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It’s hard to beat grilled or smoked ribs. They are messy, but that’s part of the fun. (It’s not often that you can get smeared in sauce and still be socially acceptable.) Ribs aren’t the easiest grill or smoke dishes either, so many folks miss out on the joy of “down home” ribs. They pass on the mess and stress factors, but I’m here to say that barbecue ribs are worth every minute of the time and mess involved.
Rack Those Ribs
Rib racks are a good investment if you plan to smoke ribs. They save space on the grates. They help the meat cook more even. While you can smoke ribs without racks, rib racks are inexpensive and make a big difference.
I got my rib rack to go with my Weber Smokey Mountain Bullet. If you want really massive ribs, then consider getting a smoker. They are slow cookers, but the results are fabulous. Also, you don’t have to be there every second. With ribs, I only check four or five times during a session unless the weather is kind of strange (like rain or cold).
It is possible to do good ribs on the grill, but it takes some planning and work. The key is to get the heat low and to cook the ribs a long time. Expect 3-4 hours for really yummy ribs. Ribs have cartilage which is tough, but that cooks down leaving super tender meat but only with a slow and long cooking approach. If you bend the ribs, and they do not bend easy, then you’ve not cooked them long enough.
If you want a “cheat” trick, then boil the ribs for an hour of so before grilling. This can be done inside in a big stock pot or with a turkey fryer. My Wal-Mart buddy turned me on to that idea. It does save a lot of time and results in almost always tender ribs. Don’t tell anyone if you do this though. It is considered cheating, and big time smoker folks will laugh at you. That’s OK. What they don’t know won’t hurt them.
Rack Them No Matter Which Way You Go
Using the rib rack helps whether you are smoking or grilling (low and slow) or even if you do the pre-boil option. Tilting the ribs sideways means that the heat and cooking are more even. When ribs are put on flat, they have to be turned, and they also tend to cook uneven. The rack takes care of those problems.
Spray the rack (or the grill grate if you go without racks) with Pam or Crisco spray to help prevent sticking (not a huge problem with ribs). Even though ribs do have a quite a bit of fat, the clean up part is much easier if you spray. Pam now has a spray just for grilling, and that’s a good bet too. The regular works fine as do the various Crisco flavored sprays.
Buy good ribs. Babyback are super. Just make sure they are good and meaty. I like Hormel. Other ribs are good too, but expect to cook a little longer if you’re buying less expensive ribs.
Rub the ribs. There are lots of good rubs on the market. Though I don’t care much for Emeril’s TV show, his rib rub is really good. Put that on a couple of hours before cooking or smoking. You can do that the night before. That helps on cooking day. You’re ready to go.
Put the rib rack filled with ribs on the grill or smoker. Smokers will usually have the directions. The basics are that you get a low heat going, put the ribs on, check a couple of times during the 4-6 hours. On the grill, you need low heat and the lid on. On a grill, 3-4 hours will usually do the trick. The heat tends to be closer and hotter in a grill with a lid versus a smoker which is taller.
Sauce Them Up
If you want saucy ribs (oh yes), then smear on the sauce about a half hour before the ribs are done. If you put that on earlier, then the ribs will be scorched on the outside. Though you can wrap in tin foil with BBQ sauce, that blocks out the smoke taste which is really the whole idea with cooking outside. If you are going to wrap up meat, then you might as well bake it in the oven.