Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Memphis-Style Southern Dry Rub Grilled Pork Spareribs

Pork ribs done Memphis style, left overnight with a dry rub marinade, grilled over indirect heat for 1 hour, then brushed with a simple vinegar and mustard mop sauce and finished another hour.
Pork ribs prepared Memphis style, with an overnight dry rub marinade, grilled over indirect heat for 1 hour, then brushed with a simple vinegar and mustard mop sauce and finished another hour.

Southern Style Dry Rub Pork Ribs

In many, if not most households, the husband is the master of the grill. Not in this house. The Cajun cooks nothing, and I mean nothing. So I'm the resident cook and griller, though I am certainly as amateur as it comes.

What you read here, is my learning process and what I'm picking up from cookbooks and from research, and frankly might just be all wrong. I am a gas grill girl for the most part, although on occasion I do also use my Weber kettle grill {affil link} and I actually do even own a cheap-o smoker and more recently purchased an electric pellet one {affil link}, though purists will say that if it's not a wood fed smoker, is not true smoking. That kind of smoker is too time consuming and needy for my attention span and personality, and the wood or charcoal is generally a hassle and too wasteful for just the two of us. You might even just have a gas grills, and in that case, a smoker box {affil link} might be the way to go.

In the past, I have always only owned the cheapest gas grills, which consequently also meant the smallest gas grills, but this spring I stepped up on my grill size to one that is large enough to actually do "zone" cooking - also known as cooking a rack of ribs over indirect heat. In the past I've had to bake them and then finish them with a sear on the grill. I did, of course, christen my brand new grill with my favorite cut of steak, a ribeye, adorned with absolutely nothing.

I got a little help with these ribs from an old cookbook of mine, The Barbecue! Bible {affil link} along with most of the tips in the recipe. Although adapted, these are dubbed Memphis style ribs (though mine weren't trimmed) for a couple of reasons.

First, I remove the membrane of the back side of spareribs. I don't know that everybody bothers with this, and while I don't find it necessary to do at all with baby back ribs,  it tends to be tough on spareribs so I always remove it. Just work a knife up under the end and pull. If it's being a bit difficult, you can use a pair of pliers with a paper towel to grip it. Then just pull it up and off; discard.

I also remove the extra flap of meat that is on the top side. You can discard it or reserve it for another use, such as seasoning or for stock.

Lift it and gradually work the knife underneath and slice it off.

Now you have a nice, clean rack of ribs that is ready to season.

These start with a nice, dry rub marinade, using paprika, black pepper, a little bit of brown sugar, salt, celery seed, my fabulous and favorite Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning {affil link}, garlic powder, dry mustard and just a tad of cumin. Set aside a little bit of the rub mix to use at the end if you like - it adds another layer of flavor and is another trademark Memphis technique apparently.

The ribs are massaged all over with the rub, covered and left to marinate in the fridge overnight or about 8 hours if possible. Second, they are smoked rather than grilled, or as The Barbecue! Bible refers to them, "smoke cooked." I used some mesquite chips in a smoker box, because that is what I happened to have on hand - there are lots of nice wood blends available {affil link}these days so check them out!

An hour into cooking, the ribs are treated with a simple vinegar and mustard mop sauce.  Memphis style ribs are served sans sauce, so the mop sauce is used only for basting during cooking. I had never tried a mustard based mop before, at least not to my recollection!  Surprisingly there wasn't any strong mustardy taste to the finished rib.

The hardest part for me was trying to figure out when the ribs are actually ready.  From what I've read, there are apparently a couple of tests, none of which are foolproof.  One way is when the meat pulls away from the bone about 1/4 inch or so and is fork tender.  Another is sticking a toothpick in several areas (sort of like testing a cake); they are supposedly done when there is no resistance to the toothpick. Another says to bend the rack to see if the meat splits, another to sort of try to split away the bone to see how easily it tears, and another is simply cutting into the center to look!

These ribs were nice and meaty and finished with a nice, crusty exterior. They had a great spicy bite to them that we both loved, and though they were done at about 2-1/2 hours, I wished I would have left them on just a bit longer. These instructions are written for a gas grill, and my new grill has 5 burners plus a searing burner and I did have some challenges regulating the heat at first, finding that I had to run 3 of the 6 burners (30,000 BTUs) on high throughout the entire cooking process, in order to maintain the recommended 350 degrees. To be honest, I think these could have gone a bit longer. They had a nice tooth to them, but had not tightened up enough for me. New grill. First round using indirect cooking on this grill, and I'll definitely be doing these again.

I tried these ribs as is and they were delicious, but since The Cajun and I prefer our ribs a bit on the saucy side, we passed the sauce at the table. My homemade sauce would be excellent for that too!

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Posted by on March 31, 2010
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