Saturday was a perfect day to smoke some ribs. I had a full day to prepare it and I was hosting a celebration for a friend's recent engagement. The rain stayed away so it was great to just hang out in the backyard and tend the grill.
I call them Midwestern Ribs because I used a St. Louis-style cut of Spare Ribs combined with a Kansas City-style BBQ sauce. The K.C sauce is classic for having a solid base of tomatoes as opposed to Carolina sauces which are heavy in vinegar flavor. The St. Louis-style cut of spare ribs is known by the removal of the brisket and/or ribs tips. I believe I left some of the tips on one of the ribs though.
My Kansas City-style sauce consisted of:
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
2 tbs garlic salt
1 tbs onion salt
1.5 tsp celery salt
1/4 cup paprika, any kind you prefer
1 tbs chile powder
1 tbs. freshly ground black pepper
1.5 tsp rubbed dried sage
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne
Pinch ground cloves
Combine all the ingredients and mix to a fine consistency for a dry rub.
Prep your spare ribs by removing the membrane or silverskin that covers the ribs. Also, you want to trim off the skirt on the bone side of the ribs. It is a loose flap piece of meat. Trim any other bits of fat. Then apply dry rub all over the ribs, front and back side.
After applying the dry rub, cover the ribs in foil and place in the refridgerator for at least an hour. While the ribs marinate, prepare the sauce. My sauce consists of:
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs yellow mustard
1 tbs chile powder
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbs honey
2 cups tomato ketchup, I added a little bit of tomato paste as well
Combine ingredients into a sauce pan and cook over low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir to mix ingredients and to dissolve spices.
Time to prep the grill. Here is my makeshift grill station. Start the charcoal in the chimney starter. I started with 50 briquettes. Let them burn until they are a soft white and place into grill. You also want to soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes. Another important note; get those beers cold in a cooler near your station!
A good set up for smoking your ribs is to place the coals on one side for indirect grilling. Place a foil pan that is 2/3 full of water next the the coals. Place your ribs on a rib rack over the foil pan. Spread wood chips over hot coals.
I forgot to cut my ribs into half slabs in order to fit them in the rib rack. I did so after about an hour of smoking. The foil pan is key because the ribs will be dripping of fat and it protects your grill from getting all messy.
Lots of smoking going on. You want to place the vents over the ribs so the smoke will travel through them. Now I smoked these ribs without a grill thermometer and I know they come highly recommended in order to achieve a slow, steady internal grill temp. Many wouldn't grill without one. It is the key for long smokes at a low level. Spare ribs contain a lot of meat and need to cook over a long period of time and at a low temperature. A grill thermometer makes it much easier. If you don't have one, you need to adjust the vents to lower the internal temperature.
Here are the ribs after several hours. I only added a few briquettes of charcoal once during the time to maintain heat and added wood chips throughout the process to continue the smoke. The ribs will tell you when they are done. The meat shrinks back from the bone and when you can easily remove the bone from the meat. Ideally, ribs should smoke for 5-6 hours at a temperature of 225-250 degrees.
The ribs turn black from the smoke. They looked like they are charred or burnt but indeed they are not. The outer layer is called bark. The smoke creates a crispy bark that is flavored from your dry rub. It tastes so good.
You want to apply the sauce within the last 30 minutes of the grilling. Slop it on both sides of the ribs.
When the ribs are done, it is important to let them rest for at least 30 minutes up to an hour. Wrap them tightly in foil. You can also add more sauce to the ribs at this point.
While the ribs were resting, I grilled some corn on the cob, a great side for ribs. I soaked them in the stalks for over an hour. Grill on all sides for about 30-40 minutes.
Served with grilled corn, potato salad, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, here are my Midwestern Ribs!
The ribs lived up to what I expected. The meat separated nicely from the bone and the smoke flavor really enchanced the all-around great taste of the ribs. The rub and sauce had a little bite to it but not too much heat. The ribs must have been good because my friends and me weren't really talking during the consumption of the ribs. We were just slamming them down.
There is a lot of preparation that goes into smoking ribs but I think it is all easy work. You just have to watch the grill and pay attention to the heat. It is a perfect thing to do when all your work is done and you have a free day to celebrate with family and friends.