Melt Off The Bone BBQ Ribs

I’m not going to deny that I’m a foodie. I use any and all reasons to celebrate. A great meal is a terrific reward for a job well done, a goal met, a Tuesday night……So if you climb a mountain Saturday, what do you do Sunday? Make ribs, of course. And with the Fourth of July coming up, I thought I’d share a little of my BBQ prowess – straight from the south.

BBQ is an art. You can’t rush art. The mistakes most people make are cooking at too high a temperature, for too short a time, with the sauce on. For an average sized rack of St. Louis style ribs, you’ll want to cook them 4.5 hours at 250 degrees, with an additional 20-30 minutes at 450 degrees after adding the sauce at the end. It may seem excessive, but there’s no substitute for meat that falls off the bone. It’s the way BBQ is supposed to be.

Sauce can be tricky – if it’s cooked too long, the taste loses the integrity of its flavor. That’s why you coat he ribs with a dry rub before you set them to cook for hours. I always use a brown sugar base with some cinnamon, paprika, and dry mustard powder. I don’t measure, I judge by taste. You want to make more than you think you’ll need – the meat will actually absorb a bit, so I rub it in, let it sit, rub some more, and so on until the rub stops getting damp. Then I flip and do the other side.

You cook the ribs bone side up, so the juice drips down on the meat. And a tight seal, either with tinfoil or a lid is very important (otherwise, you’ll ruin your pan and the ribs won’t be as good). Disposable tinfoil pans work best for easy cleanup. Place the ribs on a roasting rack in the pan, and make sure to get a tight seal with a tinfoil cover.

After 4.5 hours at 250, take the ribs out, turn the oven up to 450, and uncover. Tip the ribs so any excess juice runs off, coat the bone side with sauce, flip over, then coat the meat side generously. Cook another 20-30 minutes uncovered at 450, or pop on the grill.

As for sauce, any bottle of the cheap stuff will do after a little doctoring. I chop one sweet Vidalia onion, sauté in a bit of olive oil until translucent, then I add brown sugar and stir. After a minute I add apple cider vinegar and some Jack Daniels. I let this boil down for 10-15 minutes, stirring every minute or two, until it thickens into a nice syrup consistency. Then I add the bottle of BBQ sauce and mix well. Again, I don’t measure. Start with a little, add more as you feel necessary. Make it your own, to your own taste.

This sauce is a little sweet, but tends to please all. If you want to make a spicier sauce, say for dipping, simply add some cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, crushed red pepper, chili powder – even finely chopped jalapeno, serrano and habanero peppers.

So here it is – my day after mountain climbing rib recipe. If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it went. Or if you have any suggestions of your own, feel free to share.


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