Don’t be intimidated — There is nothing like home-made ribs
Barbecue pork ribs from a recipe by Elizabeth Karmel. ELIZABETH KARMEL VIA AP
There is nothing like homemade ribs. And, once you get over the intimidation factor, you realize that they don’t take nearly as long to cook as barbecue myth has it, and they are also very easy to prepare.
The most popular ribs to cook are back ribs, but spareribs and St. Louis-style ribs are becoming more and more popular. It’s important to look at the ribs in the store and choose them based on the way they look more than the cut.
They should be plump, heavy for their size and have some visible fat. The fat will render out during the cooking time, leaving flavor and help create a nice crust on the ribs. These days pork can be so lean that you don’t see a lot of fat, even on the ribs.
Once you decide on which rib to buy, there are a few things to remember when purchasing your meat. Number one: Make sure that each slab weighs close to 2 pounds each, and that the ribs have a nice layer of meat covering the bone. Slabs of ribs that are factory-cut often have “bone shine” or areas of the rack where the blade hit the bone and cut off all the meat, exposing the bone.
Plan on purchasing half a rack per person, more if you are serving big eaters. I always round up one rack, for example, if I am serving 7-8 people, I buy 5 racks of ribs. After taking the time to make the ribs, you don’t want to run out.
The final thing that you need to know is that the best way to test for doneness is to make sure that the meat has receded from the end of the bones and that you can bend the rack without breaking it in pieces. And, remember that the only way that the meat will fall off the bone, is if you parboil them first (just say no!) or if you overcook them. The best ribs should be tender but have a little “chew” left.
Backyard Ribs 101
Start to finish: 4 hours
This recipe is my version of ribs that made me fall in love with backyard ribs. The Memphis in May barbecue team took me under their wing and shared their secret — slathering the ribs in fresh lemon juice before seasoning them.
Grilling Method: Indirect/medium-low heat
4 racks pork ribs, about 2-3 pounds per slab
2 lemons, cut in half
¼ cup Classic Barbecue Rub (see below) or favorite spice rub
Soaked wood chips, if desired
Favorite barbecue sauce
Build charcoal fire or preheat gas grill. Remove silver skin from back of ribs, if desired. I prefer to leave it on the ribs.
Set up the grill for indirect heat and if using wood chips, place soaked chips directly on charcoal, or in smoking box of gas grill. Rub the cut lemons over front and back of ribs, squeezing to release as much juice as possible. Discard any lemon seeds. Set aside for 5 minutes. Sprinkle ribs liberally with spice rub and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
Place ribs (bone side down) in the center of the cooking grate or in a rib holder/rack, making sure they are not over a direct flame. Grill covered (at about 300 F, if your grill has a thermometer) for 2-3 hours, depending on how big your racks are.
Two-pound racks will take about 2 hours and 3-pound racks will take closer to 3 hours. The meat will be tender, and you can see that it has pulled back (receded) from the ends of the rib bones. Leave ribs untended for the first 30 minutes — this means no peeking; especially important if using wood chips. If the ribs start to burn on the edges, stack them on top of one another in the very center of the grill and lower your fire/heat slightly.
Twenty minutes before serving, unstack ribs, if necessary, and brush with barbecue sauce. Remove ribs from grill and let rest 10 minutes before cutting into individual or 2-3 rib portions.
Warm remaining sauce in a saucepan and serve on the side, if desired.
Backyard Rib Rub
Makes about 1½ cups
3 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground Worcestershire black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients; mix well. For a smoother rub, process the ingredients in a spice grinder until well combined and all the pieces are uniform (the rub will be become a very fine powder and tan in color. It can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.)
Nutrition information per serving: 221 calories; 115 calories from fat; 13 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 72 mg cholesterol; 627 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 22 g protein.