Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Spicy Smoked Ribs

Three simple steps, Brine the ribs, marinate in the spice rub, and cook slow!

Brine ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup table salt or 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 racks baby back ribs (about 2 pounds each), or loin back ribs
  • Dissolve salt and sugar in the 4 quarts cold water in stockpot or large plastic container.
  • Submerge ribs in brine and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Don't go much past 2 hours and certainly not overnight. The ribs are too thin and would absorb too much salt.
  • While the ribs are brining, mix the spice rub.
  • Remove ribs from brine and thoroughly pat dry.
Spice rub:
  • 1 tablespoon hot, smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (homemade preferably, Ancho Chile Powder if not)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
If you are looking for a less spicy rub, eliminate the cayenne, switch the paprika from hot to sweet, and double the brown sugar. If it still seems to spicy, use a regular chili powder instead of ancho or homemade.

  • When ribs are out of brine and dried, rub each side of racks with 1 tablespoon spice rub; refrigerate racks for at least an hour, or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and marinate overnight.
  • While the rubs are marinating, soak several pieces of lemon-sized pieces of wood. Soak for about an hour. I prefer hickory or apple wood for ribs.
Barbeque the Ribs:
  • Open bottom vents on grill about 3/4 of the way. Ignite a decent pile of charcoal. I do use briquettes because lump is hard to find and tends to be expensive. Now I use a cut-down gallon milk jug to scoop up the charcoal. I counted it a few times and a typical scoop is about 25 briquettes. For this recipe I start with two scoops, so about 50 briquettes.
  • Depending on the humidity, it should take about 20-30 minutes to get a nice light coat of ash. Push the coals to one side and put two or three pieces of the wood on top.
  • Position an disposable aluminum pan on the opposite side.
  • Put on the grill grate and cover for 5 minutes to heat up the grill grate.
  • After 5 minutes, scrape and oil the grate.
  • Lay the ribs over the aluminum pan (it's for catching any drippings) and position the top vent, wide open, right over the ribs. An alternative is to use a rack to stand them up. Just make sure they are not directly over the coals.
  • Stick a probe thermometer down the vent until it's about half between the cover and the ribs. DO NOT TRUST the thermometer in the hood of your grill. They are notoriously unreliable.
  • Grill temp should register about 350F. If it goes higher, close the bottom vent some. Once you get it settled, it should slowly drop over the next 90 minutes to 2 hours. Grill temp should be about 225F after 90 min - 2 hours. Don't let it drop much further of you might have to re-start your coals -- which sucks.
  • Flip the ribs over and reverse the racks so the one nearest the fire is now the one furthest away. Add about 10 more briquettes and another piece of wood.
  • Continue to cook for about 90 minutes, turned and switching the ribs about every 30 minutes. Only add more charcoal as needed. The grill temp should be between 225F and 250F. Adjust the lower vents as needed. I have found that if you cannot keep the grill temp down at this point, wrap the ribs tightly in aluminum foil and cook that way. There has already been enough smoke in the ribs, this cooking is more to finish the ribs to the point of being almost fall off the bone.
  • How do you tell they are done? First is temp, you should be looking for about 160F in a meaty part of the ribs. Also, when you pick them up with tongs, hold them up from the short edge with the tongs about 1/3 of the way down the rack. The rack should bend about 40 degrees. This is the nearly falling off the bone stage. If you pick it up and the rack collapses, they are a little overdone. I know A lot of people want it to be falling off, but I like a little bite left in them. I want it to come off the bone with a slight tug when I bite into it. If I need a fork to eat it because the bones come right out, then I feel that I just took away half the fun of eating ribs.
  • Once done, wrap in aluminum foil, if you haven't already done so, and let rest on a cutting board about 10 - 20 minutes.
  • To serve I like to cut into either single bone or double bone portions. I think it depends on my audience.

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