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Smoking and Grilling Ribs by TexasBBQrub.com

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Sorry for the duplicate posts.  The forum was giving me SQL errors and I did not know my post actually got posted.  Hopefully the Mods will delete the other posts.

 

I received another informative email from www.texasbbqrub.com.  ALL credit is to them.  I hope this helps someone out that wanted to cook ribs better or had questions.

 

Texas BBQ Rub's Guide to Kick Your
BBQ to the Next Level


Article 4
Pork Ribs



In the world of BBQ cooking perhaps the most cooked of all the
meats are pork ribs and that is what you are going to learn how
to do in this article. We are going to cover pork spare ribs,
pork St. Louis Cut ribs, Baby Back ribs, and then Country Style
pork ribs. This is the 4th Article in this series of 8 to 10 BBQ
guides.

People love ribs that is a fact; but they like them in a variety
of ways such as no sauce on them at all just a great rub, sauced
lightly, covered in BBQ sauce, some like to eat the meat off the
bone without the entire rib meat coming off with their first
bite, and some like the fall off the bone ribs. But the two
common things they all seem to want are a great tasting rib and a
rib full of natural juices.

There are a few big questions you may be asking yourself and
trying to find the answers for.

1.   Do I need to remove the membranes from the ribs before I
cook them?
2.   What is the easiest way to remove the membrane from the
ribs?
3.   Do I need to wrap the ribs? And if so when do I do it?
4.   What is the simple 3-2-1 method talked about for cooking
ribs?
5.   How do I know when the ribs are done?
6.   When do I add the sauce if I want to add some to the ribs?
7.   How tender do I need to cook the ribs and how do I do that?

The answer to these questions and others will be covered in depth
in this article.

OH!  THOSE WONDERFUL PORK RIBS

From Kansas City, to North Carolina, back to Memphis and down to
Texas one thing that all barbecue fanatics seem to agree on is
ribs are made for barbecuing. Now that is all they can agree on
because the way they are cooked, the sauce (if any) used on the
ribs while cooking or eating, and the type of rib to use for the
best outcome seem to all have a fierce debate going on all of the
time. But, in all reality, ribs are a wonderful piece of meat to
cook on the grill and they are even better (my opinion) on a
smoker. But let's get down to cooking some ribs and licking our
fingers.

The styles are different, the ribs may be different but one thing
remains the same, ribs are great for smoking and grilling.
Whether you like your ribs wet, dry, with sauce, without sauce,
baby backs, spares, country style: we all seem to love ribs.
There is just not another piece of meat you get to grab with your
hands and eat right off of the bone.

OK the basics. First, we all know that you don't use a fork to
eat a rib. This piece of meat was made to be picked up and eaten
with your hands. So it is not the typical meat to cook for a sit
down, black tie affair. This is getting your hands nasty and
licking them clean kind of eating. You know the kind of fun when
the kids eat they have stuff all over their smiling faces. The
fun begins.

But you are standing in the store with all of those ribs in
packages and really don't know which packages of ribs to pick up
and take home and cook.

Well there are three basic things you will need to look for in a
pork rib to help you decide which ones deserves your cooking.

1.   The amount of meat on the rib (you want to have some meat on
them so look at them carefully to decide which ones have the most
meat on them. And it is best to find ribs that are fairly uniform
in thickness across the rib). If they are frozen look at the
thickness of the package cause you really can't feel the meat. If
they are not frozen you can feel the meat above a bone and feel
just how much meat there is on that rib. You are looking for a
nice even thickness with a good amount of meat.
2.   Then you are going to look at the amount of fat on the rib
itself. In spare ribs or St Louis spare ribs you are looking for
a nice feathering of fat across the rib. You don't want a rib
that all of the fat is clumped in one side of the rib. For baby
back ribs you want the same but these ribs are typically
feathered with a nice amount of fat so look for a rack that has
just a nice amount of fat across the rib. In other words no large
fat cap covering the entire rib surface.
3.   You could stop right here and have some great ribs to cook
on the pit or grill. But there is one more thing that makes
serving the ribs once they are cooked easier to present to
everyone. Flip the rib over and look at the bones of the rib. Try
to find a rack that the bones are fairly straight across the rib.
Usually you see a couple of straight bones and then all of a
sudden the bones start curving. This is not a deal killer on the
ribs it is just easier if the rib bones are straight when it come
to cutting them for your guests.

When I talk about ribs, I usually talk about spare ribs and it's
trimmed up sister the St Louis cut spare rib. But there are many
of you who enjoy cooking and eating baby backs (loin back) and
then there are those that enjoy cooking and eating Country Style
Ribs. So, we are going to spend some time and talk about each of
the three "ribs" I have mentioned above. Keep in mind that
Country Style Ribs are not really ribs at all…but more on that
later. But first…….the single question asked most when it comes
to cooking ribs…..





DO YOU NEED TO REMOVE THE MEMBRANE ON THE RIB OR NOT?

The big question or debate among rib cookers is whether or not
the membrane should be removed from the ribs prior to cooking or
do you cook with the membrane on the ribs. Ask 100 people and it
seems you will get 50 that say remove the membrane and 50 that
say leave it on there.

OK for those of you that don't know the membrane is a very thin
piece of cartilage that is on the bone side of the rack of ribs.
You can remove the membrane by peeling it off. Use a sharp knife
and slip it under the membrane at one end of the rack of ribs and
peal back enough to get a good grip on the membrane. Some suggest
using a screwdriver to pry under the membrane instead of a knife,
it is much safer. Try gripping the membrane with a paper towel or
pliers and then peeling it off the rack. This takes some practice
so just keep working at it. Adds time to your preparation so plan
extra time to get these off if you so desire.


Tip: The best thing that I have seen used for removing the
membranes from ribs is a catfish skin remover (not sure that is
the correct name) but what it is it looks like a pair of pliers
except the end is about 2 inches wide and you can grip the
membrane with it and work it off the rib. You should be able to
find one of these pretty easy at a good outdoor supply store.

My personal preference and the way I cook all of my ribs is to
leave the membrane on the ribs when you cook them. That being
said, I'm sure there are plenty of you out there that remove the
membrane and I have no problem with that either. I just think it
is a waste of time if you are going to cook the ribs over low and
slow conditions. If you are grilling the ribs, then I might have
a tendency to agree with you to take off the membrane.

A Big Advantage of leaving the membrane on the ribs is……...

TIP: The juices of the ribs are actually held in the meat by the
membrane as the ribs cook: so they hold much more of their
natural juices.

And as a note you can always remove the membrane after you cook
the ribs if that is the way you prefer to serve them.

Some argue that spices and smoke cannot penetrate the membrane so
you lose some of the flavor you are trying to get into the meat.
Not true in the case of low and slow smoking. After a period of
time of cooking at say 220 to 225 degrees the membrane will
actually start to tear apart and can actually disappear as the
rib cooks over a long time. It no longer is in its single piece
stage and does not change or hamper any of the smoke flavor or
rub flavor you are trying to get into the meat.

If you are grilling ribs, then perhaps the best way to get the
ribs to their most tender and best tasting stage is to remove the
membrane because the ribs you are grilling are not going to be
exposed to the long periods of low heat but rather higher heat
for a shorter period of time. I can see the benefit in removing
the membrane for grilling purposes only.

So, this decision rests with you. Try it both ways and find out
which way you prefer the ribs. Membrane off or membrane on. Now
let's get into the discussion of the different types of ribs.

SPARE RIBS

The Spare Rib comes from the side of the pig, right next to the
belly. You ever heard the term "side of ribs" well it comes from
talking about spare ribs and where they come from.

You usually buy spare ribs in the whole "rack". There are 13
bones in a full rack of ribs. Try to find racks of ribs that are
"5 and under" referring to the weight of the rack. There are two
distinct sides to the rack of ribs, a bone side (covered by the
membrane) and a meat side. The rack will be a little curved. You
can buy spares with either the skirt (a extra flap of meat
attached to the rack) on or the skirt off. Most of the wholesale
and supermarkets sell their spares with the skirt on. Just leave
it on there and cook it and enjoy.

Spare ribs are a little meatier than baby backs and they are
fattier cause of their size. But they usually cost 2/3 as much as
baby backs. I don't cook baby backs as much as I cook spare ribs.
I personally think the flavor of spares just can't be beat and
they are the perfect finger food.

Some folks cut the spare rib rack into what many will call St.
Louis cut spareribs. Basically, they cut the bottom of the ribs
off right above the knuckle and square up the rack. Hey folks
cook what you enjoy cooking because people will eat any rib you
cook if it done correctly. If you do like to cook the whole rack
of untrimmed spare ribs there is some of the best tasting meat
down in the knuckles of the rib. So enjoy them.

An Interesting Note

You see restaurants advertising ribs on their menus either as a
whole rack or half rack. These can be any number of ribs that the
restaurant wishes to call a rack or a half rack. So a half rack
can be 3 ribs and a full rack can be 6 ribs. Not exactly a full
rack of ribs, as we know them.

BABY BACK RIBS

The Baby Back ribs are sometimes referred to as "back" ribs or
Loin Back ribs. The baby in baby back actually comes from the
size of the ribs themselves. They are much smaller in nature than
the spare ribs, as the rack on baby backs will weight only 1½
pounds to 31/2 pounds. They are thicker than a rack of spare ribs
with a little less fat. The meat from the baby backs comes from
the loin (the back part of the pig, where the better cuts of meat
on the pig are located). Remember you are looking for a nice
amount of meat on this rib. Even now you will find some baby back
ribs that say extra meaty on them as they will tend to have more
meat on them than the typical baby back rib and they sell for a
premium price.

Baby backs are generally the most versatile of the ribs to cook.
You can grill them or smoke them. They are, in my opinion, the
best rib to grill as they are smaller and leaner and will cook in
a shorter period of time than spares they are more geared to the
high temperatures that grilling is all about. Because of their
size they will cook quicker than spare ribs.

If you were grilling baby backs then I would recommend removal of
the membrane prior to cooking. They are not going to be exposed
to the smoke and fire long enough to break down the membrane by
cooking. So spend some time and remove the membrane.


COUNTRY STYLE RIBS

So-called country style ribs are not ribs at all. Now don't get
mad because these little gems are cut to look like a rib but they
come from the blade side of the loin or in many cases they are a
pork butt cut into strips. They resemble fatty pork chops cut
into pieces that resemble a rib. These you can get for under a $1
a pound when you find them on sale and they make great BBQ.
Nothing wrong with them they just are not a real rib.

The have no membrane and are usually cut in about 1 inch thick
pieces about 3 to 5 inches in length. Recommended cooking of
these is low and slow. But they can be grilled as well.


COOKING RIBS - EASY AS 1-2-3


Simply rub down the rack of ribs you are cooking with
Worcestershire sauce and apply Texas BBQ Rub to the ribs. On
spare ribs about ¾ cup on the meat side of the rack of ribs. For
baby backs it will be about 2/3 as much rub to cover the rib
rack. For country style ribs you will have to do each "rib"
separately by adding just a little rub to the "rib" after you
cover with Worcestershire sauce.

Place the ribs on the grill or pit with the bone side down. For
country style ribs just lay them on the cooking grate.

For indirect smoking/cooking (no wrapping), cook at 220-225
degrees for about 5 to 6 hours for whole untrimmed spare ribs, 3
to 4 hours for baby backs, about 4 to 5 hours for the St. Louis
cut spare ribs and about 3 to 4 hours for the country style ribs.
No need to turn them over they will be fine and you don't want to
loose any rub by flipping them over during cooking. You will
notice during cooking that the ribs will look like they are
drying out. This is part of the cooking process and they will not
dry out unless your cooking temp is too high. As the ribs get
close to being done you will see them glaze back over. This is
the rub working its magic on the ribs and they will soon be done.
No sauce needed let Texas BBQ Rub take over on the cooking and
just keep the fire at the right temp.

How do you determine when the ribs are done?

Tear Test

The best way for you to determine if the ribs are done is to use
your hands. Pick them up with gloves on your hands and twist the
ribs at the top of the rib to see if you see the meat start
tearing away from the bone. When done the rib meat will tear away
from the bone cleanly. If they are tough to tear then leave them
on the smoker for more cooking. You should feel the ribs give in
the middle if you hold the rack by the two ends. You will see the
give in the rack of ribs when they are done.

Once you see the meat cleanly pull away from the bone take them
off the pit and enjoy. If you don't have a good pair of gloves
that can handle the heat, the grease, and holding or moving the
meat then we have those on our site so order a pair of those
gloves with your rub order and you won't need another tool around
the pit for moving or holding the meats you are cooking.

Toothpick Method

Tooth picks are great around the smoker to do things like hold
stuffed meat together but they are great when it comes time to
test the meat for doneness. You can use a toothpick to determine
if the ribs are done by simply running a toothpick between two
bones and see if it passes thru the meat easily. If you feel
resistance then the meat is not as tender as you may prefer it to
be so let the ribs cook a bit longer. You can also use a
toothpick on a brisket to determine when it is really tender.

Bones of the ribs are exposed (this does not always happen to a
rack of ribs)

You will sometimes see the meat pull down the bone of the rib.
This is fine and I usually see it on pork spareribs and not so
much on baby back ribs (usually on the baby backs a few of the
bones will become exposed as the meat pulls down but they are
hard to see do to the curve of the baby back can hide that on
your grill). This is just an indication that the meat is
shrinking and it is not the best way to determine if the ribs are
cooked to your liking. They are pretty when the bone is exposed
but do not use this as a measure of the doneness of the rib. You
will notice also that ribs that are wrapped in foil for a hour or
so that the rib bone is often more exposed than ribs that are
cooked without wrapping.

For grilling you can cook either baby backs or spares over direct
heat. Prepare the ribs the same way as before except this time
you will be cooking directly over a very hot fire.  Add some
smoke flavor to the ribs by adding some wood to your fire. See
our website at www.texasbbqrub.com for a discussion on adding
smoke to the gas or charcoal fire.

If you are grilling your ribs and you start to see a heavy char
forming on the bottom of the rib just place a piece of aluminum
foil under the rib and that will knock the direct heat coming
from under the rib off of the rib. Watch the ribs carefully as to
not burn the coating of rub or sauce you have on the ribs. Rubs
and sauces all have some sugar in them and sugar will burn at a
little over 300 degrees so use the aluminum foil to keep the ribs
from getting burned or too heavily charred.  Cooking time for the
baby back ribs on the grill (try to stay in the 300 degree range
on the grill) will be about 1 to 1½ hours and for spares about 2
1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.

If you want to finish off the ribs will a BBQ sauce add the sauce
the last 15 minutes of the cooking time. This will keep the sauce
from burning. You can even add the sauce to the rib after it has
finished cooking and you are getting ready to slice the ribs.

WRAPPING RIBS IN FOIL

I have had hundreds of questions about wrapping ribs. Here are my
thoughts. There are a lot of smokers that prefer to wrap their
ribs during the cooking process to shorten the cooking time and
to also make the ribs fall of the bone tender. I prefer not to
wrap my ribs but if you would like to wrap your ribs during the
cooking process then there are a couple of rules of thought on
this.

I would like to tell you that when you wrap the ribs the meat
texture will begin to change. They can get mushy if you leave
them wrapped too long so be careful with the wrapping of ribs. I
hate to change the wonderful texture of ribs so I stay away from
wrapping except in competition where the judges think the meat
has to be falling off the bone. I personally like to pick up the
rib bone and eat the meat off of it. You  decide and try both
methods.

Spare ribs: If you are cooking on a pit (low and slow 225 to 235
degrees) then the general rule of thought is to do the ribs using
the 3-2-1 method. That is the method that says 3 hours uncovered
on the pit, then wrap for 2 hours, and then take them out of the
foil and put them back on the pit for another hour to tighten the
ribs back up. I find that wrapping the ribs for 2 hours the ribs
are overcooked so use the same method and do the ribs 3 hours on
the pit unwrapped then 1 ½  hours wrapped then another ½ hour
unwrapped back on the pit to tighten up the ribs. Pour or spray
some liquid over the top of the ribs to give it some moisture
when you wrap the ribs. You can use apple juice, or the best I
think is some spray margarine and spray the top of the ribs real
well. You can add some honey or brown sugar or both to give a
much sweeter taste to the rib.

Baby Back ribs: For the smoker, use the same method but cut your
time to say 2 hours on the smoker unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped, and
then 15 to 30 minutes back on the smoker uncovered to tighten the
ribs back up. Again, add some liquid to the ribs that you are
wrapping like apple juice, honey, butter, or spray margarine.
This will give the ribs some moisture to work with inside the
wrapping.

If you are cooking baby backs on the grill then use a 1 hour on
the grill, 45 minutes wrapped and then 15 minutes to tighten the
ribs back up.

Cutting the Ribs

First, fresh cut ribs straight out of the pit are the most
wonderful tasting ribs you will ever pick up. Dripping with
natural juices and full of flavor it just does not get any better
than a rib coming off the pit and cut while it is hot and then
eaten immediately.

Ribs should be cut off the full rack when you are ready to serve
them and you should not cut them in advance as the rib will dry
out as the air hits the meat. So try and cut the ribs right when
you need them and cut just enough for everyone to enjoy and then
cut more for the second round of eating. And there will be a
round 2 and maybe a round 3.

The best way to cut your ribs is to lay the rib on a cutting
board with the bone side of the ribs facing you. You are going to
want to cut between the bones where the meat is. You can take a
sharp knife and just place it between the rib bones starting at
the top of the rib and work it down between the rib bones. Once
you get pretty good at this and for some great show to your
friends you can stand the rib on end and with a really sharp
knife and nice cooked ribs take the knife, starting at the top
between the bones run the knife down the rib letting the knife
naturally follow the rib bone. Makes a nice show and it will
impress the friends. And then once they eat your ribs you will be
the rib king.

What I just Did on the Pit

I just finished cooking 2 racks of baby back ribs. I did this
while I was writing this article so that I could cover all of the
thoughts that I had while cooking. I cooked the baby back ribs at
225 to 235 degrees for 3 ½ hours. I did not remove the membrane.
I just applied some worchestershire sauce and then Texas BBQ Rub
(the simple 1-2-3 method) and placed the ribs on the pit bone
side down for 3 ½ hours and they were dripping with juice
fabulous tasting ribs. I couldn't resist eating a couple of the
ribs. I could not tell the membrane was there at all. I took some
home to my wife and she loved them. I don't cook many baby back
ribs so she asked all about them. It is nice to make your wife
happy with some good eating ribs.

Hope you enjoyed this Article and we will be getting Article 5
out to you in about a week and next up will be pork butts and
pork shoulders.

Thanks for being one of our great subscribers. We do appreciate
all of you. And we love to hear from you.

Go cook some great ribs this weekend! It's Father's Day and why
not treat yourself and your family to some of your great ribs.
And to all the Dad's out there have a wonderful Father's Day with
your family.

So get out there and cook some ribs because with practice you
will just get better.


Bill Cannon
President
Texas BBQ Rub
157 FM 359 Rd
Richmond, TX 77406
bill@texasbbqrub.com
281-344-1076

PS: If you need some Texas BBQ Rub for Father's Day this weekend
you better order today so we can get your order shipped out
immediately so you will have it for your ribs. Here is the link
to get ya' some right now. Texas BBQ Rub will save you time
around the pit and will move your BBQ up a notch or two.
http://www.texasbbqrub.com/shopping.html


PPS: Pass this on to your friends and neighbors so they can also
learn about cooking great ribs. They will love the fact that you
thought of them while learning about ribs.




Copyright 2014 by Real Texas BBQ Rub, Inc. all rights reserved.

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