Flashback! Easy Ribs

Here’s a post from an old blog of mine that’s now a decade old. I’ve come a long way since then, but it still stands as a good guide on how to cook ribs:

I’ve always wanted to cook ribs on the BBQ, but a couple of things have stopped me to date.  Firstly, I never really had access to a butcher who stocked full racks, the local ones usually  had them all seasoned and prepared, and the closest you could get at a supermarket came in a box, and were generally unimpressive looking and expensive.  The other thing that held me back was my assumed complexity of the task, I was sure it would be difficult.  How wrong was I!

Buying Ribs

Thomas’s in Godmanchester,  will happily sell you a rack of ribs, and a medium size rack, like the ones in the picture are about 6GBP. Check with your local butcher, by phone to save yourself a trip.  It’s best to try and get them the day before if possible, as many butchers will either have them delivered frozen or freeze them on delivery and de-frost when needed. It will take at least 24 hours in the fridge for them to de-frost.  You may even want to get them 2 days before if you’re slow cooking them, depending on what time you want to eat. (Hopefully you have a large fridge!)  Don’t worry about what to ask for, baby back, spare, St Louis etc, for now, while you’re getting used to it, ribs are ribs.  I just ask for a full rack of ribs, and that’s what they give me.

Preparing the Ribs

Once your are happy that they had defrosted, the next thing to do is to prep them. You need to get rid of a couple of things, primarily the excess fat and the membrane covering the meat.  The fat is easily removed with a sharp knife, and the membrane can be removed by putting the back of a spoon under one end and gently prizing it off.  You don’t have to get rid of all of both, the ribs tend to turn out better if you can get rid of most of it. Try not to throw away too much meat obviously, but don’t take it too seriously the first time you do it – it gets easier with practice and depends on the ribs.

Slow cooking Ribs

This is the easiest method I have found for cooking the ribs (in this post you can accuse me of cheating as I’m using a gas BBQ). You’ll need to be cooking these on a BBQ suitable for indirect cooking, that is, if you have 2 burners, you need to turn one off, and if you’re using coal or a smoker, you need to be able to move the coals to one side, so the ribs are not over direct heat.

Preheat the BBQ to about 130-150C, then put the first ribs on the grill bone side down, away from the heat. Throw on a little salt and pepper. If you’re cooking multiple ribs, stack these, bone side down, on top of the first one. Close the lid.

Cooking time depends on the size of the ribs, for the ones you see in the pictures, they cooked for between 4 and 5.5hrs.  Every 30 minutes I quickly opened the lid and restacked them, moving the top rib to the bottom, and I usually flip them over for an hour and a half to make sure they’re cooking evenly.  I set them off at about 0800 if we intend to eat at 1300, this way, if they look done by 1200 I can take them out and they will stay warm in the oven until we are ready. You can always finish them off in the oven if you need to use the BBQ for other items (the butcher usually recommends that you start them in the oven, and finish them on the BBQ – sound advice indeed, give it a try if you feel more comfortable slow cooking them in the oven then transferring them).

Sauce and Glaze

If you’re adding sauce and glaze, you really only want to do it towards the end, you don’t want any sugar content burning, despite the very low heat.

I do have a favourite sauce recipe, though it changes slightly every time. It’s based loosely on a recipe from the little book that came with the BBQ.

  • 240ml Ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 100ml water
  • 80ml worcestersauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon chiplotle paste (more depending on taste – available from Waitrose)
  • ((If you don’t have the above, try 1 tspn of Chilli powder and 1/2 tspn of paprika))

Mix all the above in a pan, gently bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer to thicken for a couple of minutes)

Glaze the ribs regularly, every 10 or so minutes towards the end, and once you’ve taken them off. Serve the extra sauce on the side

Notes and thoughts

  • You can cook them quicker, at a higher heat – put the ribs over a drip pan and keep the heat medium (about 190c) for about 1.5hours. Put 1/2 inch of liquid in the drip pan, either white wine, apple juice, cider etc and make sure it never runs dry.)
  • You can stand the ribs up against one another, this makes it easier to glaze or baste, and exposes more of the meat to heat than stacking, resulting in better colour.
  • You can flip the ribs over during slow cooking to ensure even cooking, but remember the bone side has less meat on them, so that side takes less time to cook.
  • Make sure they are cooked throughout before serving.  There should be no shiny pink bits anywhere. Check right in the middle of the largest meat area.
  • Sometimes the sauce will turn the edges of the meat pink, this is not due to under-cooking, but it’s best to check.
  • Add some damp wood chips to a smoking box or in a tin foil parcel for a smoky flavour. 
  • Like everything in life, you may need to practice a couple of times to get them perfect. Overcooked is safer than undercooked, just a little chewy.

If you’ve mastered this why not have a go at the spit roast pork loin? 
Good luck, let me know how you get on, and don’t forget to check back to get more BBQ, Smoking and Grilling tips, tricks and advice. 

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