This is the time of year everyone is firing up their grill, buying a smoker, a big green egg (looking at you Dr Food), talking about ribs, kebabs, burgers. A city girl could get jealous. Without even the opportunity to fire up a little Smokey Joe - the mini-Weber - you might feel you’re missing out on one of the primary joys of summer. I used to. Of course rainy days can dampen grilling enthusiasm, too.
City Girl Ribs
Here’s a technique that will inspire you, no matter how urban or how small your kitchen is. If you have a grill, all the better. If not, don't worry - I got you covered.
First, the ribs.
All the best techniques, recipes and tips would be wasted if you start with factory-farmed, antibiotic-laden meat.
- In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on February 6, 2002, researchers found links that strongly suggested that the people who developed Cipro-resistant bacteria had acquired them by eating pork that were contaminated with salmonella. The report concluded that salmonella resistant to the antibiotic flouroquine can be spread from swine to humans, and, therefore, the use of flouroquinolones in food animals should be prohibited.
- Another New England Journal of Medicine study from Oct. 18, 2001, found that 20 percent of ground meat obtained in supermarkets contained salmonella. Of that 20 percent that was contaminated with salmonella, 84 percent was resistant to at least one form of antibiotic.
Superbugs are not invited guests at my house. We buy from local farms or Whole Foods, and look for good animal welfare standards as well as little or no antibiotics use.
Start with the best meat you can afford. We’ve found that eating better meat, less often, is much more satisfying than eating cheap meat every night. (It’s only cheap if you ignore the health consequences to your self and your environment.) Now, about the ribs you want to eat.
As with many things in life, preparation and technique matter.
Bite, lick, suck.
Hey, I’m still talking about ribs here - focus!
But seriously folks, ribs are sensuous food. They combine both salty and sweet flavors as well as spice and smoke. Don’t forget fat. They require fingers, paper napkins, and induce smiles, moans, grunts and usually some laughs.
First, remove the meat from the wrapper and check to see if the butcher has removed the “silver skin” from the back of the ribs. Most likely, it’s still there. Rubs, steam, sauces will not permeate that membrane so your meat will be less flavorful. Remove it for better flavor and easier eating.
Rub the ribs with a spice blend, I use an iteration of this one, though truthfully, it varies from batch to batch:
DIY Fajita Spice/Rib Rub
2 teaspoons each:
- brown sugar or palm sugar
- ground cumin
- oregano *Seri if you can
- ancho chile powder
- pimentón (sweet)
1 teaspoon each:
- ground coriander
- ground black pepper
- kosher salt* (you could also add a couple drops of liquid smoke to the beer in the pan for a smokier flavor)
Buzz these up in your spice grinder, blender or molcajete and store in a cute little jar. When you perfect your own blend, this makes a nice gift.
Start several hours or the day before you plan to enjoy your ribs.
After removing the silver skin, rub ribs liberally with a shower of spice blend and some brown sugar. Place in zip top bag on a plate in the fridge overnight or at least a few hours.
You know that pan that comes with every oven -- speckled gray enamel, shallow bottomed with and a slotted tray on top? Some people wonder what the heck to do with it. THIS is what to do with it.
Preheat your oven to 350. (or start your grill, fire up your charcoal)
Get a six pack of beer you enjoy drinking. Pop one open and take a swig, just to be sure it’s good of course. If it's really good, enjoy the whole thing and pop open a second one for your ribs. Pour the beer into the bottom of this pan. Place the rack on top, take the ribs out of their bag and place on the rack, pour any accumulated juices in the bag over the ribs.
Take two pieces of foil long enough to cover ribs and seal pan, fold two long edges together, fold that seam a couple times to seal. Place your foil blankie over your ribs and tuck, tuck, tuck. You’re creating an envelope to steam the ribs as the beer simmers in the heat of the oven.
This tenderizes the meat, helps the spices permeate it and if it makes you feel any better, probably steams off some fat.
Check the ribs after about an hour at 350. You may try a thermometer, but likely you’ll hit bone and get a very high reading. Use your eyes. Has the meat shrunk some exposing some bone? Use tongs to pull up gently on the bone and you should be able to tell that the meat has fully cooked. You don't want it falling off the bone just yet.
Remove the foil (careful there's that hot beer in the bottom tray!) and brush with your own barbecue sauce or a good bottled variety. Return to oven to glaze the ribs, slather, turn, maybe 15 minutes on each side, as you wish. The ribs will be fully cooked at this point, it's just about how saucy or crispy you like them to be finished.
* Try making your own smoked salt! Place a 1/2 or so of Kosher salt in a ramekin or saucer and place in one of those smoker bags, along with a saucer of ice cubes. Bake in the oven for about half an hour or so. The ice melts, creating steam, the smoke infuses the salt.
Resources / Books:
These three excellent resources are on sale now on my Powell’s Bookshelf. I recommend them all for anyone interested in grilling. Click on the image to go right to my Powell's page. $14.48 (list $40) $9.95 (list $19.99) $9.95 (list $19.99)
- Should we fire up our "BBQ Bonanza" this year?
- Who wants to do a guest post/recipe on the theme of Sustainability at the Grill?
- Anyone want to sponsor...?