Fool-proof baby back ribs…
Okay, so nothing’s foolproof because fools are so ingenious, but this is close. But everybody’s talking ribs after the big ribfest this weekend so you’re going to have to learn to make them well if you don’t want to wait until next year to get in line again. (This is an encore from the old blog because that is going to be lost forever soon.)
For whatever reason, baby back ribs seem to go on sale from time to time around here and the last batch a few weeks ago was $2.99 per lb. For that, I’m eating them — and if you don’t have a reliable recipe, here’s one that’s about as difficult as making a frozen pizza.
First, flip the racks over and slide a knife under the membrane on the back side of the rack. You can start just about anywhere, just advancing the knife point up along a rib. (I use a thin-bladed boning knife and it doesn’t need to be particuly sharp for this task. Once you get a little separaration, you should be able to just grab the material to peel it away and discard.) Cut each rack approximately in half, for easy handling. Rub them down with some black pepper and garlic salt — or anything else you might like in the way of dry seasoning. After I have the seasoning on, I like to paint on a little terriyaki or Worcestershire sauce. You can let this stand anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours — it’s no big deal either way.
Okay, now fire up your grill (or alternatively, you can use your broiler.) What we’re doing is imparting a little outdoor, flame-kist flavor — but we’re not actually going to prepare the ribs entirely on the grill. Just put them on for enough time on each side enough to give them a little grill finish and firmness; then take them off. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes total on a medium setting. (Watch them close so they don’t char on you.)
Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees while this is going on. Get a covered roaster and cover the bottom with about a sixteenth of an inch of hot water and a couple of drops of liquid smoke. (I use an oblong Corningware covered casserole and I can fit four half racks of ribs in it.)
Alright, take the ribs off the grill. At this point, you want to paint on a nice layer of barbecue sauce — (and of course, I use Sweet Baby Ray’s.) Put the ribs into the covered roaster with the underside down. (The reason is to raise most of the meat off the liquid in the bottom, as well as the liquid that will accumulate from the cooking ribs.) Put the cover on the roaster and put the ribs in the oven. That’s it. You’re done. Your home will now begin to permeate with the smell of slowly barbecuing ribs and you can decide if you want to bother with a side dish or not.
In about three hours, you will have something that looks like the picture above. The meat will have receded off the ends of the bones and you will have tender, tasty ribs that still hold together fairly well. In four hours, you will have difficulty lifting them out with your tongs in one piece because they will be breaking apart (which is fine, too.) The low temperature keeps the barbecue sauce from burning and it allows the flavor to nicely penetrate the meat. I like to get them out of the roaster and onto a serving plate immediately after removing them from the oven because it gets them out of the renderings in the bottom of the roaster.
Have some sauce on the side to add as you eat them or to add to sandwiches.