Outdoor Cooking: Rib Tips

Originally posted at TheKitchenHotline.com:

The most popular ingredient in American outdoor cooking is quite possibly pork ribs.  They are probably the ingredient that gives the weekend warrior the most trouble as well.  That’s because ribs do not react well to the same cooking method as burgers, dogs and chicken.

More Tips from the ProsTo understand the reason for this it is important to learn the actual definition of one of the most misconstrued words in cooking – grill.  When most here the word “grill” the immediate picture that comes to mind is usually of iron grates over a gas flame.  That specific cooking method is called char-broiling.  While that it is a method for grilling it is not the only method.  To grill something means to cook quickly in close proximity to a high-temperature, dry heat.  Char-broiling certainly fits that description but so does a griddle.  This is the method most use to cook burgers, dogs and chicken.

If you try to grill ribs you will not be happy with the result.  If they look good on the outside they are raw in the center; if they are done through and through then they’re most likely burnt on the outside.  To properly cook ribs you need a low temperature for an extended cooking period, usually no hotter than 225 degrees for no less than three hours.

The secret to ribs according to Danielle Dimovski (aka Diva-Q) is, “low and slow rules.”  Diva-Q is the Grand Dame of the competitive barbecue circuit.  She was the break out star of season two of TLC’s BBQ Pitmaster and is rumored to be part of a new series on the Food Network.  The lady knows her ribs.

According to her, “The number one rule for ribs is pull your membrane.  If you’re making ribs you need to pull your membrane so the smoke can absorb and the rub can absorb into the meat.”  Concerning the low/slow method she adds, “You cannot break down that internal fat fast.  You need to take time to do it.  It’s not something that should be done quickly.  At least four hours for a slab of St. Louie spares. “

Because it only produces a high heat gas is difficult, but not impossible, to cook ribs properly.  If you have a gas grill only light one side of it and place the ribs over the cold side.  It isn’t perfect but it will work.   The reason it is only functional is because there is little smoke.  Smoke is vital because it provides a great deal of the taste.

Low and slow isn’t the only reason why charcoal is the preferred cooking medium for barbecue; it also produces smoke.  As the smoke permeates the meat it slowly breaks down the connective tissue leaving a tender rib with great flavor.

Two last tips to producing great ribs.  First, do not put on any BBQ sauce until the ribs are done.  The sugar in the sauce will scorch long before the ribs are done so try not to cook the sauce more than about 10 minutes.  Lastly, never, ever boil the ribs before putting them on the fire.  You lose all of the finger licking goodness.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
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