cream. I put a coat of the sauce on both sides of the ribs and smoke for a final hour
Finally, the ribs are done. In total I had these on the smoker for 7 hours, they were ready at 6 hours but I had an 8pm work meeting I had to dial in to so I just left them in the smoke until that was done. I have to say, these are the best ribs I’ve made to date. Great flavor and perfect texture. The outside had a nice sweet and tangy flavor, the meat was tender and smoky. The beans are great too. I made enough for a small army I think, my son asked me if we were having company.
Next up: finishing and installing the Byrdcliffe-inspired cabinet.