By Stephen Barron
There is nothing like a perfectly cooked spare or baby back rib. Smoky meat, perfectly seasoned and combined with the right sauce makes our mouths water. Winter is behind us, and it’s time to start firing up your BBQ grill.
I’m an East Coast native, but developed a passion for BBQ after moving to Texas in the mid 90’s. In Texas, brisket is king, but ribs were always my favorite. I became obsessed with learning how to cook them so the meat easily falls from the bone without being dry or fatty. And with the right mix of seasoning applied before cooking (Rub), you can enjoy them even without sauce.
For me, picking out a good rack of ribs involves going to a good local butcher, or believe it or not, Costco. Look for whole racks that are meaty. Both baby back and spare ribs have a membrane on the bone side that should be removed. This can be a tricky process, and I suggest watching an online video to learn the proper technique.
“Chappaqua is a long way from the South, but did you know we have BBQ royalty in our midst? Christiaan Lorson from Le Jardin du Roi, heads up a well-respected team called “Q Haven” on the BBQ circuit.”
After the membrane has been removed, begin layering your flavors. Start with a light slather to hold the rub (see recipe below, but the fun is in the experimenting). Apply your rub immediately before cooking so the salt does not pull moisture from the meat. I’ve made rubs that have Asian, Indian, spicy, and sweet flavor profiles. The key to great rubs is keeping your spice blends even. Experiment and have fun.
Cooking a perfect rib starts with a little knowledge, passion and perseverance. Whether you use chips, chunks, or logs, it is important to only use hard woods. Oak, apple, and maple are local woods that provide great flavor for ribs. When grilling with charcoal or gas, tossing a simple aluminum foil pack containing soaked wood chips or chunks will give you smoke to enhance the flavor.
Without a doubt, proper temperature is critical to a successful outcome. Ideally, I will cook on an indirect 225-250 degree heat for around four hours. Offset your heat source from where the ribs are positioned to help even out the cooking temperature. Covering your charcoal or gas grill racks with sheets of aluminum foil will aid in dispersing heat. You can also place a small aluminum pan filled with apple juice over the heat source to create steam for keeping your ribs moist.
To avoid losing a constant grill temperature, check on how your ribs are cooking only once per hour. Do not peek! Optimal internal rib temperature is 170-175 degrees. Move the ribs around to even out hot spots. If your rib meat is shrinking slightly where the rib bone becomes exposed, immediately test internal temperature.
Chappaqua is a long way from the South, but did you know we have BBQ royalty in our midst? Christiaan Lorson from Le Jardin du Roi, heads up a well-respected team called “Q Haven” on the BBQ circuit.
Christiaan taught me a new twist on infusing more flavor into our ribs. After reaching 175 degrees internal temperature, wrap your ribs in foil, meat side down. He likes to line the foil with brown sugar, honey, rib rub, and maybe a little chipotle for added heat. When the ribs are wrapped tightly in foil, the heat molecules will turn your spices into a braising liquid. Forty five minutes of meat side down cooking should be more than enough to reach a final internal temperature of 195-200 degrees.
Christiaan says “Rest your meat!” Just like a good steak, your ribs should be out of the foil for a few minutes before cutting into your masterpiece. Spraying on a little apple juice to the rib will help stop the cooking process. I slice my ribs with the meat side facing down. Just cut between the bones. If you like, add sauce on top, or to the side (sauce suggestions below). Dig in!
When not conquering the world of finance, Stephen Barron can be found smoking his own ribs and spending quality time with his wife, Michelle, and sons, Max and Jack.
Christiann’s Slather Recipe
Even parts mustard, agave syrup, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce.
Maybe a tad less vinegar.
Sauce Suggestions: Stubbs, Austin Texas, Arthur Bryant’s, a spicy Kansas City classic, McClards, Hot Springs AK (a former favorite of President Clinton when he ate BBQ), Sweet Baby Rays for the kids, The Shed, (all flavors).