How I Cook the Perfect Ribs

To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke:
When a distinguished but elderly cook states that his is a perfect way to cook amazing ribs, he is almost certainly right. When he states that his is the only way, he is very probably wrong.

So, I’m not going to tell you how to cook your ribs. You already have a procedure. But here’s mine anyway. In fact, it is the ultimate way I’ve found to get perfectly moist ribs with a smoky flavor, naturally enhanced with Big Al’s 411 Spice Rub. If you decide to do it differently, the results may be less than optimal. Have you ever seen the comments like this for a recipe on the net? “Your recipe sucks!!! I substituted half the ingredients and eliminated some more, and it didn’t turn out well at all!!” I’ve been through a lot of (expensive) racks of ribs to get this nailed down to the way I and my guests really like it. Although I do admit to varying my cooking procedure from time to time just to try for that little extra oomph.

When I do ribs, it is an all-afternoon event. Sure, you can make “Super-Easy 1-hour Oven Ribs!” using any of those methods found on the net, but it is guaranteed that you will not get the depth of flavor and knee-weakeningly rewarding hit of that first bite of slow-cooked ribs.

Use about 1 cup of Big Al’s 411 Spice Rub per rack of ribs. (About 1/2 cup per side, with a little more on the top). You want to apply it very generously! It should be almost as thick as a crust. Put the ribs in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours. The rub will begin to dissolve and create some marinade. Save this and apply over the ribs as they are cooking for the first couple of hours, then save the rest to add to beans or vegetables. (Note: since the marinade has been exposed to raw meat, make sure it is fully cooked with whatever item you add it to, to at least 160 degrees. Don’t ever use raw marinade uncooked.)

As far as temperature goes, I always strive to keep it under 225 degrees. I usually go lower than that (not above 200) and smoke a bit longer (5-6 hours). The important thing is not to let the ribs dry out (the spritzing helps with that) or to be overcooked (difficult with this method). Did you ever hear “Oh the meat is just falling off the bone!”? That means it’s been cooking too long and too much of the connective tissue has dissolved, and you have basically meat mush. Ribs should have some bite and chewiness to them and leave a clear bite mark when taking that first chomp.

The only thing that doesn’t change in my method is the rib rub recipe. I still try some variations in smoking material, time, temperature. I have even done the routine without using any smoking material at all, to a satisfactory effect. However, there’s nothing like seeing that billowing cloud coming from the grill when those smoking materials start to take effect!

Info about my smoker/grill

I have a Char-Broil charcoal grill with attached smoker box. I have mostly used it for smoking meat and rarely ever as a grill outright. I keep it covered and out of the sunlight but I noticed after the first year it started to develop some rust inside and out, as some of the paint had started flaking off. I came up with a way to preserve it without applying expensive or possibly not food-safe coatings.

I thought that since it’s a cast-iron/steel vehicle (actually, to me it looks like a locomotive, especially when it’s smokin’!) why not treat it like a cast-iron pan? I also clean and season the grates in the same way. So after cleaning off the rust, I slathered the whole thing inside and out with shortening, laid down a drip cloth, and fired the thing up. The shortening melted into the pores of the metal and created some nice fire until it settled down. I did this a couple more times and made sure after cooling that there was no residue on the inside that would drip down onto the food, or on the outside that would drip into my cooking area. I got a nice patina on both the inside and the outside and have not had any rust problems in the several years since I’ve been using it.