Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 11, 2012

BBQ: The art of pork ribs


- — To be considered a true master of the grill, one must learn to prepare pork ribs outdoors.

Today's column will not cover a specific style in detail. Instead, consider this a “big picture” view of what is

possible. I hope it wets your appetite enough to push your outdoor culinary curiosity.

Future columns will cover each genre' and recipe in greater detail.

In general, you will be faced with a choice of pork ribs. “Baby back” ribs are smaller and more expensive. They come from the spinal area of the hog and are part of the ribs.

The spareribs are the

actual rib cage. They are larger and typically less expensive then the baby back ribs. Which is best? I

like them both. It just depends on what looks best on a given day. The spareribs do require a little trimming. Baby backs are pretty much ready to go.

On the back of both sets of ribs you will find a shiny membrane layer. There is ongoing debate as to whether or not this membrane should be peeled off. I have eaten ribs with or without the

membrane, and honestly, I don't notice a huge difference.

The proponents of removal would tell you that the membrane inhibits the ability of the rub to penetrate the meat. Those who leave it on don't want to mess with the extra work, and will tell you the membrane helps keep the meat moist during the

cooking process.

Ribs can be cooked low and slow, while others have great success cooking them for a shorter period of time over higher heat. The traditional southern style is definitely low and slow, with hickory charcoal as the main fuel.

One exception is the Memphis style “Rendezvous Ribs,” Elvis' absolute favorite. It is

a fact that in the days prior to overnight delivery, Elvis would have his ribs shipped from Memphis to Las Vegas on a first-class seat. They are grilled over normal briquet charcoal with no wood, and a unique Greek rub is applied after the ribs are cooked.

They are unbelievable. Go to where I have the recipe and an instructional video posted.

Here are some of the things you will need, regardless of the style you chose to prepare.

Rib rack holder: You can purchase these online, or at a local big-box hardware store.

They allow you to stack the ribs instead of laying them flat on the grill. This not only increases the number of racks you can cook in a limited space, but they just look better when they are done cooking.

A good basting brush: If you decide to apply sauce during the grilling process, don't skimp on the quality of the brush. Otherwise you may have brush strands on your ribs.

Spices: Some of the most fun you will have is coming up with your own rub. These spices could include almost anything. Most of the time the base of rubs is some type of sugar, salt and paprika.

After that, let your imagination run wild.

Spray bottle: A lot of people spritz their ribs occasionally during the cooking process. Vinegar, apple cider, apple juice, beer or wine. You name it, it has probably been tried.

Varieties of wood: Recently one of my favorite clients surprised me by bringing me some cherry wood chips and pecan wood chips. Typically I had only used hickory. I was stunned at how different

each wood variety flavored the food. I had always heard there was a big difference but now I am a believer.

With the Internet, you have no excuse not to explore different possibilities, cooking techniques and

recipes. Have fun with it. Come up with your own rubs and sauces. Push the limit, and you will have a wonderful 2012 grilling season. Let me know how those ribs turn out!


Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at