Club Kitty Ribs

I can’t believe it’s July already. Maggie is nearly 6 months old. She’s growing like a weed. She’s lying in her too small bassinet staring at me as I type, with her legs hanging over the edge. How did she get so big? She was just a wee tiny thing.

Anyway, summer means BBQ and so I had some friends over for a Club Kitty Ribs session. By ribs, I mean pork spareribs. I like spareribs better than baby back ribs. Baby back ribs are leaner…but who wants lean when you’re eating ribs? Baby Back Ribs vs. Spareribs Always remember, fat is flavor. Plus, they’re cheaper.
I got mine for $2.99 a pound.

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Now, for some reason, my ribs were tied up in a bundle, probably just to save space. Most of the time, they look like this:

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Here’s the other side:

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There are usually about 13 ribs per rack and they’re a good size. Figure 2-3 ribs per chick and 4 ribs per guy and you’ll have enough.

Now, the first thing I usually do is cut them in half so they’re easier to move around on the grill. Just find the approximate middle of the rack and cut through the middle of the meaty part between two bones.

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Next, you need to pull off the silver skin. The silver skin is a thin, tough, membrane that is covering the underside of the ribs. If you don’t take that off, your ribs will be really tough. Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds. Much easier than taking it off a beef tenderloin because you don’t have to worry so much about ruining your meat. Just find a corner and peel it right up. It helps to use a paper towel to grasp the silver skin because it’s slippery.

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So, once you’re done pulling the silver skin off, discard that crap and you’re ready to apply the rub. Now, I’ve been making these ribs for years. I’ve tried every dry rub recipe there is it seems and I’ve bought the expensive rubs and you know what? I’ve settled on ”The Chachere”. I use Tony Chachere for a lot of things…fried chicken, ribs…never fear…you’ll see me use it again. It’s just got a nice flavor and kick to it. It also saves me time, which is always good when you have a 6-month old. Now, you’re free to go spend an hour or so putting together some long, complicated dry rub together that you can claim is your ‘secret ingredient’ but I just don’t have the energy anymore as I’ve found that they’re not any better and don’t justify the time and expense. So, shake a good coating all over the ribs. Not too heavy as ”The Chachere” can get spicy if you put too much on.

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Now, that’s all your prep. Put the rib racks in some zip-loc bags and refrigerate overnight to let the spices penetrate the meat. There’s salt in ”The Chachere” and that will help keep the ribs juicy as it acts like a
brine would. In fact, you can refrigerate the ribs with the rub on them for as long as 3 days and they’ll be even better.

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The next day, take your ribs out of the fridge about 2 hours before cooking to let them come to room temperature. Cooking them fresh out of the fridge will waste time and charcoal as it will take longer. It may also introduce a possible breeding ground for bacteria as you’ll be smoking them at a low temperature. Now, here is where I’m going to give you two possible techniques. I have used both techniques with considerable success in the past. You can either steam your ribs ahead of time or cook them entirely on the grill. Either way will work. In the past, I’ve found that steaming them a little ahead of time makes for a juicier rib. This particular time, I found the ribs to be a little tougher than they usually are even though I did them the exact same way I always do. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was the ribs themselves that were tougher and not my technique. I usually buy all my pork from Prairie Pride Farm in Minnesota. Their Berkshire pork is amazing and very reasonable. This time I bought it at my local grocery store and I don’t think the meat was as high quality. In any case, here is the “steam first” technique:

Place your ribs in a roasting pan…you can pile them on top of each other, it doesn’t really matter because you’re just steaming them. Then pour several bottles of beer over them. I’m using Corona and Amstel Light because, well, those are my husband’s beers and I’m sure as hell not wasting any of MY Sierra Nevada on a steaming liquid. Cover with foil and bring to a boil on top of the stove briefly, just to get the beer to start steaming immediately. Then, place in the oven at 300 degrees for like 90 minutes.

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This is a good time to go get your fire going. I’m using Kingsford charcoal briquets instead of wood this time for a couple of reasons. The briquets seem to last a little longer (you don’t want your fire going out before you’re done cooking and it’s easy to add briquets one by one to keep it from doing that) and I don’t want to introduce smoke from a different type of wood. I’m using apple wood chips and using wood in my fire would confuse the flavors. Now, if you have apple wood on hand, by all means, use it. Some people like hickory. I’m an apple wood girl with pork. It’s a nice sweet smoke.

Note on smokers: I’m using a New Braunfels offset smoker. You place your coals or wood in the offset firebox and put the meat in the main cooking area. I’m aware that a lot of you don’t have one of these. If you are using a kettle grill, then you won’t be able to do as many ribs and you’ll have to push the coals to the side because you don’t want the ribs sitting over direct heat. Just make a well in the center of your coals, basically put them in a ring and then place a couple of foil pans filled with beer directly under your ribs for extra steaming action. If you have a gas grill, well, you’re pretty much screwed. This isn’t grilling, it’s smoking. I know you can use chips somehow on a gas grill but I don’t know how because I’ve always been a charcoal girl.

So, with my smoker, the coals go in the side firebox. I add a good amount to start and get them hot and covered in grey ash and then add a few more to keep it going for a while. In the main cooking area, I put a row of foil roasting pans under the grate filled with beer (my husband’s…not mine…hee hee) and I will also throw in the steaming liquid from the ribs when they’re ready to come out.

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Have on hand 4 packets of wood chips. I described in the tri-tip blog how to make these but here it is again. Get a square of heavy-duty foil, fill it with chips, roll up and make a packet and poke some holes in it. Again, I’m using apple wood. Oh, a brief note on foil, I buy mine at Costco or Smart-n-Final, anywhere that you can get the big commercial boxes of foil. It’s huge, heavy as shit and costs like $35 bucks but it will last you FOREVER and it’s really heavy duty and WIDE, which is always nice so that you’re not having to piece a bunch of smaller, shitty pieces of foil together. By last forever, I mean years and years. I’ve been using it for 8 years and I’m only on my 2nd roll. That’s with catering and many parties, so I recommend it because the supermarket foils might not hold up on a fire.

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Now, pull your ribs out of the oven, pour the juices into your foil pans on the floor of your grill and then put your grates back in and line your rib racks up on them. Place your first foil packet on the coals and close up the smoker. The temperature should hover in the 200 degree range. (Hopefully, your smoker has a temperature guage). Don’t let it go higher than 250 or lower than 175. 200 degrees is ideal. The hotter it gets, the faster it cooks and you’ll have really tough ribs. Anything below 175 degrees might allow bacteria to grow, so if the temp starts dipping below that, add more coals to keep the temperature constant. Also, keep that smoker closed as much as possible. If you’re looking, you’re not cooking.

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You’re going to be smoking these for at least 4 -5 hours, so you’ve got to keep an eye on the temperature during this time and regulate it by adding more coals so that it stays in the 200 degrees range. After you first put on the ribs, I would let it go for about an hour without opening the lid. That should give the wood chips packet time to do it’s job. You don’t have to sit there and stare at it. Go do other things, but just keep an eye on the temp. After about an hour, open it up and move the racks around. I just do it in a clockwise direction so that I remember. The racks closer to the fire will cook first so you’ve got to move them around throughout the cooking process. After you’ve rotated them, throw on a few more coals, another wood chip packet and close ‘er up again. Repeat in another hour.

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You’ll see the ribs start to take on a reddish hue. That’s from the smoke. The meat will start to shrink back from the bones. When it shrinks back about a half-inch to an inch, they should be getting close to being ready. All in all, the ribs should cook for about 6 hours total. When I did this the other day, I did 90 minutes in the oven steaming and then another 4-1/2 hours out in the smoker. If you decide to do the purist route and skip the steaming part, plan on about 6 hours in the smoker. One hour before you plan to eat, open up your smoker and brush the ribs all over on both sides with your favorite BBQ sauce. You want to do this towards the end of cooking because BBQ sauce has lots of sugar in it and it will burn black if you put it on too soon. An hour before eating is good because it gives it time to bake on a little, so they’re not too sticky. I like a Kansas City or a Memphis-style BBQ sauce. There are a million and one recipe’s out there that you can Google, so I won’t bother with one here. Or, you can use your favorite bottled sauce. Here’s a little info about sauces: Barbecue Sauce

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Once they’re ready, just slice them into ribs by cutting through the meaty part between each bone.

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It helps at this point to have an unbiased taste-tester on hand before you serve. I’m going to use my friend Lupe
for this purpose:

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All right, they passed muster. Let’s go call everyone in:

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Thanks to Sean and Maggie, Lupe, Kaj and Diane, Berger, Brian and Sara for being my rib blog guinea pigs…and a special shout-out to Sara for her delicious lemon bars that went straight to my ass.

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3 Responses to “Club Kitty Ribs”

  1. I Dig On Swine…Grilled Maple-brined Pork Chops with Sweet Corn Succotash and Hash Browns « Club Kitty Says:

    […] like it’s ready. I’m going to add a smoke packet. (For directions on the smoke packet, see my Ribs blog. Just for shits and giggles, let’s use hickory today. I’m feeling […]

  2. Texas Food Blog - Part 3 - Epilogue « Club Kitty Says:

    […] I like to score the fat a little bit with a knife to allow it to render properly and to facilitate the spice penetration. For spice, of course, I’m using The Chachere on both the brisket and the ribs. But use whatever your favorite dry rub is and coat both the ribs and the brisket well at least a day before you plan to smoke. Score the fat on the brisket. Pull the silver-skin off the ribs in the manner that I demonstrated in my spareribs blog. […]

  3. Kim Says:

    OH yes, and i remember this one. Stop it, you’re making me want to CHOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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