Summer is gone. The 42 degree motorcycle ride to work this morning made it official for me. It is October, over a month past Labor Day.
This year was an especially good Labor Day. We hosted our first (annual according to the neighbors) Ribfest and it was a great success. The idea has been brewing for a while now. Every time we make real BBQ people want to know how it’s done, and I happily tell them. Unfortunately, that can take over an hour because I really like to talk about BBQ (real BBQ). So finally, I decided to host a small neighborhood seminar to demonstrate the technique of cooking authentic BBQ ribs. One of my neighbors kindly agreed to play cameraman and recorded the highlights for us, so that video will be available soon.
It does a good job of describing it, so I’ll just summarize below.
Start with a few vacuum packed racks of ribs. Open them up and rinse them thoroughly. Remove the membrane – this is extremely important to developing the proper flavor and texture of the finished product.
To do so, run a flexible knife under the membrane along one of the middle bones. Twist the dull side of the knife upward to begin to further separate the membrane from the bone, do so until you can get a finger or two under the membrane. Remove the knife and carefully pull upward. The membrane should cleanly separate from the rack.
If you need to, cut the rack into two by slicing between the two bones in the middle.
Generously apply a dry rub and pat until they are thoroughly covered.
Arrange the ribs in a rack if you have one to stand them up to conserve space on the smoker or grill.
Light your cooking appliance of choice. I prefer a wood fired water smoker which I got at a garage sale for $5.00. You can use a gas grill with a smoker box, or a charcoal grill set up for indirect cooking.
Whatever you choose, the key here is low and slow. You need to keep your temperature as close to 225 as possible. The nice thing about a water smoker is that boiling water will stay at 212 degrees, so you get a pretty even reliable heat.
When the unit is ready, place your ribs on, close the lid, and wait. How long? Well, BBQ is an art, not a science, but I usually don’t even check them for three hours, at that point, they probably need another 30 minutes to an hour.
You will know they are done when the meat shrinks up around the bone by a half inch or so. At this point they can be eaten as-is, but I like to fire up the gas grill to medium high, baste the ribs with a little sauce and grill them until the sauce starts to caramelize on the meat – be careful not to burn the sauce as it is mostly sugar and nobody likes burned sugar.