One of my favorite summer picnic or BBQ foods is ribs. For years I tried to make them like you get at good rib joints, but could never duplicate the tenderness and flavor of the experts. Thankfully ribs are no longer a struggle and with a few simple tips anyone can make a rack of ribs as good or better than you will find at a rib festival!
I like baby back ribs, but many rib experts prefer spare ribs or beef short ribs. These have much more meat than baby backs but also much more fat. Forget country ribs, they are not ribs at all. They are cut from the shoulder without the bone. The following recipe will work great with any of these types of ribs.
Here's about the simplest way for anyone to turn out some great ribs. The key is "Low and Slow", meaning you must cook ribs at a low temperature, and slowly. Low temperature means less than 300, and slowly means at least three hours. You can experminent with these numbers, I sometimes cook at 225 or 250 for four hours or more.
Season ribs with a dry rub. You can buy prepackaged or mix your own. I use one consisting of equal parts of dried onion power, oregano, thyme, cayenne, garlic power, black pepper, salt and paprika. Sprinkle it on pretty heavy and rub in. Take two sheets of aluminum foil, each about 6 inches longer than the rack of ribs, and double wrap the ribs with the seam on top. Place the rack on a sheet pan (or something with sides in case of leaks) and put in the oven at 300 degrees, for three hours.
Be careful when you remove these from the oven. The foil will contain a lot of fat that needs to be drained away. Pour off the fat being careful not to break the ribs apart...That's how tender they will be! They will also be grey and ugly looking. Don't let that bother you!! Coat the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce and finish them off either in the ovens broiler or (my favorite) on a grill. Cook them until the sugar in the sauce starts to caramelize and turn black in a few areas, about 10 minutes and serve. Perfect ribs!
There are a couple of ways to improve on this method if you want to take the time. I like to marinade mine for three or four hours before cooking with a mixture of white vinegar and water. It doesn't take much, a couple tablespoons of each right in the foil with the dry rub and let them sit in the fridge for a few hours, then they can go right in the oven.
You can also cook these right on the grill, but it's tricky to keep the temperature steady and as low as 300. If you use charcoal, and have a large grill, you can use indirect heat by placing the coals on one side and the meat on another. This requires a grill thermometer and you need to constantly add charcoal to maintain even heating without getting too hot. If you are not comfortable with this, I'd recommend you start with the oven method.
Another good touch is to make your own sauce. I use several, but here is a very good one that is also really easy to make:
Mix the following ingredients in a sauce pan:
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cup root beer
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
3 tablespoons A1 Steak sauce
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cloves minced garlic
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat only slightly to a low boil and simmer until reduced by about a third or until desired thickness is reached about 10 or 15 minutes.