The Best Way to Prepare Ribs
We can all agree that ribs are possibly one of the best meals that you can make on your grill or smoker. We can also agree that there are a few things that are definite must-do’s when it comes to the best way to prepare ribs, like removing the silverskin and seasoning with a rub that contains both sweet and savory elements. However, that’s likely where our agreement ends because everyone has their own way of doing things to create the perfect ribs. Find out how to prepare the best ribs using techniques like smoking, seasoning, braising, boiling, and everything in between.
Remove the Silverskin
That membrane on the back of your ribs, it isn’t ideal for the best rib recipe ever. We remove it because it prevents smoke and seasoning penetration, as well as prevents fat from rendering out during the cooking process. It is tough and chewy, not at all ideal for a good meal. Remove it by using a knife or spoon to pry up enough to insert a finger or two between the meat/bones and the silverskin. Many suggest using paper towel to grip the slippery membrane, but bare hands work just as well. Just peel it away. If it is particularly stubborn – which can happen – then use a sharp knife to cut a diamond pattern into the silverskin instead.
You can season your ribs with whatever floats your goat. You like savory? Go with herbs and salt. You like sweet? Add brown sugar. You like crazy? Go nuts with cocoa powder or instant coffee! As long as you have a well-balanced rub that meets the needs of your taste buds, then you are golden. Remember to add paprika to a rub for that rich bark color when slow grilling and smoking. It is absolutely unnecessary to use anything to adhere the seasoning to the ribs, like mustard. Most applications are more water than anything and once that has evaporated, leaves only trace amounts of the element you were hoping to add with the mustard. You are better off adding that flavor to the seasoning.
Once the ribs are seasoned, place them on a rack in a cookie sheet so that they may dry overnight in the fridge. This allows the salt to penetrate into the meat increasing flavor, which other spices are too large molecularly to do. These other seasonings will set and adhere to the meat while the salt is working its magic. These 8 to 10 hours in the fridge will make a huge difference in your results, especially if smoking or slow roasting on the grill.
Spray or Mop
Use a spray or mop to keep things juicy when smoking or roasting. Using apple juice – excellent with pork – or cider vinegar, or beer will help your final product. You can use a clean spray bottle, or a BBQ mop. It is recommended if you are using a mop, to use one with silicone bristles as these are easier to clean completely. It doesn’t take much, just a spritz or a sweep of the mop on the ribs, once every 45 minutes or so.
Smoking is one of the most common and accepted ways to prepare the best ribs. When you think ribs, smoking is the first thing that comes to mind. Pork loves sweet, so fruit woods like cherry and apple or a light wood like maple and pecan are great for a light and subtle flavor. For a stronger flavor that brings to mind bacon goodness, standbys like mesquite and hickory are ideal. Smoking ribs is a labor of love and requires patience. This process can take an entire day to get the perfect result.
The easiest way to smoke ribs is using the 3.2.1 style.
Smoke the ribs for 3 hours at 225°F.
Wrap the ribs in foil, carefully adding ¼ cup of apple juice or liquid before sealing. Cook the ribs without smoke for an additional 2 hours. This allows liquids to be reabsorbed and juiciness to be increased.
Unwrap the ribs and cook for 1 more hour unwrapped. At this point, start adding sauce for a glazed taste and feel. OR sauce and sear after this final hour, which will allow the seasonings to reharden as a bark.
PRO TIPS: Use an oven thermometer on the rack that your ribs will be cooking to gauge the grill temp. You can also use an extra probe from your Bluetooth thermometer to keep an eye on the grill temperature.
Use a water pan as a heat sink to ensure even temperature and ease of heat management.
Braising or Simmering
I am sure if you are an experienced veteran of the grill if someone were to suggest braising or boiling ribs, you would roll your eyes and walk away. It’s like asking for a steak well-well-done. There are a couple of reasons you may consider braising or simmering ribs. A braise or simmer (Don’t actually boil your ribs please) can quickly add tenderness if you don’t have the time that it takes to smoke ribs. It is an option if you don’t have an apparatus where you can smoke as well.
These two techniques also lead to the phenomenon where bones will just slide out of the meat. Fall off the bone is not quite ideal in a rib unless you are pulling the bones out and doing some sort of rib-which.
It may be tempting to create a flavorful braising or simmering liquid by combining strong flavors like coffee, whisky, juice, wine, sugar, stock, and/or vinegar. However, it is best to keep things simple. Use one or two of the suggestions above. Braise at a low temperature, meat side down, for 2 hours and don’t run out of braising liquid.
Braising and boiling are great ways to quickly tenderize meat and shorten grilling time, however, if the meat spends too long in the liquid, or is boiled instead of simmered gently the meat and fat will instead create a delicious broth and render your meat flavorless, possibly even tough rather than tender.
Straight-Up on the Grill
If you don’t have a charcoal grill or smoker, then straight up cooking on the grill may be an option for you. An indirect setup will work nicely, and you can always use wood chips and a smoker box, smoker tube, or the integrated smoker burner (PRO 665/825) to add smoke. The smoke added will not be as powerful as using an actual smoker to cook your ribs, but it will give a more authentic flavor than you would otherwise have.
Oven Roasted Ribs
If you don’t have a BBQ at all, or one that would be suited to doing a long and slow cook, you can use your oven to create an environment that would cook the ribs in the same fashion as listed above. Just don’t try adding smoke. Season the ribs and roast them at around 300°F or less until tender. You can then add sauce and broil them or toss them on your grill – we’re thinking a tiny, high heat, hibachi-style grill here.
Are they done yet?
You don’t actually cook ribs to the correct internal temperature, well you do, but once you reach that temperature take it further for maximum tenderness. This is challenging because when you want ribs, you want them NOW.
After cooking the ribs for at least 3 hours use the tenderness test to see if they are done – after they’ve reached the ideal internal temperature. This is done by pulling apart two bones that are side by side, if the meat tears a little then they’re tender enough to eat, if not, keep cooking for a little longer.
Another technique to figure out if your ribs are ready is the bend test. Lift the ribs with tongs and give a light bounce If the surface cracks, they’re ready. Just be careful because if they’re really-really ready, then they may come apart.
The best rib recipe can be made in many different ways. The techniques listed above are a guideline to producing perfect ribs, whether you braise or simmer, smoke or grill, as long as you use care when preparing and cooking. How do you prepare the best ribs? Share your secret technique, favorite flavor, or just your success stories on our social pages like Facebook and Instagram, using the hashtags #BBQRibs and #NapoleonGrills.