Killer summer barbecue ribs

Killer summer barbecue ribs

It’s summer. Time to barbecue some ribs. When it comes to grilling and smoking meats, well, everyone’s an expert. In the summer, when all of us suburban dads step into the back yard and decide it’s a good day to grill, we suddenly turn into grill-masters. I say this because I don’t want to step on anyone’s flip-flops. I’m going to tell you how I smoke ribs. Notice I say, “how I smoke ribs,” because there are different ways to come up with mouthwatering barbecue ribs. And I am sure they’re all great.

The rub. All ribs have rub, it’s half the flavor and half the fun. So the day before you’re going to smoke’em, mix up the rub as follows:

  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup paprika
  • 1, 1/2 cup brown sugar

You want to do the mix so you have enough for the amount of ribs you plan to smoke. I do this a ojo, or as needed. Follow our instincts, and may the force be with you.

The ribs. Take your ribs: Spare Ribs, St, Louis or Baby Back. Place the ribs in a disposable foil container and sprinkle and massage your rub onto them as if you were massaging your lover. Then cover the meat with foil and place it in the fridge overnight.

The fire.  You’ll need charcoal and hickory or mesquite wood.

Okay, before you start your grill, make sure to set a can or other metal container with water and a sliced apple and six garlic cloves, at the bottom of your grill on one side, under the rack on which you will later place the ribs. This will add some taste but also keep your ribs from drying up.

Then, start a charcoal fire in your grill. If you have a gas grill, throw it away and go to Home Depot or some other store and get a real grill, for the love of God.

Killer summer barbecue ribs

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When the charcoal is ready, mound it up to the side of the grill (assuming you don’t have a separate ‘smoker’ compartment). This way all the ‘fire’ will be on one side.

Next, add a few chunks of wood to the charcoal and let it catch fire. Then close the lid of the grill and wait for a few minutes. Check the temperature with a portable oven thermometer. You want to cook your ribs below 250 F. I usually go for between 175 F and 200 F.

When the temperature is steady, set the slabs of ribs bone-side down on the side of the grill that is not directly over the fire, otherwise they will burn, baby, burn.

The ribs will take a long time to cook, so keep yourself busy. Remember the mantra, low and slow. Jump in the pool, toss the old pig skin, drink a lot of beer and so on, but take an occasional break to check that the temperature remains steady. If it goes down, add a little wood. If it goes up, open up the chimney stopper to let some heat out. Ideally, you will have a lot of smoke coming out of the sides of your grill. Yeah, it’s a beautiful thing.

Here’s the thing. You need to keep the ribs cooking at the same steady temperature for anywhere between four to eight hours. This will soften the meat. Everyone knows good BBQ has to fall off the bone as you eat it. Man, I’m getting hungry just writing this.

So, how do you know when they’re ready?

Check the ribs by looking at the thin side of the slab. The bones should be popping out, meaning the meat has shrunk back and exposed the bone. If that’s what they look like, you’re in the neighborhood of being done, but make sure the bone is exposed from the meat also in the thick sections of the slab.

The sauce. When the ribs are ready to be taken out, you can mop them with BBQ sauce. I use Sweet Baby Rays BBQ sauce because it’s thick and tangy. I’m not so much into the mustard or vinegar based sauces. But this is personal. Sometimes, because I like spicy food, I blend the BBQ sauce with a couple of Chipotle peppers from a can.

Anyway, mop the top of the slab and close the lid of the grill for another fifteen minutes to half an hour or so. This will allow the sauce to caramelize and stick to the meat. But if you leave it on too long the sauce can turn into a hard crust around the ribs, so be careful to avoid that, especially around the thinner parts of the ribs.

Be careful when you pull the slabs out because they could fall apart.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!