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How to BBQ Ribs

Pork ribs are a familiar cut of meat that is used in lots different dishes as well as in many Asian cuisines.  Cooking ribs on a grill with one of the variations of barbecue sauce is one of the most simple and enjoyable methods of serving them.

Types of ribs

Before you start with the grill, you need to get your meat and when purchasing ribs, there are several different variations.  These vary in the thickness of the meat and the amount of fat on the cut, giving each a different taste.

Baby back ribs are cut from the top of the rib cage and tend to be cut from younger animals than other types.  They have meat between the bones as well as on the top of the bones and are shorter, more curved and meatier than spare ribs.

Spare ribs are taken from the belly side of the rib cage; lower than the back ribs but above the sternum.  They are flatter with more bone than meat and more fat, which can make the meat more tender.  St Louis style ribs are where the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed to give a rectangular shape while Kansas City style are trimmed less closely and have the hard bone removed.

Rib tips are the short section of the meat attached to the lower end of spare ribs with the structure create by cartilage rather than bone.  These are the parts that are away from spare ribs to create St Louis style.

Riblets are where a butcher cuts a full set of spare ribs into half to get a set of short and flat ribs.  The curved part of the rib is removed to make them more uniform in appearance.  They have become popular due to lower cost and an excellent flavour.

How to BBQ ribs

Using the grill to cook ribs isn’t too complicated but what makes the perfect BBQ ribs is the preparation beforehand.  Here a suggestion from the Hairy Biker’s Mississippi Adventure:

Firstly, you make a dry rub to cover the meat.  Mix 25g light, soft brown sugar, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp salt, 2 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp mustard powder, 2 tsp black pepper and 2 tsp or oregano.  Keep back three tablespoons to make the wet sauce later.

Once your dry rub is mixed, massage it into the meat then put the pork on a metal rack in a large roasting tin and leave to stand for an hour, overnight if you can.  When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 170c/gas 3 and add 100ml cold water to the roasting tin under the meat.  Cook the meat for around 3 hours or until it is soft and tender, turning frequently and adding extra water if needed.

Barbecue sauce

BBQ ribsTo make the wet sauce use:

  • 200ml ketchup
  • 100ml water
  • 75ml cider vinegar
  • 150g light soft brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushes
  • 3 tbsp of dry rub prepared earlier

Mix the ingredients together in a pan over a medium heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened.  Sieve it to get rid of garlic lumps as this can burn on the grill and put half the sauce in a serving dish to one side.

You need to fire up the grill around 45 minutes before the pork is ready to get it to an ideal heat.  When the pork is done, lift it out of the oven and brush it with the sauce on both sides.  Put it on the grill on a low heat for 20-30 minutes, turning frequently and adding more sauce as it cooks.  The end result is a perfectly cooked rib with a thick, sweet and smoky sauce with the spare sauce you kept back for dipping or drizzling.