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The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.
Top Secrets to Grilling Better Ribs
Okay, you want ribs, but what are you going to do with them when you get them? Cooking ribs to juicy perfection is the benchmark of any would-be grill master; so tough bully-stick ribs ain’t going to cut. Here’s something to chew on: Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when it comes to grilling. There are quite a few things that need to happen beforehand if the end goal is tender and flavor-packed ribs. But before you start, here are a few fundamentals you have to master before you can advance to the big leagues.
We’re going to show you the basics to making tender ribs and once you can understand and apply them you’re on your way to better (if not perfect) ribs. Once you have your barbecue sea legs, check out our recipe for making Slow Grilled Ribs Summer Style.
Alright, but where do we start? That’s the easy part; we’ll start at the beginning!
Select your meat. It is a fact that all ribs are not created equal. When it comes to rib selection you are going to look for a few things:
- Color. The ribs should range from bright pink to a reddish color. The color translates into freshness or lack thereof. If the meat you are looking at is gray or bluish, especially around the bones, then make another selection.
- Marbling. Marbling means fat and how it is distributed throughout the meat. And once again color plays an important role. Look for marbling that is a creamy white color. And since marbling is fat and fat equals flavor you want don’t want to start hyperventilating over a few measly calories. A high ratio of marbling, cooked at the right temperature, for the ideal time will yield tender and very juicy ribs. I used Smithfield® Extra Tender Spare Ribs because they have everything I look for in ribs: lots of meat, sufficient marbling and high quality.
- To remove the membrane or not. This decision all comes down to personal preference. Removing the membrane ensures that more of the seasoning: marinade, rub (and even smoke) is absorbed directly into the meat, which produces more flavorful ribs. Removing the membrane can also reduce cooking time because there isn’t a barrier separating the meat and the heat. To remove the membrane use a very sharp knife and make a horizontal insertion along a bone, using a pair of pliers, fishbone pliers work extremely well, then gently remove the membrane. You will need to make a couple of insertions along the whole rib to remove the entire membrane. On the opposite end of the spectrum leaving the membrane intact does little harm when cooking your ribs low and slow (low temperature over a longer period of time). Over the span the several hours the membrane will break down a bit and become crispy. Also, leaving the membrane intact promotes fat retention which isn’t necessarily bad at all. This is way ribs (or any other meat for that matter) should not be poked with a fork when you turn then over (use tongs). Creating holes in the membrane allow all of those delicious juices to run out, and who would intentionally want to do such a thing? That’s like throwing “taste” out of the window! Think of the membrane as a big casing that keeps the juices in, because as the liquefied fat is trapped inside of the casing at high temperatures it acts similar to braising. I kinda like keeping the membrane on; it provides a nice texture, similar to that of a well-cooked bratwurst when you bite into it, slightly crispy and very juicy .
- Rubs and Marinades. Rubs and marinades add an important layer of flavoring directly to the meat. Dry rubs, which are massaged into the meat, penetrates nicely, and the same goes for marinades. Using either or both is an essential step in creating full-flavored ribs.
Our recipe using both a rub on the bottom of the ribs and a marinade on the top of the ribs and the results were incredibly delicious!
- Temperature. Cooking your ribs at the correct temperature in the most important aspect when it comes to cooking ribs. But the temperature varies depending on the type of ribs you select. But regardless of which type of ribs you choose, allow the ribs to sit at room temperature for at least 30 – 40 minutes before grilling. Low or cold temperature meat reacts adversely when introduced to a high heat source. Ask your butcher or look online for the optimal cooking temperatures for the type of ribs you plan on cooking.
- Indirect, direct of smoking cooking methods. Thin ribs or tender ribs should be grilled over direct heat. While Baby Back get better results grilled over indirect heat. And lastly, Spare ribs are really good smoked. Typically, when smoking any ribs maintain temperatures between 225° – 255° degrees. Indirect temperatures are a bit higher coming in at 325° – 350° degrees.
- Sauce. When to apply barbecue sauce ultimately boils down to personal choice. However, a rule of thumb is to use the sauce after the meat is fully cooked. If you slather on the barbecue sauce too early, it may burn because of the high sugar content in the sauce. Remember, the rubs, marinades, and smoke will supply much of the flavor, the sauce is just the cherry on top.
I picked up a slab of Smithfield® Extra Tender Back Ribs and a rack of Smithfield® Extra Tender Spare Ribs at my local Walmart (found in the meat section). Why? That’s easy to answer, because when good stuff goes in, good stuff comes out. Plus, Smithfield® Ribs are hand-trimmed, extra tender and juicy. And for me, it’s all about the marbling and these ribs got plenty. I also love the fact that Smithfield® Ribs have no added hormones or steroids, which is important to my family and me.
Regardless of your grill skill level, Smithfield® Extra Tender fresh pork will become your go-to secret weapon on the grill. So, whether you are an expert or novice, Smithfield® will not disappoint.
Do you want to put your grill master prowess to the ultimate test? Right now you can enter the Hog Wild Smithfield Throwdown Contest for a chance to grill your best ribs and win one 0f 2 Ford F-150’s. And guess who’s gonna be there? You get a chance to meet and grill for a couple of grill master kings, celebrity grill talent Moe Cason and Tuffy Stone are the brand ambassadors, check out the Tuffy Stone video below for an incredible recipe.
The following content is intended for readers who are 21 or older.
And guess what? Right now you can earn up to a $3.00 rebate on the purchase of one (1) Smithfield® Rib and one (1) KC Masterpiece® BBQ Sauce or Marinade 18 oz. Or larger via Ibotta Digital Rebates. (Offer good to residents of AL, AR, CT, HI, KY, MA, ME, MN, MO, NC, ND, NJ, RI, UT and WV) – No Beer Purchase Required.
So there you have it! My secret grilling tips for the perfect ribs! And be sure to grab the recipe for my homemade pesto sauce, and how I cooked my Smithfield® Extra Tender Spareribs! It seals the deal on eating the perfect BBQ ribs!
Prepare grill ahead of time. For this recipe, I am cooking using indirect heat.
Spareribs with Summer Salad & Pesto
- Smithfield® Extra Tender Spareribs, removed from the package, rinsed and patted. Allow ribs to stand at room temperature for 15 – 20 minutes.
- Coffee Rub
Apply the coffee rub generously to one side of the ribs, massaging the rub into the meat. Turn ribs over and apply marinade.
- 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Spicy Basil
- 1/4 cup Savory
- 1/4 Cilantro
- 1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 3/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Peppercorns
- 2 Large Garlic Cloves
- In a food processor add fresh herbs, garlic cloves, sea salt, freshly ground black peppercorns, and EVOO.
- Secure lid and pulse until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Brush marinade onto the ribs and cover the whole surface area.
- Place ribs into the refrigerator and marinate for 30 minutes.
- Remove ribs from the fridge allow them to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Grill Tip: To prevent the meat from sticking to the grate of your grill make sure to apply oil to the grill. Use an oil with a high burn or smoke point such as canola, peanut or grapeseed oil. Place spareribs with the coffee rub (convex) side down on the grill and away from the coals. Using the vents and smoke stack to maintain a temperature between 275 to 350 degrees cook spareribs for three (3) hours. Make sure to face the thickest side of the ribs towards the coals.
Remove the ribs from the grill and let them stand on a cutting board or in a shallow pan for 15 minutes. These spareribs came out fall-off-of-the-bone tender. I was able to pull the rib bones away from the meat without much effort.
Prepare a fresh shredded garden salad using Arugula, Red romaine, Swiss Chard, and Red Russian kale. Add sweet Valdalia onions, red sweet and green bell pepper.
Place spareribs atop of the garden salad and top with Summer Garden Pesto.
Recipe for Summer Garden Pesto:
- 1 cup of mixed garden herbs. cilantro, spicy basil, lemon thyme, and rosemary
- 1 packed cup of fresh parsley
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 Tbsp garlic scapes
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
- 1/4 cup shaved Pecorino cheese
- Sea Salt to taste
- Freshly grated black peppercorns to taste
- In a food processor add herbs, Gorgonzola and Pecorino cheeses, and EVOO. Pulse until ingredients are combined thoroughly. Add sea salt and freshly ground black peppercorns to taste.
Are you the grill master in your house? What are some of your favorite things to grill? Leave me a comment below and let me know. And if you try my secret grilling tips, come back and let me know how they worked out for you!