Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Rib Fest IV


The long weekend last week our neighbors Dave & Molly hosted RibFest IV, which gave Dave & K an excuse to work on their quest for the perfect barbequed rack of ribs. As of their last effort they’ve achieved pretty sublime results so needless to say I was preetty, preetty excited. I was also excited to sit around in good company, soak up the sun, and drink a couple of beers.

I brought my camera along to document the process and share their tips and tricks with y’all. So let’s get started (’cause this’ll take awhile!):



SONY DSCK prefers to use baby back ribs. One rack is usually enough for 2-3 people, depending on their appetites. We buy them when they are on sale and freeze them until a couple of days before cook day.

Day of remove the membrane that covers the back side, where the bones are. There’s actually a little trick to this: the rack is wider at one end and tapers to a point at the other. Start at the narrow end and slide a sharp knife between the first couple of ribs and the membrane, creating a tab. Take a paper towel and grab the membrane tab and pull – it should peel right off.

Dry the rack off with a paper towel and coat with either vegetable oil or mustard. K prefers mustard. Then sprinkle liberally with a spice rub, patting it in to the meat on all sides. Let it sit for at least an hour.

Now you can buy a perfectly servicible spice mixture, but naturally, around here we make our own. Here’s ours (K usually double’s these quantities when making multiple racks):

 •    1/2 cup brown sugar
•    1/4 cup paprika
•    1 tablespoon black pepper
•    1 tablespoon salt
•    1 tablespoon of cumin
•    1 tablespoon chili powder
•    1 tablespoon garlic powder
•    1 tablespoon onion powder
•    1 teaspoon cayenne



Get your coals going and put some chunks of smoking wood or wood chips in water to soak.

K prefers apple or pecan which both impart a subtle smoke, but some people swear by the intensity of hickory or mesquite. A big branch came down off our pecan tree earlier in the year, so (foodie alert), K chopped it up & debarked it in preparation for RibFest.


Set up the grill for indirect cooking: one side of the grill will have the cooking grate with a pan of water underneath it (some people use soda for flavor, but the consensus around here is that it doesn’t add much), and on the other side you’ll dump the hot coals.


Close the intake valve down to to just a crack to keep the coals going low and slow – the temperature should ideally stay between 175 and 225 degrees during the cook.

Put ribs as far away from coals as possible – bone side down, or if you have a rib rack, slot them in bone side towards the coals. Then add a couple of chunks of the soaked smoking wood to the coals and close the lid. Open the exhaust vent all the way to allow the smoke to flow over and up the ribs.


Smoke for 1-2 hours – you’ll probably need to add more about 8-10 more briquettes after the first hour and more wood if you are going to keep smoking for the second hour.



Once the smoke is done, keep cooking for 3 more hours, adding coals if your temperature drops out of range.



After 4 hours total, take racks off and wrap in foil. Put the packages back on the grill, bone side down/bone side in again, close the lid and cook for an additional 2 hours.

Pull the ribs off the grill and put in the oven on a tray to rest for 1 more hour.


When you unwrap them after resting , there will be a lot of hot liquid in the foil. Carefully drain this off, and cut ribs into portions – the meat should be tender and falling off the bone.



Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce & fixings. The good news is there is plenty of time to make these while the ribs are cooking.

This time around we used the vinegar based sauce that is traditional here in North Carolina. Our sides were cornbread with honey butter, braised collards and baked beans. Strawberry buttermilk ice cream, banana pudding and brownies rounded out the meal. Yum!

xo O

14 Responses to “Rib Fest IV”

  1. ruchapowers

    Great photos, I can almost smell the pecan wood smoking! Now that we’ve been mostly converted to vegetarianism by our passionate & idealistic teenager, I’m not sure if we’ll ever get the chance to try out your instructions here at our place, but please add “bbq ribs” to our ever-expanding to-do list of entertainments for when we one day come to your side of of the culinary country. Send our love to the chef. xo

    • oami powers

      Well, teenage idealism is a beautiful thing! When you guys come out we’ll definitely do ribs, or even better, a pork butt (yesterday’s experiment). mmmmm.

  2. Aunt Diana

    Please advise date for rib fest V. I’ll be right over! Wonderful photos too. Thanks and love to the photographer and the barbecue maestro.

  3. Sandra

    Yummy!!! Great pics too! I’m hoping to someday learn how to grill anything without falling into disappointment – need BBQ 101! Not having these skills makes me feel un-American – like it should be instinctual.

    • oami powers

      It was! I’m not sure that I could pull any of this off if I was left to fend for myself, but it sure is fun sharing what K has learned through hours of practice 🙂

  4. betty

    Those look awesome! I live with the self-proclaimed king of the 25-minute ribs. And we’re not talking gas grill. They’re really great, but it would be nice to have a smoker. There’s a hoarder in our town, and he has at least five smokers in his yard. I kid you not. Mysterious smoke at night. He chainsaws wood with flood lights 🙂 My son’s favorite meal is ribs, but now that he has braces, we have to remove the meat from the bone for him. Kind of sad.

    • oami powers

      oh man, braces were the bane of my existence for many a year! This made laugh too, and I think Ru is right – there’s a short story in there…

  5. nerponline

    Well, I’d sure love to taste K’s ribs, but as a point lof marital fidelity (and in order to “spare the air”) I remain a believer in MM’s slow baked oven ribs. They’re real simple to do and super good, but since they’re not outdoor BBQ I guess many folks would ask, “What is the point?”

    • oami powers

      I think Michela’s rubs were one of the inspirations for his interest in ribs, though of course now his technique is quite different.

  6. Ursula

    Looks super delicious Oami and this is like the post one returns to when its time to do ribs properly! Remember our Oakland backyard bbq’s overlooking your little slice of the lake?
    Betty … Making me laugh!

    • betty

      I agree Ursula… it’s like you can just see how delicious they are. The photos are really great Oami. I love that top one with the blue smoke. Ursula, the hoarder… the first time I saw him I laughed. He looked just like someone who would have 4 boats in his front yard. Then there’s the 5 snow blowers…

  7. ruchapowers

    Betty – I feel like there’s a short story there….. 😉


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