I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been terrified of cooking ribs. Oh sure, there’s the fact that it’s pork, and undercooked pork is one of my great fears in life (kinda ridiculous as I don’t even eat pork all that much…and I’ve got a thermometer). Ribs just always seemed so complicated, but I found out, um, they’re not. They are time-intensive, there’s no doubt about that, but beyond the time, they’re really not that tough.
Being resolved to attempt ribs I went to the one person I knew I could count on – my meat guy. Paper and pen in hand I asked him how to cook ribs, and then asked him to pick out some for me. First off, I was only going to make 1 half-rack, and he said that if I was going to bother cooking them at all I should at least do a full rack. Trust me, he said. The worst that can happen is leftovers, he said.
So scribbled on a piece of paper, in my atrocious handwriting, is the following:
275 degree oven
dry rub – garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper
little bbq sauce to the sugar caramelizes
1/2 beer in pan
make a tent with foil
cook 2 hours
500 degree on grill 10 min or so
watch for fire
And much like every cookbook recipe I’ve ever attempted I made a few tweaks. My dry rub consisted of finely minced garlic, salt and pepper, but I found I was out of chili powder and so I used ancho powder. Then I went another step and added brown sugar to my rub. Instead of beer I poured 1/2 of a Stella Artois Cidre into the pan for moisture. I drank the rest. Into the oven for the two hours they went, and I turned my attention to my bbq sauce and coleslaw.
I’ve used this recipe for bbq sauce before and had cook luck with it. I will say that this time I did not use the tomato sauce, because I felt that with the ketchup is was tomato-y enough. Good call. I’ve had this before with bbq chicken and it’s great, but it’s almost too tomato-y for the ribs.
This recipe for Southern coleslaw was also my first time making coleslaw, and the pressure was on here. because Husband J is a huge fan of coleslaw. It calls for 2 bags of pre-prepped coleslaw mix, but I used one bag (a broccoli, carrot and red cabbage blend) and then got a head of Napa cabbage and chopped that. I combined everything for the dressing except the sugar, and then had Husband J taste test it for me. He thought it was good and then I revealed that I hadn’t put the sugar in and he said it wasn’t needed. (When son j was dropped off by a friend’s parent after a day out I told her what I was making and she said the only absolute rule was that the coleslaw dressing had to have sugar in it…I kept my mouth shut).
After 2 hours I started heating the grill, and when I temped the ribs they were slightly underdone. Now, this was the tough part – I still took them out of the oven. I knew they would continue to cook on the grill and had to trust that they would reach the proper temperature. After nearly singeing off my eyebrows opening the grill, I put the racks, brushed with a light layer of sauce, on, closed it and wondered where the hell I’d put the fire extinguisher. I tried very hard to not freak out when I saw the amount of smoke pouring out the grill, and really hoped the neighbors weren’t going to call the fire department until it was absolutely necessary.
It wasn’t. After 10 minutes I took them off the grill and they. looked. perfect. They tasted perfect. Yes, the bbq place up the street does better, but they’re professionals, and I’m just some schmo making ribs for the first time. Oh, and meat guy was right, I’m glad I made a full rack because we inhaled nearly all of it…and I had the leftovers the next day for breakfast. Ribs, coleslaw and a Stella Artois Cidre, with mixed fruit crisp for dessert. Not a bad sunday night dinner on a hot sunny weekend.