Holidays like Labor Day Weekend inspire fun outdoor activities and delicious summer feasts. If your family is like mine, we love tender barbecue ribs, but don’t often have the time or tools needed for hours monitoring a traditional smoker setup. I’ve spent the last few years perfecting a relatively quick, foolproof method for juicy, mouth-watering ribs that your friends and family will rave about. This recipe only requires basic grilling equipment, about 30 minutes of grilling time, common household ingredients and four hours in an oven.
You will need:
- one rack of ribs
- rib rub (home made recipe below)
- barbecue sauce
- aluminum foil
- a gas or charcoal grill
- fuel or charcoal for your grill
- wood chips for smoke
- a sharp knife
As with many dishes, preparing ribs can be likened to an art. Please see the instructions below as a mere starting point, or loose guidelines to help you discover your hidden (and speedy) grilling genius within.
Start with your preferred cut of ribs, I like to use pork spare ribs. If the ribs are not purchased fresh, thaw frozen ribs in a refrigerator for 48 hours. Trim the rack of any loose pieces of fat, rinse with cool water and pat dry with a paper towel.
Prep your ribs with the rub of your choice, or if you don’t have one on hand, throw together a homemade rub with the basic ingredients listed below. This is where your preferences and creativity get to shine. Lay it on thick, or sprinkle sparingly — it’s up to you! A general rule of thumb is to cover the entire surface of the rack — front, back and sides — and remember your goal is to add flavor without overpowering the meat. At this point you can return the ribs to the fridge for a couple hours, or just let them sit on the counter for 10 to 20 minutes to let the rub to soak in.
Optional Homemade Rub:
- 1 Tbs onion powder
- 1 Tbs garlic powder
- 1 Tbs paprika
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 1 Tbs brown sugar
- 2 Tbs salt
- 1 tsp pepper
** Feel free to adjust to your own tastes and preferences!!
The next trick is to turn your charcoal or gas grill into a smoker! The goal is to use low, indirect heat in an enclosed area and smoke from wood chips to infuse the meat with the desired flavor.
Start the charcoal in your preferred method and allow the coals to get white hot. After you start the charcoal burning, soak wood chips of your choice — hickory pecan or apple work nicely — in water. Then, spread the coals around the around the edges of the grill or off to one side. Shake the water off the wood chips shake off and toss onto charcoal to create the desired smoky effect.
You can buy a special cast iron chip box to place on a gas grill, but if you don’t have one you can simply wrap about a half cup of damp chips in one to three foil packets and place the packets under the cooking grate as close as possible to the burner you are using. You will want to poke a few holes in the bottom of each packet to allow air in and smoke out. Again, you will want to use indirect heat, so if you are using the burner to the left or front, place your ribs on the right or back.
For both methods, you will want to place the rack, bone side down on the grill and close the lid. Keep the temperature inside the grill between 250 and 300 degrees. This is a challenge, but can be done if you’re careful. You want to produce a constant, heavy smoke. Generally, I have the vents open slightly, about a quarter inch. In order to help hold in as much smoke as possible, don’t open the lid. Most of the smoke flavor is going to be gained in the first 20 minutes on the grill, so if you’re in a hurry, you can pull them after 20 minutes or leave them on for up to an hour.
Once the ribs have been smoked, apply your favorite BBQ sauce, wrap them in foil and place them in a baking dish. You may also desire to add a splash of apple juice, beer or even some mustard at this point. I recommend starting by placing your ribs on a double layer of foil for the bottom of the packet, liberally applying the sauce with a brush, wrapping the bottom foil around all four sides and then adding a single layer of foil on top. You’ll want to make sure the pieces of foil are sealed together to keep in the moisture. Place the packet in a large baking dish, on a broiler pan or cookie sheet.
In order to get irresistibly moist, tender ribs, bake in a conventional oven at 225 degrees for 4 hours. When there is 20 minutes or so left, carefully remove and open the foil packet and brush on more sauce. Reseal and place back in the oven to warm the sauce and continue to soften the ribs. After this final baking time, your ribs are ready to be sliced and served!! This simple method will keep your guests delighted and coming back for more!!
Comment below with your own tried and true barbecue tips and tricks to help us all enjoy a wonderful and scrumptious holiday weekend!