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Saturday, September 4

Tackling Ribs!!

As promised, it's time to address grilling your own ribs!!  Now, when most of us go the our local BBQ joint, we look forward to the succulent, fall-off-the-bone juiciness that only comes with smoking meats for long hours at low temps.  So, would you be surprised to learn that you can achieve the same results at home in just a few hours??  I have to admit...I was!!

Whether you are using gas or charcoal, you CAN make ribs every bit as good as a restaurant at home in a reasonable amount of time.  It just takes preparation, that's all.  Now, yes...you WILL make mistakes, and that's to be expected...so don't let a bad result sway you from learning.

First off, let's talk MEAT!!  What we call "ribs" can vary widely.  If they are from a cow, you could have either beef back ribs or beef short ribs.  If we're talking pork, you have the choices of baby back, spareribs, or country style ribs.  If you want, you can also go with Lamb, Venison, Buffalo, Elk....harder to come by, but tasty, just the same.  Ironically, the methods used for each one are very similar, yet unique flavors result.

So, we'll work with the basics today.  Beef Back Ribs and Pork Spareribs.  Those are the most popular in restaurants, and easiest to find in stores.  Your basic prep is similar for both.  You first want to trim the meat, removing excess fat from the ribs.  You also want to remove the membrane that runs the entire length of the slab.  For a detailed tutorial of how to do this, use this link... http://bbq.about.com/od/ribs/ss/aa010607a.htm.  It walks you step by step through trimming and portioning, with pictures the whole way.

Once trimmed and portioned, the next step is to apply a "rub".  Most rubs are made to be put on and allowed to sit, preferably overnight, so that the flavors penetrate the meat before cooking.  But, you CAN apply it the same day, and using a simple trick, get the same flavorful results.  Now, I have seen dozens of dry rubs out there, but this one (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/All-Purpose-Rub-for-Meat/Detail.aspx) works pretty well for everything, even veggies!!  It's easy to make, and you don't need to coat heavily to achieve the results you want.  So, lightly coat each portion of ribs with the rub, keeping it as even as you can.

Now, on to the grill, right?  WRONG!!  This is where your time saver comes in!!  Turn on your OVEN...yes, I said OVEN...to 350 degrees, and lay the rib portions out in a single layer in a 9x13 pan, and cover with foil loosely.  Place a small oven-proof container of water inside the oven to add moisture, and bake your ribs for 40 minutes.  Once those are in, go out to your grill...

If you are using charcoal, start your grill, using a wadded up piece of newspaper covered with charcoal (please, avoid using starter fluid...it just doesn't taste good at ALL).  Make sure it ignites well, and then close the lid, allowing it to heat through.  Once heated, use a small shovel, and scoot all the coals over to one end of the grill.  If you have a grill thermometer, you want the temp to raise to about 225 degrees...this takes about 20 minutes once the coals are established.  If you are using a gas grill, and it has 2 elements, light only ONE side.  You want to be able to keep the primary heat separate from where you are actually putting the meat.  This allows you to cook using indirect heat, and keeps your ribs juicy.

Once the grill is heated, place a metal pan of water directly over the heat...again, you are providing added moisture to the environment (a super yummy alternative...use APPLE JUICE...it adds a faintly sweet flavor that is really good).  When the 40 minutes in the oven is done, remove the ribs from there, and immediately put them on the indirect section of the grill and cover (if you don't have a cover, use a tent made from foil for this...works for preheating, too).  Cook for about 10 minutes, turn once, and about 10 minutes on the other side.  If you want "wet" ribs, baste the ribs once on each side during this period ONLY, making sure that the ribs don't burn (the sweeter the BBQ sauce used, the faster it can burn).

That's it.  You have just made yourself some juicy ribs, and can claim the honor of "grillmaster"!!  There are other things you can do...adding smoke is one...but the taste of that first rack of ribs will always be special!!  ENJOY!!

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