Friday, August 2, 2013

Slow, hot and sticky...

It’s been a while. I hope your time away was as tasty as mine :)

After some discussions with the good folks on my home away from home, which I suppose I go to while at home… the message board (again try it, we don’t bite unless you ask) I’ve decided to do another post on one dish like I did with burgers. This time, we’re having ribs.

Ribs are a dish that pretty much 100% of the non-vegetarian/vegan people will admit to loving if they’re done right. I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone say “Oh man, ribs again? I hate those”, can you?

Anyways, before I get into the actual cooking methods for ribs, of which there are many, I thought I’d share some of my personal tips for preparing them.

I personally prefer pork ribs over beef, but that is just my preference. If you prefer beef then go with them of course. The first thing you should do when you get your ribs and take them out of the package is remove the membrane. The membrane is a white layer located on the backside of the rack of ribs. It is fairly simple to remove, just pull up the corner with a knife and then grab and pull. It may take a little force but it will come right off. Some people leave the membrane but I find it just makes the one side of the ribs tough to eat. It also acts as a barrier that stops flavors from marinades, sauces, rubs and smokers from seeping into the meat. I’m all for removing things that make food tough to eat and block flavor.
After the membrane is removed it is time to decide how big you want your servings to be. The easy way out is to leave them whole. I cut my ribs into roughly 6 inch lengths. I do this for two reasons, first is to make them fit better in my smoker which is my cooking method of choice and the second is that it seems to be a serving size that appeals to a lot of people. You can just take 2 or 3 if you’re a big eater or leave it at 1 if you’re not.

Now you need to decide on marinade, dry rub or leave it alone. If you marinade you have almost unlimited choices. The easy method is to buy a marinade or just thin out a BBQ sauce. Or you can make your own with any number of combinations of ingredients. The same can be said for a dry rub which is basically a marinade but with only dry ingredients. I stay away from salts when making rubs for the same reason I don’t put salt in my burgers, it will dry out the meat. Put your salt on at the last possible moment if you’re going to use any at all. I like to leave my ribs in marinades over night so the flavors can really sink in and I put on dry rubs about an hour or two before cooking begins. Not a rule by any means, just my method.

Time to cook the ribs. The one rule for making fall-off-the-bone fantastic ribs is “low and slow”. That means low heat (170F – 180F) for a long time (4-6 hours or more). If you’ve ever had tough, chewy ribs I can almost guarantee you that the cook simply cooked his/her ribs WAY too fast. The reason for this method making the ribs tender is that they are full of collagen, which is a tough fiber in the muscle that melts into a gelatin at 160F. However this process takes a while and if you heat it too fast the collagen will not melt before the meat is cooked and it will stay tough. Slow cooking actually cooks the meat more thoroughly and dries it out a bit in terms of water content. However the gelatin produced when the collagen melts makes the meat pull apart easily and gives it a fantastic silky, moist and tender texture. This holds true for any meat you slow cook such as a beef or pork roast for beef on a bun or pulled pork and it can make the toughest cuts of meat come out fantastic.

That said; let’s look at some actual cooking methods for the ribs. 

Slow cooker – Put in your ribs, put in your sauce, set it on low and forget about it for a few hours. I’m not a fan of this method but I don’t like slow cookers as a rule.This is a effective method for busy people who want tasty food but don't seem to have the time. 

Braising – Braising is slow roasting in liquid. It is a method used a lot for pot-roast or pulled pork and works amazingly if your heat source is the oven. Choosing a good braising liquid is important as it will seep into the meat as you cook. If you marinade your ribs then braise them in your marinade. I know people who braise ribs in cola, seriously. The cola helps break down the ribs a bit and the sugars add tremendous flavor. Not heart healthy I suppose but the flavor is fantastic. Anyways put your ribs in a roasting pan with your braising liquid and any other flavor enhancers, set it to 160-180 and let her rip for hours on end.
Stove top boiling – I’ve seen people bring a pot of cooking liquid (again whatever you choose) to a boil and add the ribs and keep it at a simmer for a while. I’m not a fan of this method as I think it cooks too quickly and keeps the ribs tough. Some folks swear by it, to each their own.

BBQ – I love my BBQ but I only use it as a finishing touch for ribs. The BBQ simply cooks the ribs too quickly to be effective at making them tender. I’ll get back to this in my recipe at the bottom.

Smoker – I use a digital smoker which I can set my cooking temperature, the amount of smoke, how long I cook and how long I smoke. I love this machine. I personally smoke my ribs for at least 4 hours at about 180 F. Your choice if you want to dry rub or sauce the ribs prior to smoking and of course it is your choice as to your flavor of wood used to make the smoke.

That is all I have for the moment. In honor of this post here is my recipe for ribs

TheeDogg’s Damn Near Bacon With a Bone in it Ribs.

Ingredients: Ribs:
2 Racks pork ribs                                                     Garlic powder
Chili Powder                                                             Black pepper
As much wood as needed for 5-6 hours of smoke for your smoker

  1. Remove membrane from ribs and cut into roughly 6 inch lengths
  2. Pat dry with a paper towel
  3. Apply spices to taste
  4. Preheat smoker to 180F and prep wood for smoke
  5. Put ribs in smoker and smoke for 5-6 hours changing the order of the racks roughly every hour
  6. When almost done (5-10 minutes left) preheat grill to medium high
  7. Apply hot and sticky sauce generously (recipe for sauce below)
  8. Grill for a few minutes per side until sauce is starting to brown
  9. Eat and then come back here to leave a thank you comment for me giving you the recipe for the best damn ribs you've ever eaten

Hot and Sticky Sauce

Ingredients: Sauce:
1 cup ketchup                                                        2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar                                      1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp cumin                                                           ½ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp Sriracha hot chili sauce                                2 tsp chili powder

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil over med-high heat
  3. Simmer together for 10 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning

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