Lip Smackin’ Ribs

June 19th, 2011
by: Blue

There is just something about ribs – I love them. But they have to be moist and fall off the bone tender.  As of this date I haven’t been able to perfect the traditional slow smoked ribs (which are delicious but require much time spent monitoring temperatures, and smoke, and coals).  Probably I haven’t been able to perfect it because I’m a lazy cook.  I didn’t even recognize this completely until someone special in my life actually told me that.  I wasn’t even offended – I was just like – YES!  That’s what I am. Most of the food that I cook is low maintenance, like me.  I like delicious food, and I like it to be easy.  Most of the time.  There are occasions when I spend hours in the kitchen tending a dish, obsessing over one thing or another.  These ribs are not one of those occasions.

Over time I have found that the basic secrets to great ribs are pretty simple:  start with a slow braising of some sort, and finish them off on the grill.  That’s it.  So let’s get to it.

Slow braising

There are 50 ways to skin a cat, and there are many ways to slow braise ribs.  I don’t recommend slow braising a cat though.  Yuck. 

There are lots of cooks that choose to slow braise ribs by boiling them in water.  I tried this technique in the beginning (yes, like “IN THE BEGINNING” 20 or so years ago).  What I don’t like about this technique is I think you lose much of the concentrated flavor of spices and seasonings.  So if you use this technique (which I don’t talk about here) – I would recommend really kicking up all the seasonings to a level that seems like overkill.

My preferred technique depends on how much time I have to spend on the braising part.  If I have 3-4 hours I’ll slow braise the ribs in the oven.  If I have 7-8 hours and need to be out of the house or working on other stuff I’ll slow braise them in a slow cooker.  The technique only varies in the length of cooking.

Take your ribs and season them liberally on all sides with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and about 2 teaspoons of Stubbs liquid smoke per rack of ribs.  If you are braising them in a slow cooker cut the ribs in sections small enough to layer and fit in the cooker.  Wrap each seasoned section (or the whole rack, if you are doing them in the oven) in heavy duty aluminum foil and seal tightly.  The idea here is that the ribs will release moisture as they cook into the sealed packet, so they will have braising liquid, but they will also have exposure to a high concentration of seasonings.

For the oven:  cook the ribs at 300 degrees for 3 hours.  Check them at this point.  You want them to be veeery tender and close to falling apart, but not quite.  If they are not ready cook them a little longer.

For the slow cooker:  cook the ribs on low for 7-8 hours. Check them at this point.  Repeat:  You want them to be veeery tender and close to falling apart, but not quite.  If they are not ready cook them a little longer.

When the ribs are tender to your liking, you can remove them from the oven or slow cooker to cool.  You could even do the braising the day before you plan to grill them.  So many options here.

The grilling

Not much to talk about here.  You want a medium to medium high heat.  You want to get a nice grilled crust on both sides of the ribs without burning them.  I don’t put bbq sauce on them until they are already nicely marked up from the grill since bbq sauce burns easily.

When the ribs are nicely browned (and usually at the point that I am concerned that they will burn on the grill), I place a section of aluminum foil on the grill, place the ribs on top, and slather them with bbq sauce.  I may slather them two or three times on both sides.


You could do a packet of soaked wood chips on the grill.  Delicious.  Just make a packet of soaked wood chips with aluminum foil.  Poke some holes in the packet with a fork and place the packet directly on top of the coals or gas flame.  Wait to put the ribs on the grill until the grill is visibly smoking with the lid down.

You could skip the grilling part, depending on your day (or in my case, my laziness level).  No matter what, you need to brown the ribs at some point.  This could be before you slow braise them, or after.  To brown them before braising place the seasoned ribs on a cooking sheet in a 425 degree oven until browned.  To brown them after braising place the ribs on a cooking sheet under a broiler until browned.  One advantage of browning ribs before is that if you have some particularly fatty ribs (sometimes beef ribs can be fatty) the pre-browning cuts down on the fat since some of it will be released while it browns.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you *could* brown the ribs in the oven, braise them, and grill them.  I may have try that next.  That just might be the rib trifecta.

BBQ Sauce

My favorite BBQ sauce is my Grandpa’s, the recipe is here.  But in a pinch I also love Stubbs BBQ sauce.