Ribs are one of those things that takes passion, love, attention and a willingness to stand over a hot grill, mopping and making love to a slab of meat, while everyone else is enjoying the party. That’s pretty much the only secret. That, and the rub and mopping sauce you use. Each pit master’s secrets evolve out of many parties and willing guests who keep you company around the fire. I can’t give you our exact recipe, because we don’t exactly have one. But here are some tips to put you in the running for #1 Pit Master this Memorial Day weekend:
Always pork. Look for a good amount of marbling. Have you heard Julia Child say fat=flavor? The fat melts on the heat leaving behind succulent meat. As for the cut, there are several. Each name (St. Louis, Full Rack, Baby Back, etc.) refers to the amount of trimming that’s been done from the original full rack butchering. We look in the case, and pick the meat based on fat content and how many people we’re feeding. The cooking time will change a little, but set aside at least 4 hours of smoke time adjusting the temperature to medium low as you go along, hence the need to stand guard.
A combination of most anything you have in your pantry will do. Seriously. Here’s a loose version of ours, in no particular order, with roughly equal proportions:
Chile pepper (not spicy)
Cayenne powder (VERY spicy)
Rub the meat the day before you plan to cook. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
The Fire & The Mopping Sauce
Low and slow. In the picture above, see the aluminum foil? That’s a packet filled with soaked wood chips of your choice, apple, cherry, etc.
As for the mopping sauce, again our ingredients in no particular order:
Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
Any or all of the spice rub spices
Something sweet, like molasses, maple syrup or honey
Mix together then taste. Need more vinegar? Add some. Too Sour? Add some more ketchup or honey.
Continue to mop, flip and admire every 30 minutes or so over a very low flame. Keep the lid closed as much as possible to keep the wood smoke in with the meat.
After about 4 hours, the ribs should be about done. Remove from the grill when the bones can be easily pulled apart.
Let rest on the serving platter about 20 minutes or so to let the juices redistribute themselves and cool off a little so that everyone’s tastebuds stay in tact.
It is very important that the pit master establish a firm stance above the grill. This ensures that the meat and the guests know who’s in charge.
Four hours later, you’ll be getting kisses, and at Christmas, your friends should know a “Kiss the Cook” apron is in order. And it may seem like a lot of time, but drink some beers and enjoy the party.