Ribs remind me of summer barbeques and good times with family. If your Labor Day picnic or tailgating goal is to serve juicy tender bbq ribs with all of the fixings, then you’ve come to the right place.
Ribs are easy to make and take very little hands on time. What they do need is a good bbq rub and long, slow cooking. I prep ribs the night before cooking them. Set my fire in the early afternoon, cook the ribs and serve for dinner. Hands on time is only 15 minutes…….now the cooking time is another story. Long and slow is the way to go, but you can be getting other things done while your ribs linger in the smoke and become tender and juicy, oh yeah.
What Kind Of Ribs Are Best?
Without starting world war III, I will take a stand for spareribs. They are more flavorful and have more meat than baby back ribs and are less expensive. If you know how to prep and cook the ribs then you’ll have juicy tender bbq ribs every time. Others will argue that the baby back ribs are more tender. I really think it just means you don’t have to cook the baby back ribs as long as the spareribs. If you substitute baby back for spareribs in this recipe then reduce the cooking time to 2 hours instead of 3.
What’s the Best BBQ Rub for Ribs?
As far as the bbq rub there are a million different ways to go. Our method around this house is to use a rub that our friend Delaney taught us when we held a Baseball Team fundraiser. We borrowed and set up the local Boy Scout troop’s big smoker at the baseball field. Then cooked ribs for hours. I don’t remember if our team won or lost the game, but we certainly won fans on both sides with the aroma that filled the air. My version is slightly different than Delaney’s but has the same sweet tang with a bit of heat.
If you are really short for time you can use a store bought barbecue rub or use Emeril’s Essence as a base and add brown sugar for the sweetness. Once again, this is a more expensive way to do it but hey, we all run into time conflicts now and again. But really, Cort’s BBQ Rub uses spices you probably already have on hand and literally takes a couple of minutes to mix. I premix my bbq rub and keep it in an airtight container with my other spices. When using the spice rub, pour out just the amount you want to use on a disposable paper plate. If your dirty hands touch any leftover spice mix dispose of it, raw meat juice mixed with anything will make you sick. Cort’s bbq rub will cover 6 slabs of ribs so you should have plenty extra rub to keep in the cupboard for a while.
Ideally you want to rub the ribs the night before to let the flavors marry. But if you are strapped for time you can rub the ribs just before putting them on the grill or in the oven. I’ve done this a ton of times and the ribs are still delicious.
How Do You Prep Ribs?
Remove the membrane on the bone side of the rack of ribs. Do this by placing the tip of a meat thermometer or table knife between the membrane and a bone, then grab the tip of the membrane with a paper towel and peel off. The paper towel gives you needed grip on the membrane. Rarely will the membrane come off in one piece, just keep grabbing and peeling until most of it is removed. Don’t take too much off, it’s really just an almost see through thing that is paper thin. And if this step is too much just leave the membrane on the ribs, you will still get juicy tender bbq ribs even with the membrane intact.
You will find voters on both sides. Basically the membrane left on will leave a little chewy bit between the bones, almost like the casing of a hotdog. Most bbq pit masters will swear by removing the membrane. Once you get the hang of it, taking the membrane off only takes seconds. Do whatever your preference is. I think removing the membrane is one of those small differences that your guests won’t be able to pinpoint but will appreciate.
Can I Cook BBQ Ribs in The Oven?
Of course. Now if you have a smoker then I’d choose that every time because you can infuse your juicy tender bbq ribs with hickory or cherry wood. But that’s a subtle nuance that is nice but not necessary. The key is to cook the ribs long and slow.
We add honey and apple juice mid-way through cooking to add sweetness and to keep a moist environment thus making juicy tender bbq ribs every time. I got this tip and the base for our rub from Dr. BBQ.
Do I Need To Soak The Wood Chips First?
Again, another matter of preference. I just toss the wood chips on the hot coals when the fire is ready. But most recipe books and websites will tell you to soak them. I can’t figure out why and it’s easier to just toss them on the coals. How many chips to add to the fire you ask? A small hand full of chips is plenty. As great as the smoke flavor is, too much of that smoke flavor will ruin your ribs. Most bags of chips or chunks will give you suggestions, follow them because different woods invoke stronger flavors.
OK, To Get Juicy Tender BBQ Ribs, How Long Do You Cook Them?
A basic rule of thumb is to cook spareribs for 3 hours at 325 degrees, over indirect heat if using the grill or smoker. Rub the ribs and let sit for 30 minutes or overnight. Set your grill for 325 degrees for indirect heat. With a Big Green Egg that means you’ll use the convEGGtor with the legs facing down. In a gas or charcoal grill put the ribs on the opposite side of the grill from the lit coals. If using the oven then just disregard.
Place the ribs in a disposable aluminum tray to fit the ribs, or cut the slabs in half to fit. Cook for 1 ½ hours uncovered. If you have a rib tray use that to keep the ribs vertical. This makes more room on the smoker.
After 1 ½ hours squeeze honey over the ribs. I run the honey back and forth like a downhill skier from one end of the rib rack to the other. Then pour about 1 inch of apple cider or juice into the aluminum pan, not over the ribs because you don’t want to lose any of the rub or honey. Cover with heavy duty tin foil and continue to cook another hour. The apple cider or juice is the secret ingredient to making juicy tender bbq ribs, the moisture from the juice is the key.
Take the ribs off of the grill or out of the oven when you can pull on a bone and it releases nicely but doesn’t fall off of the bone. You will hear quite often that you want “fall off the bone” ribs. Actually you want a toothsome rib where they are juicy tender bbq ribs that the meat easily releases when eating but doesn’t completely fall apart when transferring to the serving platter.
Should I Sauce the Ribs or Serve Them Dry?
When you have a great rub like we have here it’s not necessary. In fact, I personally like my ribs “dry” and don’t want to lose the rub flavor by dousing the ribs in sauce, but my family would disagree. I serve warmed bbq sauce on the side and let everyone add as much sauce as they like.
You can also add sauce to the finished ribs and return to the indirect heat to caramelize for an additional 30 minutes.
Serve with coleslaw, potato salad and corn on the cobb. Or how about baked beans or homemade macaroni and cheese.
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Juicy Tender BBQ Ribs
Only 15 minutes hands on time and lots of slow cooking delivers the juiciest, most favorable ribs you have ever eaten.
- 1 Slab Spareribs
- 1/4 Cup BBQ Rub Store bought or make Cort's BBQ Rub
- 3 Tablespoons Honey
- 1 Cup Apple Cider or apple juice
Preheat smoker, grill or oven to 325 degrees. If using smoker or grill set up for indirect heat. When ready to cook the ribs toss on a handful of wood chips.
Optional step: To remove the chewy membrane from the bone side of the spareribs, use a table knife or sharp end of a meat thermometer and place between a bone and the membrane on the back side of the ribs. Once you have a bit of the membrane lifted, use a paper towel for extra grip and peel off as much as possible. Removing the membrane is a preference and not safety related.
Rub about 3/4 of the bbq rub on the meaty side and a 1/4 of it on the bone side. Let sit for 30 minutes or overnight. If storing overnight wrap tightly in tin foil and refrigerate. If you don't have the time to let the meat rest then throw the ribs on the grill or oven right away. The sitting time produces a stronger flavor.
Place ribs in a disposable foil container to fit, with the meat side facing up. Smoke, grill or bake the ribs for 1 1/2 hours (if using baby back ribs then reduce time to 1 hour).
Remove ribs after 1 1/2 hours. Squeeze honey on the meat side of the ribs. You really don't need to go to the messy step of measuring the honey. Just squeeze back and forth like a snow plowing down hill skier or an EKG readout from one end of the rack to the other. Pour about an inch of apple juice or apple cider in the bottom of the foil pan. Don't pour over the ribs or you'll lose some of that great rub.
Check ribs at 30 minute intervals to test for doneness. The key is not to actually have it falling off the bone to the extent that you can't even lift the rib rack. You want to easily tug on a bone and have it gently pull away from the meat.
You can make the ribs up to 2 days prior. Just cool completely then cover tightly with foil and refrigerate. To reheat, place in smoker, grill or oven at 300 degrees, still covered for about 30 minutes. But they are great at room temperature too.
Serve the ribs "dry" with bbq sauce on the side. If you want to sauce the ribs then do that after the last step. Slather on your favorite bbq sauce and return the uncovered ribs to the grill for a few minutes. Either on high for only a couple of minutes, but be careful, most bbq sauces have sugar in them and the sauce is at risk of burning those beautiful, long awaited ribs. Or return the ribs over low heat for 30 minutes to let the sauce caramelize.