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Old November 8th, 2012, 12:57 PM   #8 (permalink)
big_z
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I'm assuming they're pork spare ribs trimmed St Louis style, you have a charcoal grill, and about 6 hours to babysit them while they cook. If they're baby back ribs, they'll cook in less time (4 maybe; never done them before).

Soak in apple juice overnight in the fridge.

In the morning, about 7 or 8 hours before you're ready to eat, take them out of the apple juice, rinse with water, and pat dry with paper towels. If you have some rubber or plastic gloves that are food-safe (i.e. not unsanitary or used with dangerous chemicals), put those on; it makes rubbing much easier. Squirt some plain yellow mustard (cheapest you can find at the store) onto the meat. You don't need a ton; the mustard is just a glue for the rub, and the mustard flavor will cook out. Get your rub and generously apply to the mustard-ed meat. Flip them over and do the mustard and rub thing on the back on the meaty parts (no need to do much to the bony parts). Wrap in plastic cling wrap and let them sit for an hour or so. Some people say put them back in the fridge, others say let them warm up closer to room temperature. I'm in the fridge camp.

Get some barbecue caliber wood chips (never use chips from an unknown source; the wood could be toxic when burned, could be treated with something that's toxic when burned, or could generate bad-tasting smoke). I like cherry, myself. For your first time, if you try hickory, I would mix in a fruit wood (apple + hickory is good). Hickory can be overpowering. I would not use mesquite for your first time at all. Soak them in water for about an hour before you fire up the grill. I use about 3 or 4 handfuls of chips when I do ribs.

Take them out to your grill. Start about 20 charcoal briquettes in a chimney starter. Wait for them to ash over, then dump them on one side of your grill (assuming a round kettle type here). I have a 22.5" Weber, if you have a smaller one, use less charcoal. If you have a rib rack, put the ribs in it and put them on the grill on the side opposite the charcoal. If you don't, put the ribs bony side down on the grate on the side opposite the charcoal. Once the ribs are situated, grab a handful of your soaked chips and toss them on the charcoal. Close the grill and put the lid vent on the same side as the meat (so smoke is drawn across the meat as it exits the grill).

This next step is very important: apply beer liberally to your mouth.

About every hour, depending on how cold it is outside, check the temperature of the grill. If you have an oven thermometer, stick it either on the grill rack itself or in one of the lid vent holes. You're shooting for between 225 and 250F. If it's too hot, reduce the air flow with the vents on the bottom of the grill. Always leave the lid vents all the way open. When it's time for a new batch of charcoal, start it in the chimney and wait for it to ash down as before. Never add unlit charcoal on top of lit charcoal, your food will taste like creosote. Once it's ready, put it in the grill and add another handful of chips.

Keep this cycle up for 3 hours. At 3 hours, take the ribs off the grill, and double wrap them in foil with a little bit of apple cider vinegar and olive oil in the foil. Put them back on the grill. Keep up the charcoal monitoring, and especially the beer. Leave them in the foil for about 2 hours. There's no need to add wood chips in this stage. The smoke is not going to penetrate the foil.

At 2 hours foiled (5 total) unwrap them from the foil and put them back on the grill for another hour. If you are a barbecue sauce fan (I am) this is when you should apply it. Let them cook one more hour. If you use sauce, keep an eye on it, sauce has sugar in it and the sugar will burn if you're not careful.

Short version: 3 hours unfoiled, 2 hours foiled, 1 hour unfoiled and sauced, if desired. Maintain 225-250F. Above all else, maintain beer.

Speaking of beer, you may want to try pouring a can or bottle of beer into a drip tray and putting it in the grill under the meat, next to the charcoal and leaving it there throughout the cook. Apple juice or even plain water might work too.
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