This First Timer’s guide is here to help…
Is cooking ribs really a no-brainer? No way! Cooking ribs is actually something that takes considerable time and effort and is by no means a no-brainer! Well, until you do it once, then it tends to be so engrained in you that you can’t stop thinking about it and you just want to do nothing but be cooking ribs!
With BBQ season just around the corner, depending on how you look at it, it’s never a bad time to start thinking about outdoor cooking.
First Timer’s Guide to Cooking Ribs
As usual let’s begin with the end in mind . . . For this example we are going for fall off the bone ribs smothered in sweet and BBQ sauce. That means if you want ribs to be different than this, you’ll have to go somewhere else.
Picking the Right Ribs
When you’re looking for ribs, whether they be pork or beef there are some things that apply to both types of ribs.
- You are going to want to make sure that the package they are in is intact and there are no leaks or tears.
- Be sure that there is no discoloration on the ribs, especially no green or slimy looking substances.
- Look for as fresh as you can, things like clear pink juices are a good indicator. If you have a choice as always get the freshest you can by checking to see if there is a date anywhere on the package and always go for the newest one available.
*Hint: If you don’t feel comfortable with what you can see, ask your butcher/meat department attendant for the stuff that’s in the back. There is nothing wrong with this, they are there to serve you the customer, plus, as chef’s we do it all the time.
Types of Ribs
If you’re getting pork for cooking ribs you will see either a St. Louis style rib or a baby back rib. The only difference is that the St. Louis rib is the baby back along with more meat and bone. You pay more for the baby back because some of the annoying extra bone is taken off (unlike the St. Louis that still has that part intact). Plus, they have to charge more since it takes labor dollars to have someone cut off that bone and pigs only have so many ribs so they have to make more money on it since it weighs less than a St. Louis rib.
Beef ribs are easy, they are basically one size fits all.
Preparing the Ribs
Before you start cooking ribs, you need to prepare the ribs to be cooked. Depending on how you are cooking ribs initially will depend on how labor intensive this step is.
Most of the time you can just take them out of the plastic package they are in and discard the package along with the purge (liquid) that is left in the package. If you really want them to fall apart you can take the thin membrane off the back of the ribs, but for this example since it is for first timer’s we are going to just leave it on . . . Which means that all you have to do to prepare the ribs is take them out of the package . . . Yep that easy.
Cooking ribs is usually a two stage process. Keep in mind that this is the easy way to do it, not the classic leave-it-in-a-smokehouse/smoker-for-hours way. First, when cooking ribs, we cook them to the point that they have the connective tissue (the stuff that makes them tough and chewy) break down and melt away so that all we are left with is juicy fall-off-the-bone goodness. When cooking ribs you can either use a pressure cooker to speed up this process (my personal favorite since it takes about 1/3 of the time). Or you can use the more traditional bake low and slow in 275 to 300 degree oven, which works great for cooking ribs especially for those of you who don’t have a pressure cooker.
Usually cooking ribs at this temperature will take about 2½ to 3 hours or so, whereas with a pressure cooker it only takes about 45 minutes. Check out cooking timing guides here http://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cookers/cooking_times_pressure_cooker.php
If you’re using a pressure cooker when cooking ribs, cook them in beef stock with some carrots and onions for extra flavor. Don’t cover the ribs all the way with the liquid, just about half way covered and drop about 2 carrots cut in 6 to 8 pieces and 1 large yellow onion quartered for 1 to 2 racks of ribs.
For cooking ribs in the oven, I will rub them down with tomato paste and throw a little salt, pepper, brown sugar, granulated garlic and granulated onion on top. When I say I rub them down I don’t put any extra on the ribs initially, just enough to coat them because the really good sauce comes later.
Try this as a rub for 2 racks of pork ribs:
1 cup (1ea 8oz can) Tomato Paste
½ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Salt
3 Tablespoons Black Pepper
3 Tablespoons Granulated Onion
3 Tablespoons Granulated Garlic
Finishing the Ribs
As we have seen so far, cooking ribs is a little labor and time intense, but as you perfect cooking ribs, it becomes a labor of love. You begin to look forward to the look on people’s faces as they enjoy your master piece.
To finish cooking ribs and give them that distinct flavor and eye appeal that you come to expect when cooking ribs we just need to throw them on the grill and give those signature char marks. I personally like to do this after they come out of the oven or pressure cooker and rest for about 15 minutes or more.
Then throw them on a hot grill for just a minute or two (depending on how hot the grill is) on each side and then coat them in this sauce (you can coat your cooking ribs while they are finishing on the grill).
Basic BBQ Sauce Recipe
12 oz Tomato Paste
½ Teaspoon Granulated Garlic
½ Teaspoon Granulated Onion
1 Teaspoon Pepper
1 Tablespoon Salt
4 oz Water
5 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
So there you have it the First Timer’s Guide to cooking ribs. It may not be the most detailed or comprehensive but it will still get you started, and that’s the hardest part to cooking ribs or anything else.