The Hearth and Grill Shop’s Backyard Challenge Bar B Que Cook-Off has two categories, Chicken and Ribs. For the Rib category, we specify that the ribs be Pork and have to be either, baby back or spare ribs – we do not allow country style ribs in the competition. I like spare ribs, a.k.a. St. Louis Style Ribs, however, I prefer the baby backs for cooking at home and most of our Cook-Off competitors do as well. There are as many different recipes and techniques for quality ribs as there are people cooking them. The combination of the ingredients and techniques below yield delicious ribs every time.
I want to taste three things when I eat ribs. First, is the flavor of the pork. There cannot be enough said here about the importance of quality ingredients. Fresh, never frozen, ribs from a reputable butcher, is the way to go. Ask the butcher to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. When ribs are smoked too long, the only taste that is left is smoke and spice – the true identity of the meat is lost. I smoke my ribs, especially, baby backs a little less, usually around 3 hours total with few minutes of resting before serving. The second thing is the spice of the rub. I use a quick marinade and a dry rub right before the racks go in the smoker. The third thing is smoke balanced with the sauce. I like dry rubbed ribs finished with a little sauce to keep the meat moist. I do not prefer heavy or overly sweet sauces, so I lean toward a vinegar sauce for a balance of flavors.
4 Slabs Baby Back Ribs, rinsed and patted dry.
For the Wet Marinade:
¼-Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
¼-Cup Orange Juice
¼-Cup Jack Daniels or your other favorite whiskey or bourbon
¼-Cup Soy Sauce
Whisk all the ingredients together. Place the ribs on a sheet pan and liberally brush the vinegar mixture on with a basting brush. This can done the night before and then left uncovered in the refrigerator or apply the marinade and leave them at room temperature while making the rub and preparing your grill.
For the Dry Rub:
2-Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
2-Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
2-Tablespoon Smoked Paprika
1-Tablespoons Black Pepper, ground fresh
1 ½ -Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1-Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1-Teaspoon Onion Powder
1-Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper or to taste
Mix all ingredients together and reserve.
For the Vinegar Sauce:
2-Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
½-Cup Louisiana Hot Sauce
2-Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1-Tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1-Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes – this adds a little zip,
for extra hot sauce use 1-Tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
In a medium sauce pot whisk together the vinegar, ketchup and hot sauce. Add the remaining ingredients and heat over medium heat to warm and dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Allow to cool and reserve. This can be made ahead of time, several days in fact and the flavor gets better.
For the Smoker:
Being Tennessee’s Largest Big Green Egg Dealer, we are always going to recommend the “EGG” as the preferred smoker; however, any smoker will work, as long as the temperature can be maintained at 250 degrees.
Reserved Vinegar Sauce
2-Cups Hickory Wood Chips soaked in water for at least 1 hour.
Preheat your Big Green Egg to 250 degrees. Liberally rub the rib racks with the reserved spice mixture on both sides. Let the racks rest with the rub on them for 30 minutes before placing on the smoker.
Place the racks, bone side down, on the cooking grids and drop a handful of soaked chips on the coals. More wood chips can be added as necessary. Cook the ribs for 2 hours. Baste the ribs with the vinegar sauce every 15 minutes for the third hour. Shut the Smoker completely down and allow the ribs to rest in the smoker. Remove the racks to a warm platter and baste again with the sauce. Cover with foil and allow to rest again for 15 minutes. Cut the ribs and arrange back on the platter with one more sauce application.
Get out the paper towels and Enjoy.
The Hearth and Grill Shop