Is it any wonder barbecue fans and outdoor cooks have a reverence for ribs?
Spareribs come from the section of the pig next to the belly, the area that gives us bacon.
Beef ribs come from the area that gives us the standing rib roast.
Translation: That's bacon on the bone. And prime rib on the bone.
Throw in the primal pleasure of gnawing and eating with your hands and you have the sort of laid-back experience that cookouts are all about.
Ask legendary N.C. pitmaster Ed Mitchell of Wilson: Is there anything better than ribs?
"Other than whole hog (barbecue), no," he said, laughing. "But I love my ribs as well. You don't have to get all prissy.
"Just grab them up and eat them."
How to cook ribs - and which ribs to cook - gets more complicated.
There are sparerib fans, baby back fans, even beef rib fans. While most rib experts stick with the low-and-slow method of cooking ribs on a grill, there are other types, including rib-boilers who stew their ribs before grilling them, and oven-finishers who cut down on the grill time.
Mitchell is unorthodox in his rib approach.
He prefers an unusual high-heat method, turning the slabs directly over hot coals for 30 to 40 minutes to give them good color. Then he puts them in a combination of barbecue sauce and water, covers tightly with plastic wrap and foil, and heats them slowly so they cook in their own juices.
Why are ribs such a pleasure?
To explain it, we'll use Spencer Tracy's memorable description of Katharine Hepburn in the movie "Pat & Mike": "Not much meat on her, but what there is, is cherce."
Basic Rib Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
This is a simple sauce to whip up for any kind of meat on the grill. It's also a good base to doctor however you like.
HEAT the butter and vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion. Cover and cook slowly about 5 minutes, until onion is a little soft.
ADD the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook slowly about 30 minutes. Keep warm and brush ribs on the grill in the last 20 minutes of cooking time. Refrigerate leftover sauce.
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons celery salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
Barbecue sauce can burn, so grillers use dry rub, a mixture of spices, to flavor the meat and create the prized "bark," or crusty surface. One of the best rubs is Magic Dust, from Mike Mills of the famous Apple City barbecue team in Murphysboro, Ill. I based my version on Mills' recipe from his book "Peace, Love and Barbecue."
COMBINE all the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix well (it helps to use your fingers, to break up any clumps).
EITHER put it in a shaker or set aside small amounts to use so you don't transfer raw pork juices from your hands to the rest of the rub. If you have any leftover, it keeps for several months in an airtight container. Yield: About 1 1/4 cups. Use about 1/4 cup per side of a slab of ribs.
Pork. Usually yields 2 to 3 servings per slab. If the brisket (the flap of meat along the back) and the rib tips are removed, it's called St. Louis Style.
Cooking method: Use a dry rub, at least an hour in advance and up to overnight. Cook over indirect heat for 3-4 hours. Brush with sauce for the final 20 to 30 minutes, turning once to glaze.
Try this: Remove from the grill, wrap each rack in heavy-duty foil and let stand 30 minutes to an hour. The fat settles back into the meat, and the meat will steam a little, gaining tenderness.
Baby back ribs
Pork. Also called top loin or loin back ribs. The difference is in the size: True baby backs are around 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, while loin ribs are from 2 to 4 pounds. They usually cost more, but have a higher ratio of meat to bone.
Cooking method: Since they're smaller and more tender, they do better with slightly higher heat. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours over direct but low heat.
Try this: Brine them for an hour in a mix of 1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar and 4 quarts cold water. Rinse, pat dry and then grill. They'll be moister and even more tender.
Pork. May be from the area near the pork chops, or slices from the shoulder. They may be boneless or have only a few chunks of bone. They're usually very affordable, but aren't true ribs.
Cooking method: Sprinkle with dry rub, then grill over indirect heat for about 2 hours. Brush with sauce at the end and place over direct heat to crisp them up a little.
Try this: They don't have as much fat and they don't get flavor from being on the bone. So brine them first, using the same method described for baby back ribs.
Beef. Also called dinosaur ribs. Often cheaper than pork ribs, a slab is usually seven ribs. Look over the section closely, though, and make sure you get a rack with more meat and less bone showing. Some meat cutters trim them close.
Cooking method: Cook over indirect heat for about 2 1/2 hours. Brush with barbecue sauce in the final 20 minutes, turning to glaze.
Try this: Barbecue rubs can overwhelm their beefy flavor. Instead, rub them with a combination of 4 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne and let stand 1 hour before grilling.
Rib rack: If you're going to the trouble to make ribs, make enough. A rib rack holds ribs upright, allowing you to fit more ribs on a grill. Make sure there's enough room to cover the grill when the rack is full.
Drip pan: To catch the drippings from the ribs. Some grillers fill the pan with water for smoking. A disposable aluminum foil pan is fine.
Spray bottle: For misting ribs with fruit juice, usually apple juice, to keep them moist through the slow cooking time. It also removes grit from flying coal ash.
Sauce brush: A nonstick silicone brush works well and is easy to clean.
Heavy-duty foil: To wrap ribs when they come off the fire.
Deep bowl: For soaking wood chunks or chips, preferably hickory or oak, before putting them on the fire. Don't overdo it with smoke: Usually one large chunk or a single handful of chips per hour is plenty.
Charcoal chimney: For charcoal grillers, it's the best way to start coals without using lighter fluid. Put 3 sheets of crumbled newspaper in the bottom, fill the chimney with coals, light the newspaper and wait 20 minutes. Since most ribs take 2 to 3 hours, you may need to light more coals after an hour. Make sure you have a heatproof surface, such as a small portable grill, to place the chimney on.
Skinning: Ribs have a thin white membrane, sometimes call the fell, across the back. Removing it allows smoke and flavors to penetrate the meat. To remove, nick it with the sharp tip of a knife or the flat head of a screwdriver, then grab it with a paper towel and peel it away. We don't remove it from baby backs, to help the smaller ribs stay together.
Bend test: Ribs are done when the meat is drawing back from the ends of the bones. When you lift one end of the rack, it should bend without coming apart. If you can pull the bones out, it's overdone.
Foil wrap: When ribs come off the grill, wrap each rack with heavy-duty foil and let them stand. They'll steam a little and become more tender.
Rub early, sauce late: Apply a dry rub as little as an hour before grilling. But for the most flavor, apply it 8 to 12 hours before, wrap the ribs well in plastic wrap, and refrigerate. Don't apply sauce until the end of cooking, so it doesn't burn. We usually brush it on, cook 10 minutes, turn and brush again, then cook a final 10 minutes.
Honey slather: Some barbecue competitors brush on a combination of honey, butter and apple juice about 10 or 15 minutes before removing ribs from the fire, to add a hint of sweetness without burning them.
Charcoal type: Hardwood charcoal is tricky to use for long cooking projects because it burns hotter and faster. Briquettes, particularly Kingsford, burn cooler and more steadily. Either add more lit briquettes once an hour, or place a few unlit coals under the lit coals. They'll be ignited just about the time the lit coals are burning down, giving you steady heat for about 2 hours.
Direct vs. indirect: Direct grilling means cooking directly over the heat source, whether it is coals or gas jets. For indirect grilling, build a fire on one side of the grill or turn on one set of the jets. Direct heat allows you to sear and cook more quickly; indirect allows you to cook meat slowly, so it doesn't burn before the collagen and fibers break down and become tender.
Is it any wonder barbecue fans and outdoor cooks have a reverence for ribs?
- Karen's Kitchen
Reductions add zip to flavor
When I cook, I often don't have a lot of time to spend making exotic meals, so I decided that I want to get more for less. In cooking that often means reductions. It’s amazing how the taste of something can change just by cooking it down until most of the liquid is gone. Reductions are so ridiculously easy that I often ask myself why I don’t use them more often. They also keep well in the refrigerator for several days.
When creating reductions, it’s important that the ingredients be good quality. Concentrating a flavor that was mediocre to begin with changes it from mediocre to terrible. That particularly applies to wines, oils and vinegars. Buy the best that you can afford and don’t use anything that you wouldn’t want to taste alone.
It’s also important to cook the reduction sauce moderately and until it reduces to a thick, syrupy consistency. It doesn’t take very long, but don’t be in a hurry or it will burn.
My husband and I love to entertain. We also love fondue. There is no more fun way to surprise guests with a great meal than to fondue. I have 4 or 5 fondue pots. I use them regularly.
There are several ways to fondue. You can make the dessert fondue and I have a great chocolate fondue recipe below. Another fondue option is to have a cheese fondue for a starter before the meal or at a party.
The last fondue option is to make the main course the fondue. With this option you can use either wine, a broth or oil for the fondue. I alternate usually between the broth and the oil. Sometimes I use peanut oil and sometimes I use canola oil. I don’t generally use vegetable oil because it has a lower smoke point.
The first recipe is my wine fondue. The important thing to remember is to use a good white wine. Never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t serve to guests. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it does have to be a table wine. You can play with the spices to find the taste that you like.
How to Make Knock off Latte's and more...
One of my weaknesses is Starbuck's Grande latté with 3 packets of Splenda. However, I live in a small town, like Tarboro, that doesn't have a Starbucks and I'm a cheapskate and don't want to spend that kind of money on a regular basis. The answer to that is to learn to make your own. Obviously I am not the only one who has that I idea as I found recipes all over the internet. Many of the called for buying expensive equipment. If I have to do that, I might as well drive to Starbucks. So, these recipes don't require anything except blenders and pots. In a few cases they require a little patience. Find me on Facebook and let me know what you think!
Even though the weather has been very warm lately, it will be cold again soon. When the cold comes back, it will be soup time. Of course, any time can be soup time! We love soup around our house.
Our first recipe is ham and potato soup. It's a simple soup but will smell good and taste even better.
The second soup is my all-time favorite - French Onion. I love it with a good gooey cheese on top. It's not a hard soup to make, so give it a try.
The third is potato and cheddar. That's a hardy soup but will become one of your favorites. It also has ham so it's almost the same as the first soup but with cheddar cheese.
The last soup is a leftover or potluck soup with pasta in it. This recipe makes 20 servings so you will have some to freeze or share!
When winter rolls back around, enjoy the cold with one of these soups.
Comfort food is different for everybody, but the deep satisfaction each mouthful brings is the same. To warm the body and the soul on a chilly day, give your favorite comfort foods a delicious makeover with recipes that use Wisconsin-made Grand Cru Gruyere cheese. Gruyere is a great melting cheese with lots of flavor, which means you get more flavor in every bite.
Crockpot Sweet Things
If you stay busy, your crockpot can be your best friend. Even for dessert. These recipes take 2-3 hours to cook in your crockpot, so they can be cooking away while you are enjoying little league games or t-ball.
Cooking with Rum
A few weeks ago, a colleague went to Jamaica. He came back with bottles of Rum for our team. A very nice gesture and of course that made me start looking for rum recipes! There are a lot of them out there. Here are a few that I really liked and that I think you will enjoy too.
Bounty of the Sear
I'm currently working in Charleston. Probably until about the end of November. Of course that means great seafood. I can go down and buy it within a few hours of it coming off the boats. I love it! There is absolutely nothing that I love more than good seafood. Besides, I need the Omega 3's that come from eating seafood. So do you!
Butternut Squash is easy and delish!
My garden is beginning to fade away! It's hard to believe that summer is so close to being a memory. I'm not ready! But, one of the things that I love about the end of summer is harvesting my winter squash. This season we planted butternut squash. We vary what we plant each season.
Cool Summer Drinks
It has been sooo hot! I guess that we are paying for the mild winter that we had. I know I felt that heat here in Charleston, where I'm working right now. So, when it feels like 110 in the shade, it's a great time to cool down with icy cold and delicious summer drinks. Especially since you can find fresh fruit to go in them right now!
- More Karen's Kitchen Headlines
- Reductions add zip to flavor