Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rick's "Ragin' Pork Spare Ribs"

I became a BBQ rib fanatic about 30 years ago while working in Nashville, Tennessee and eating them twice a week (at least) at Bobby-Q’s on West End Blvd. Now Southerners take their "Q" seriously and I learned how to cook ribs from some master BBQ cooks in Nashville, Memphis, Florida, and Arkansas. I can't show you how to do it in person, but I can give you some of my secrets for great backyard BBQ ribs. With these tips and some practice, you can become the "King of the Grill" in your neighborhood.  First and foremost, you MUST have enough time to make good BBQ ribs. DON'T RUSH! Be prepared to spend an hour or two to get things ready.  Pick Your Ribs Carefully. I prefer pork spareribs over baby back ribs because I think they have more flavor from the marbling of fat throughout the meat. Slabs of spare ribs come in weights of 2-5 lbs. and may contain as many as 12 to 13 bones. A two pound slab will come from a young hog and will be more tender. Buy slabs that are three pounds or less (butchers call these "three down" spare ribs). You should look for the leanest slabs you can find, then trim any visible fat.

Cut off the thick flap of meat on the back side with a boning knife. (You can season and throw all these trimmed pieces in the smoker.  They make a great BBQ snack after the ribs are all gone.)

Remove the thick membrane on the back side of the ribs if the butcher has not already done so. This is best done with a dull oyster knife or a large, clean screwdriver.. .honest! Place the knife or screwdriver under the membrane next to a bone end. Carefully follow the bone and lift. The membrane should loosen and can then be pulled off with a paper towel.

Cut through and along the top of the rib bones to remove the thick fatty part, leaving a nice lean trimmed slab.

Place the ribs, meaty side up, on a cookie sheet, a piece of foil or paper towels. Good BBQ ribs need a "rub" or dry seasoning mix, like Rick's Ragin' BBQ Rub (available at, which I sprinkle on the meat prior to cooking. If you don’t have my rub, you can make a pretty good one from the recipe below.

Basic Sweet Dry Rub for Ribs

6   Tbs light brown sugar
3   Tbs paprika
3   Tbs Kosher salt
3   Tbs ground black pepper
2   tsp garlic powder
2   tsp onion powder
2   tsp Coleman’s dry mustard powder

After applying the rub to the ribs,

let the ribs rest about 20 minutes until they begin to "sweat."  By "sweat," I mean that the meat will begin to glisten as the spices do their work. The rub provides the background for both the mopping sauce and the finishing sauce. A finishing sauce like Rick's Ragin' BBQ & Broilin' Baste™ is applied at the end of the cooking process.

My BBQ sauce contains brown sugar and should not be applied until the last few minutes of cooking or it will burn before the meat is done. During cooking, use a sugarless basting sauce to provide the extra moisture necessary to keep the meat from drying out. Here's a recipe for my quick and easy mopping or spritz baste.

Quick & Easy Mopping Sauce

1 Cup Heintz Cider Vinegar
1/2 Cup Lea & Perrins Worcesterchire Sauce
1/2 Cup Kikkoman Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Olive Oil

This mopping sauce should be applied throughout the cooking process with a new, clean rag-type dish mop. Don't use a brush! Dribble the basting sauce over the meat with the mop. A brush will just wipe the seasonings from the meat. You can also put the mopping sauce in a new, clean, spray bottle and mist the meat with a fine spray to add moisture, which is what I do.

Light a charcoal fire, use a gas grill or a smoker if you have one. Place the seasoned slab of ribs in the smoker, curved side down. Cook at about 225 degrees for 3-1/2 to 4 hours. Baste or spritz the ribs with the mopping sauce every 1/2 hour  Repeat the process until the ribs are both cooked and tender.

You can tell when they are done by grabbing the slab with tongs about half way. If you gently push on the free end of the slab and the meat begins to tear near the bone, the ribs are "tender" done. When this happens, baste the slabs with Rick's Ragin BBQ & Broilin Baste or your favorite BBQ sauce and let them glaze.

Now the secret part! Immediately after taking the ribs off the grill, completely wrap them in foil. Then, place the foil-wrapped ribs in a brown paper sack and fold the sack over the ribs. Allow the ribs to rest for 1/2 hour at room temperature. This causes the meat juices and the spices to be drawn back into the meat as it cools slowly. The bag holds in the heat and moisture so the ribs don't cool too much. It sounds weird, but it works!

Finally, heat up some Rick's Ragin' BBQ & Broilin' Baste (available at on the stove, unwrap the ribs, swab on the warm sauce, cut the slabs into individual bones and have at it! Serve the remaining sauce at the table. if you follow these directions, you will be rewarded with ribs that are moist, tender, and tasty beyond your wildest imagination!

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