Summer Means Barbecued Ribs

This summer I’ve set my goal to learn how to grill.  Barbecued ribs are a required basic skill for the home grill master.   I’m fascinated with the art, and grilling most definitely is an art.  Even the grills featured on the best do-it-yourself shows are handcrafted.  But I’m not going to build my own grill.  I have owned a Weber Kettle grill for years and that’s where we begin — basic barbecued ribs.

barbecued ribs - the perfect holiday picnic food.

Barbecued ribs.  Learning to grill part 1.

Ribs. specifically baby back ribs,  were on sale at the local grocery store this morning and since it’s a beautiful sunny day it was the perfect time to begin my quest.

Step 1  Create a rub.

My basic barbecued rib rub is just that – a basic.  Combined all these ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle on 4 pounds of ribs (about 2 racks).   Cover the ribs on a sheet pan with aluminum foil and let the ribs sit for at least 20 minutes and up to overnight to allow for the spices to really be infused into the meat.  If you are going to let these ribs absorb the rub overnight, be sure to put them in the refrigerator.

Barbecued Ribs Basic Rub

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper (ground)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (I’m using kosher salt)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (don’t use the Mexican type here, it’s too hot.  Just your basic chili powder)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

One note, before you even put that rub on your ribs, make sure to remove any membrane on the back of your ribs (bone side).  The thin membrane or silver skin layer can usually just be removed by prying up one area and ripping it from the bones in one tug.  This step prevents your guests and yourself from having to remove it after the ribs are cooked as most people don’t enjoy eating that and it becomes a bit rubbery when cooked.

Step 2:  Partially Cook the Ribs in the Oven

Let the ribs stand on the counter, covered until they reach room temperature.  If you were waiting only 20 minutes in step one, you’re probably ready to go.  Then place the ribs (still covered) into a pre-heated 275 degree oven.  Pre-cook them here until they are fork tender — about 2 1/2 hours.

Step 3:  Add sauce and grill


partially cooked barbecued ribs

Admittedly at this stage they are not very pretty.  They do fall off the bone, but they don’t have a rich flavor yet.  The best part of ribs is the smokey flavor they get on the grill.  While you could take them in their partially cooked stage and just add the smokey flavor from the grill with no sauce — why would you?

I chose to use a store-bought BBQ sauce.  I chose a Kraft Hickory Smoke flavor.   This is a personal preference and one I wouldn’t choose again.  If you prefer that St. Louis sweet and sticky rib flavor this is probably right up the alley.  It was too sweet for me.  I prefer the more vinegar flavors of North Carolina barbecue so next time I buy a bottled sauce I will add about a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar to raise the acid levels.  But with that said, the hickory smoke flavor did add a significant amount of flavor.

barbecued ribs

Brush your ribs with about a 1/2 cup of your preferred barbecue sauce and then place them on the preheated grill meat side down for about 8-10 minutes.  Just long enough to develop a nice carmelization but not long enough to burn the sauce.  Brush the bone side of the ribs and flip.  Reapply the sauce to the top portion of your ribs and cover for another 8 minutes.  Remove and enjoy!

The only way to identify your own preferred flavorings with barbecue sauces is to experiment and experience the flavors.  What you enjoy on barbecued ribs may not be the same flavors you will enjoy on chicken or fish.  Again, you must experiment.

In my experience, I tend to prefer the North Carolina vinegar-based sauces on pork, but I’m a Texas barbecue lover with burgers and beef, and when we cook chicken I often migrate to the mustard-based flavors of South Carolina.  I’m by no means an expert yet, so watch for more recipes as summer unfolds here in the south!

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