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!):
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!