Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Barbecue Secrets

Recipe of the Week: Real Barbecued Ribs (and a rant)

Jun 15, 2012

I have a (rib) bone to pick with a story that ran in the Globe and Mail earlier this week. I like the writer's enthusiasm, and he has a certain sense of bravado that's consistent with my barbecue values, but the piece stinks of Toronto-style, know-it-all arrogance. Here's a passage that got my blood boiling:

...I don’t buy most of the southern barbecue mythology. These guys who go around calling themselves “barbecue chefs,” and “pitmasters?” Most of them were IT specialists until approximately four months ago. Barbecue doesn’t take a lifelong apprenticeship or a trove of secret family recipes. Weekend hobbyists with no-to-little previous cooking experience routinely clean up at big-money southern barbecue competitions – there’s even a booming circuit in Canada. A lot of the time, they steal first prize.

As chief cook of a barbecue team that took seven years to win its first championship, and who has competed in a few of those "big money" contests, I take issue with this pompous ignoramus. I've done a lot of work to demystify barbecue and share my secrets, but this guy's implying that there's nothing to it. Hogwash. Barbecue is high ceremonial cooking, and those who cook it well deserve a little more respect than this.

And as for the "booming circuit in Canada," make that WESTERN Canada, please. If you're going to write about this for a publication that claims to be Canada's national newspaper, do a little research. You'll discover that the trend that you think you've uncovered has been around and growing steadily for about 20 years in Alberta and B.C. and is making great gains in the other Western provinces. And yes, there are some great barbecue cooks in Ontario, too, like the world-famous Diva Q. But did she even get a mention? The only expert referred to is a cookbook author from Oklahoma. Sheesh.

He also claims that "If you’ve got a decent smoker, ribs are just a parlour trick. Anybody can do them incredibly well." Harumph.

It's true that barbecue's not that hard, when you know how to do it, but it ain't that easy, either. Here's my "parlour trick," which has won a few ribbons over the years. Hope you enjoy it!


Real Barbecued Ribs

Makes 2–4 servings

To get the taste of authentic barbecued ribs, you need to cook them slowly, the traditional way, in a water smoker or barbecue pit at a low temperature. This is how we do ribs in competition. You can also accomplish something close to this using indirect low heat on your covered charcoal or gas grill.

2 racks pork side ribs, St. Louis cut
(with the breast plate attached)
2 Tbsp | 25 mL prepared mustard
1 tsp | 5 mL or so granulated garlic
1/2 cup | 125 mL Championship Barbecue Rub (see recipe below)
apple juice in a spray bottle
NATURAL CHAMPIONS Kansas City-style BBQ Sauce (or your favorite barbecue sauce)

Prepare your smoker for barbecuing, bringing the temperature up to 200–220˚F | 95–100˚C. Cut along the gristly part of the ribs to separate each rack from the breast plate. Remove the shiny membrane on the inside of the ribs.
            Coat the ribs evenly with mustard on both sides. Sprinkle them lightly with garlic, then give them a medium coating of rub, coating the convex (inner) side first and finishing with the convex side facing down (this prevents the rub from getting smudged).
            Let the ribs sit for at least 15 minutes, or until the rub starts to draw moisture out of the meat and looks shiny.
            Place the ribs on the cooking grate, with the convex side up, or place them on a rib rack. Cook them for 5–7 hours, depending on the size of the ribs, spraying them with apple juice at the 3-hour point and then again about every hour or so afterward.
            At the beginning of the last hour of cooking, paint the ribs with a light coating of barbecue sauce.

Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, test the ribs for doneness. If they pass the pull test (see Barbecue Secret, below) give them one more coat of sauce, wrap them in foil, and return them to the cooker for another half hour or so.
            Remove them from the cooker and let the wrapped ribs rest for 20–45 minutes. Unwrap them, cut them into single ribs, and serve them with your favorite accompaniments.

Barbecue Secret
To test ribs for doneness, use the pull test. Grab the outer two ribs with your thumbs and forefingers and gently pull them apart. If they are bonded tightly, the ribs are not yet done. If the meat pulls apart easily, the ribs are ready to take out of the cooker.

Championship Barbecue Rub, a.k.a. Bob’s Rub

Makes about 3 cups | 750 mL

The Butt Shredders call this Bob’s Rub, and it’s what we use in competition. Bob Lyon, the granddaddy of barbecue in the Pacific Northwest, shared this at the barbecue workshop that first
introduced me to the joys of real barbecue and prompted me to become a barbecue competitor. It follows a rule of thumb that’s worth remembering: A third, a third, a third. Which means one-third sugar, one-third seasoned salts, and one-third dry herbs and spices.

1 cup | 250 mL white sugar
1/4 cup | 50 mL celery salt
1/4 cup | 50 mL garlic salt
1/4 cup | 50 mL onion salt
1/4 cup | 50 mL seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s)
1/3 cup | 75 mL chili powder (use a commercial blend, or if you want an edge, try a combination of real ground chiles like ancho, poblano, New Mexico or guajillo)
1/3 cup | 75 mL black pepper
1/3 cup | 75 mL paprika

Add as much heat as you want to this basic rub, using cayenne pepper, hot paprika, or ground chipotles. Then add 2 or 3 signature spices to suit whatever you’re cooking or your personal taste, like powdered thyme, oregano, cumin, sage, powdered ginger, etc. Add only 1 to 3 tsp | 5 to 15 mL of each signature seasoning so as not to overpower the rub.