Tuesday, June 22, 2010


From Kansas City, to North Carolina, back to Memphis and down to
Texas one thing that all barbecue fanatics seem to agree on is
ribs are made for barbecuing. Now that is all they can agree on
because the way they are cooked, the sauce (if any) used on the
ribs while cooking or eating, and the type of rib to use for the
best outcome seem to all have a fierce debate going on all of the
time. But, in all reality, ribs are a wonderful piece of meat to
cook on the grill and they are even better (my opinion) on a
smoker. But lets get down to cooking some ribs and licking our

The styles are different, the ribs may be different but one thing
remains the same, ribs are great for smoking and grilling.
Whether you like your ribs wet, dry, with sauce, without sauce,
baby backs, spares, country style: we all seem to love ribs.

OK the basics. First, we all know that you don't use a fork to
eat a rib. This piece of meat was made to be picked up and eaten
with your hands. So it is not the typical meat to cook for a sit
down, black tie affair. This is getting your hands nasty and lick
them clean kind of eating. The fun begins.

When I talk about ribs, I usually talk about spare ribs. But you
may enjoy baby backs (loin back) or some of you enjoy cooking and
eating Country Style Ribs. So, we are going to spend some time
and talk about each of the three "ribs" I have mentioned above.
Keep in mind that Country Style Ribs are not really ribs at
all…but more on that later. But first…….the single question asked
most when it comes to cooking ribs…..


The big debate among the rib cookers is whether or not the
membrane should be removed from the ribs prior to cooking or do
you cook with the membrane on the ribs. Ask 100 people and it
seems you will get 50 that say remove the membrane and 50 that
say leave it on there.

OK for those of you who don't know, the membrane is a very thin
piece of cartilage that is on the bone side of the rack of ribs.
You can remove the membrane by peeling it off. Use a sharp knife
and slip it under the membrane at one end of the rack of ribs and
peal back enough to get a good grip on the membrane. Some suggest
using a screwdriver to pry under the membrane instead of a knife,
it is much safer. Try gripping the membrane with a paper towel or
pliers and then peeling it off the rack. This takes some practice
so just keep working at it. Adds time to your preparation so plan
extra time to get these off if you so desire.

My personal preference and the way I cook all of my ribs is to
leave the membrane on the ribs when you cook them. That being
said, I'm sure there are plenty of you out there that remove the
membrane and I have no problem with that either. I just think it
is a waste of time if you are going to cook the ribs over low and
slow conditions. If you are grilling the ribs, then I might have
a tendency to agree with you to take off the membrane.

A Big Advantage of leaving the membrane on the ribs is……...

TIP: The juices of the ribs are actually held in the meat by the
membrane as the ribs cook:
so they hold much more of their natural juices.

Some argue that spices and smoke cannot penetrate the membrane so
you lose some of the flavor you are trying to get into the meat.
Not true in the case of low and slow smoking. After a period of
time of cooking at 200 to 225 degrees the membrane will actually
start to tear apart. It no longer is in its single piece stage
and does not change or hamper any of the smoke flavor or rub
flavor you are trying to get into the meat.

If you are grilling ribs, then perhaps the best way to get the
ribs to their most tender and best tasting stage is to remove the
membrane because the ribs you are grilling are not going to be
exposed to the long periods of low heat but rather higher heat
for a shorter period of time. I can see the benefit in removing
the membrane for grilling purposes only.

So, this decision rests with you. Try it both ways and find out
which way you prefer the ribs. Membrane off or membrane on. Now
let's get into the discussion of the different types of ribs.


The Spare Rib comes from the side of the pig, right next to the
belly. You ever heard the term "side of ribs" well it comes from
talking about spare ribs and where they come from.

You buy spare ribs in the whole "rack". There are 13 bones in a
full rack of ribs. Try to find racks of ribs that are "4 ½ and
under" referring to the weight of the rack before it has been
trimmed but don't worry if the ribs you find are larger than
that. Just look for racks of ribs that are nice and meaty, with
some fat content showing on the meat side of the ribs. There are
two distinct sides to the rack of ribs, a bone side (covered by
the membrane) and a meat side. The rack will be a little curved.
You can buy spares with either the skirt (an extra flap of meat
attached to the rack) (sometimes referred to as the brisket) on
or the skirt off. Most of the wholesale and supermarkets sell
their spares with the skirt on. Just leave it on there and cook
it and enjoy.

Spare ribs are a little meatier than baby backs and they are more
fatty. But they usually cost ½ as much as baby backs. I don't
cook as many baby backs ribs as I do spare ribs simply because I
love the taste of the spare ribs over the baby back ribs, but
this is a personal choice so chose the rib you like and go for

Some folks cut the spare rib rack into what many will call St.
Louis cut spareribs. Basically, they cut the bottom of the ribs
off right above the knuckle and square up the rack by trimming
the sides of the rack of ribs. Again, this choice is yours and
you may have to trim your ribs due to space limitations on your
pit. If you do trim the ribs don't throw away the trimmings. Rub
them down and cook them using the simple 1-2-3 method and serve
them as finger foods while you are finishing out cooking the
trimmed ribs. These riblets are wonderful tasting and cook faster
than the whole rack of ribs so you can start the party off with
the riblets as an appetizer.

An Interesting Note

You see restaurants advertising ribs on their menus either as a
whole rack or half rack. These can be any number of ribs that the
restaurant wishes to call a rack or a half rack. So a half rack
can be 3 ribs and a full rack can be 6 ribs. Not exactly a full
rack of ribs, as we know them.


The Baby Back ribs are sometimes referred to as "back" ribs or
Loin Back ribs. The baby in baby back actually comes from the
size of the ribs themselves. They are much smaller in nature than
the spare ribs, as the rack on baby backs will weight only 1½
pounds to 2 pounds. They are somewhat meatier than spare ribs
with less fat. The meat from the baby backs comes from the loin
(the back part of the pig, where the better cuts of meat on the
pig are located).

Baby backs are generally the most versatile of the ribs to cook.
You can grill them or smoke them. They are, in my opinion, the
best rib to grill as they are smaller and leaner and will cook in
a shorter period of time than spares they are more geared to the
high temperatures that grilling is all about. Because of their
size they will cook quicker than spare ribs.

If you were grilling baby backs then I would recommend removal of
the membrane prior to cooking. They are not going to be exposed
to the smoke and fire long enough to break down the membrane by
cooking. So spend some time and remove the membrane.


So-called country style ribs are not ribs at all. Now don't get
mad because these little gems are cut to look like a rib but they
come from the blade side of the loin or in many cases they are a
pork butt cut into strips. They resemble fatty pork chops cut
into pieces that resemble a rib. These you can get for under a $1
a pound when you find them on sale and they make great BBQ.
Nothing wrong with them they just are not a real rib.

The have no membrane and are usually cut in about 1 inch thick
pieces about 3 to 5 inches in length. Recommended cooking of
these is low and slow. But they can be grilled as well.


Simply rub down the rack of ribs you are cooking with
Worcestershire sauce and apply Texas BBQ Rub to the ribs. On
spare ribs about ¼ cup of rub on the bone side (just cover the
meat that is exposed, not the membrane) and ¾ cup on the meat
side of the rack. Baby backs it will be about ½ of that amount,
so roughly 1/8 cup of rub on the bone side and about ¼ cup on the
meat side of the rack. For country style ribs you will have to do
each "rib" separately by adding just a little rub to the "rib"
after you cover with Worcestershire sauce.

Place the ribs on the grill or pit with the bone side down.

For indirect smoking/cooking, cook at 200-225 degrees for about 6
to 8 hours for spare ribs and 3 ½ to 4 hours for baby backs. No
need to turn them over they will be fine. You will notice during
cooking that the ribs will look like they are drying out. This is
part of the cooking process and they will not dry out unless your
cooking temp is too high. As the ribs get close to being done you
will see them glaze back over. This is the rub working its magic
on the ribs and they will soon be done. No sauce needed let Texas
BBQ Rub take over on the cooking and just keep the fire at the
right temp. The ribs will be done when you see them pulling away
from the top of the bone about ½ of an inch or so. You can also
pick them up and twist the ribs to see if you see the meat start
tearing away from the bone. Take them off the pit and enjoy. If
you don't have a good pair of gloves that can handle the heat,
the grease, and holding or moving the meat then we have those on
our site so order a pair of those gloves with your rub order and
you won't need another tool around the pit for moving or holding
the meats you are cooking.

To add a great finishing sauce to the ribs try Texas Pepper Jelly
(my personal favorite is pineapple habanero). You can order some
by visiting their web site at www.texaspepperjelly.com .

For grilling you can cook either baby backs or spares over direct
heat. Prepare the ribs the same way as before except this time
you will be cooking directly over a very hot fire. I would add
some smoke flavor to the ribs by adding some wood to your fire.
See our website at www.texasbbqrub.com for a discussion on adding
smoke to the gas or charcoal fire. The ribs will need to be
turned over to expose both sides to the fire. Watch the ribs
carefully as to not burn the coating of rub or sauce you have on
the ribs. Rubs and sauces all have some sugar in them and sugar
will burn at a little over 300 degrees so keep turning the ribs
to avoid the burn. Cooking time for the baby back ribs on the
grill (try to stay in the 300 degree range on the grill) will be
about 1 to ½ hours and for spares about 2 1/2 to 31/2 hours.
Finish off with a BBQ sauce or finishing sauce if desired.


I have had hundreds of questions about wrapping ribs. Here are my
thoughts. There are a lot of smokers that prefer to wrap their
ribs during the cooking process to shorten the cooking time and
to also make the ribs fall off the bone tender. I prefer not to
wrap my ribs but if you would like to wrap your ribs during the
cooking process then there are a couple of rules of thought on

Spare ribs: If you are cooking on a pit (low and slow under 225
degrees) then the general rule of thought is to do the ribs using
the 3-2-1 method. That is the method that says 3 hours uncovered
on the pit, then wrap for 2 hours, and then take them out of the
foil and put them back on the pit for another hour to tighten the
rib back up. I find that wrapped 2 hours the ribs are overcooked
so use the same method and do the ribs 3 hours on the pit
unwrapped then 1 hour wrapped then another hour unwrapped back on
the pit to tighten up the ribs.

Baby Back ribs: For the smoker, use the same method but cut your
time to say 11/2 hours on the smoker unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped,
and then 30 minutes back on the smoker uncovered to tighten the
ribs back up.

If you are cooking baby backs on the grill then use a 1 hour on
the grill, 45 minutes wrapped and then 15 minutes to tighten the
ribs back up.

Order Texas BBQ Rub right now so you will have it in the pantry
for that next time you cook ribs. You can order it at
www.texasbbqrub.com/shopping.html . Trust me you will love it and
our 100% money back, no questions asked guarantee is the best in
the industry. You owe it to yourself, so go ahead and order some
now. You have nothing to lose, if you don't like our rub, just
send us and email and we will cheerfully refund the money you
paid for the rub.

article by bill cannon

pic from 1st place ribs/ little elm tx. bbq contest 2009 smokin ronnies bbq

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