The Great Rib Debate


When it comes to cuts of meat and what works best for cooking them, I am really quite clueless. Most cuts that end up at my dinner table have been brought by random fate and the right price. These days, no matter what you end up with, it’s most likely already earned a few recipes out in the land of the internet, but this can sometimes be unreliable as I can prove quite easily that anyone can post a recipe and call it good.

Since I have moved into a house with an actual place to grill, I have been grilling at least twice a week. This has been  great experience. However, one meal did leave a bitter, charred taste in my mouth; some chewy baby back ribs. This brought on a family debate about boiling ribs. I myself, without any particular reasoning have always held a  “no-boil” stance. This is even with having some very delicious, fall off the bone boiled-then-baked ribs. I guess it just seems a sin to basically destroy the most flavorful part of the ribs in a hot pot of water. After reading several opinions on the matter, I got the sense it was okay to boil ribs, just not boil them to smithereens and boil them in a flavorful broth. I bought a small rack of pork baby back ribs and I had almost gave in to giving boiling a try when at the last moment I came across a technique that shunned boiling and instead slowly steamed the meat in the oven with  a patient baste and turn routine on the grill, leaving us with the most delicious ribs I have ever tasted.

You will need:

  • Ribs of choice, membrane removed
  • Favorite dry rub, or simply season as preferred.
  • 1 Orange or lemon, sliced
  • 1/4 White or yellow onion, sliced
  • 2/3 cup of Liquid. This is where your imagination comes in! You can use  broth, orange juice, apple juice, beer, anything that has a delicious flavor.
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Wood chips and a  smoker box if using gas grill.
Sprinkle dry rub or seasonings on ribs. Preheat oven to 325. In a roasting pan only slightly larger than the ribs, layer citrus then onion and set ribs meat side up. Mix liquid with 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce and add to pan until it just touches the bottom of the ribs. ( add more liquid if needed) Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Trying to let the least amount of heat escape, open the oven and pull out the ribs. They should be easily pierced with a knife (obviously they wont be completely tender yet).  If cooking side ribs, it can need 30- 1 hr more cooking time. Cut off the oven, replace the foil and return the ribs and allow them to cook off the retained heat for one more hour. You can leave these hanging out for up to two more hours, just don’t open the door. Before grilling, remove ribs from pan, and drain 1/2 cup of cooking liquid and mix with remaining BBQ sauce for baste.
If you are doing this step ahead, allow ribs to cool, refrigerate and  use within three days.
Preheat grill on high, place smoker box on hottest point and  reduce to medium. When smoker box starts smoking, we are ready to go. Place ribs on grill and baste. When the ribs begin to brown, about five minutes, flip and baste. This will be your life for the next 20-30 minutes. As you layer on the baste, it will start to caramelize. If it’s a becoming a fine line between caramelizing and burning, move your ribs to the cooler side of the grill, or cut off a burner if using gas. Ribs are ready when they are completely hot through the middle. You will also find it harder to flip from the tenderness. Give it one last baste and devour.

I may one day give boiling a try. But, as good as the ribs were, it’s probably not going to be anytime soon. It may in fact save some time, but this technique didn’t require to much of my attention and the results where certainly worth it.  If I’m that rushed for a meal, I’ll just make a sandwich.

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