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Ultimate BBQ Rib Secrets

Posted on: June 24th, 2013

Just picture the perfect slab of ribs now; beautifully glazed, falling apart tender, with a nice smoky flavor, plenty great sauce and a big stack of napkins on the side! I can almost feel the BBQ sauce on my face now! There’s no better way to spend an evening than sharing a couple slabs of perfectly cooked baby back ribs with friends and family. Why not this week? With these tips, anyone can be a rib wizard!

Baby back ribs glazed in Tony’s Kansas City Rib Rub
What’s The Secret?
For starters, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Sure, a nice new smoker or maybe a Big Green Egg or a brand new monster grill would be nice, but anyone can make great ribs
with a standard grill, or just an oven.

However you like your ribs, the secret ultimately lies in slow cooking. If you just throw them on the grill they’re likely to end up burned on the outside and raw in the middle. Here are a few tried and true methods to add to your repertoire…
‘Just right’ is personal taste, I like mine tender enough to tear apart, but not falling off the bone like confit
Par Cooking in a Pan
This is the easiest way to cook tender ribs, and it’s almost foolproof. Place whole or cut ribs in a pan, rib tips down. Add enough water so the pan won’t cook dry, cover tightly (I lay parchment on top of the ribs and then wrap tightly in foil) and place in the oven and braise at about 275 degrees. After about 60-75 minutes, start checking for doneness by tugging on a bone or poking with a fork to see how tender they are. Conditions vary, but tender ribs it usually takes 90 minutes or more at this temperature. If you like them falling off the bone tender, it’s more likely to be at least 2 hours – but don’t overdo it, they can dry out.
Notes: 1) Braising temps from 225-300 will work great, lower temperatures will take longer and work the best, especially if you like them falling apart tender. 2) This can also be done on an indirect grill in a foil pan. 3) The ribs can be chilled after cooking for quick cooking later, great for entertaining. 4) I strain and save the pan juices, it’s great for making soups, stocks, roasts or whatever.
Left: Ready to roast.  Center: 60-70 minutes, not quite done. Right: Fairly tender after 90 minutes.
Par Cooking in Foil
A lot of folks swear by this easy method, which is based on the French ‘en papillote’ technique. Start by marinating or seasoning your ribs the way you like them, wrap tightly in two layers of
standard plastic cling wrap (or one layer parchment paper) and then wrap well in aluminum foil. Make sure they are wrapped well enough that they don’t leak. Now they can be slow roasted in the oven or on an indirect grill at 275-300 degrees. No, the plastic won’t melt if they are wrapped well in foil and they are not put over direct flame. I suggest standard cling wrap, not the fancy stuff, but personally I prefer to use parchment.
Left: Soaking plank.  Center: Toast board, turn, oil and add ribs.  Right: Fully cooked 2-3 hours later.
Cedar Planks and Gas Grills
This is a great way to slow cook ribs on the gas grill and infuse them with just the right amount of smokiness. Soak enough Tony’s cedar planks in water to manage your ribs, I use a jelly roll pan and weight with a bottle. If possible, soak 12-24 hours, but 2-3 hours will do in a pinch. Season your ribs with one of our BBQ Rubs (Texas, Kansas City or Southern) and preheat your grill to about 400°.  Toast one side of the planks for a couple minutes, then turn over, brush with oil and add ribs.  Reduce grill temperature to 250-275° and cook covered until they are as tender as you like, about 2-3 hours at my house. They can also be brushed with BBQ sauce the last half hour or so. More on cedar plank grilling at Cedar Planks and Gas Grills, A Dynamic Duo!
Note:  1) One plank fits about 3/4 of a slab of baby back ribs. 2) There is no need to flip the ribs, but do check regularly for flare-ups, especially with boards that have only been soaked an hour or so. Adjust the planks position and douse flames with a spray bottle if needed.
Slow cooking happily on the gas grill on a cedar plank for a light smoky flavor
We also offer Texas or Southern Style Rub.
Seasoning and/or Marinating
Marinades can add amazing flavor to ribs. I’ve tried most of our house marinades from Mile High Chicken Wing to Teriyaki, Tuscan and Sweet Thai Chile and they all turned out wonderfully with pork ribs (see note below). An hour or two is nice, but 12-24 hours is much better. Another very popular smoky marinade is Claude’s (also great with brisket and chickens, available at Tony’s) or use a little natural liquid smoke in your rub or marinade.
Rib Rubs are the most popular way to season ribs as they work to create an amazing crust or glaze. We offer several famous blends in our markets, but I am quite partial to our Texas Mesquite, Kansas City Hickory, or Southern BBQ Rub. Apply generously getting as much on the ribs as possible, some folks do this days in advance with raw ribs and wrap in plastic. For par-cooked ribs, brush with some of the braising liquid and then rub generously with seasoning. Keep in mind that rubs have sugar in them and are prone to burning.
Note: Try marinating in our Santa Maria or Teriyaki, then brush on our Sweet Chili Ginger marinade during the last 30-60 minutes to glaze – amazing!
The tasty marinades from our meat department are now bottled and only at Tony’s Markets!
Par cooked ribs finished on the grill alongside cedar plank ribs. Note, this plank only soaked one hour and burned up, charring the lower side of the ribs, if possible 12-24 hours soaking is best.
Glazing After Par Cooking
Once your ribs are nice and tender, use dry heat to glaze them. This can be done in the oven by seasoning and transferring to a low-sided pan (a jelly roll pan lined with parchment is ideal) and roasting in the top half of the oven at about 375-425, convection fan on. Or brown them on a low to medium direct grill, or with a hot indirect grill (I like indirect grilling the best).
Once the seasoning is all browned and glazed, some folks like to brush on BBQ sauce and let that glaze as well; just use the same precautions, it too burns easily. The other option is to warm up some sauce to dip the ribs with while you eat.
Par cooked ribs with our Balsamic Chicken Rub, a great combo! I am banking the ribs on a chip box for even browning on those hard to reach curved spots.
Getting That Smoky Flavor
Wood chips are a great way to add smoky flavor, even on a
gas grill.  Soak chips for at least 30 minutes (longer if possible) and preheat grill. You can just scatter the chips over hot coals, or for a gas grill use a wood chip tin (pictured at left). Another great method is to soak chips, wrap in perforated foil, poke it full of holes and place it under the cooking grate and directly over the hottest part of your grill.
We offer a variety of chips in our markets. I like to use the large ones not soaked and mixed into my charcoal on the Big Green Egg. You can also cut your own from the apple and cherry trees in your yard. Another excellent option is a cedar plank, discussed above.
You could also rub your ribs with a little liquid natural wood smoke (distilled, not a chemical product) mixed in with almost any liquid you like the taste of. Take it easy, liquid smoke can be strong!
My old smoker (AKA Old Smokey), the Big Green Egg and younger of the Weber girls ready for action!
Smoking Ribs
The Big Green Egg is great for slow cooking
If you love extra smoky meats, a proper smoker is hard to beat! Smokers have a firebox that channels hot smoke to a chamber where the meats cook slowly without the risk of charring. While this takes a little practice, it’s an amazing way to cook ribs!
Season your ribs and leave at cool room temperature for 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, build a hardwood fire, when it’s just right (flames subsided and the chamber about 200-250°) add your seasoned ribs and slow cook to your desired level of tenderness (generally 4-6 hours).
The Big Green Egg
I love my BGE, it’s a great tool for slow cooking and quick smoking, and is very efficient with fuel. Season your ribs and rest at cool room temperature for 2 hours. Prepare your hardwood fire and adjust airflow to achieve about 250° in the chamber, add your ribs and check them regularly. Usually burning is not a problem on the BGE, but it can happen, especially when fats drip and with sweet rubs or sauces. Rotate the ribs as needed for even browning and cooking, slow grilling until they’re as tender as you like (generally 2-4 hours).
Wine Pairing Tips
BBQ needs bright and refreshing chilled wines with plenty of forward fruit, or sweetness. Think of wines that are fruity, refreshing and slightly sweeter than the sauce or rub, lest the wine taste tart. My top choices are a fruity rose, Riesling, Gewurtztraminer or sparkling wine. Other whites such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, etc can be great, just keep the focus on fruitiness rather than oak or acidity. If your sauce is spicy, lean toward sweeter wines. Also consider sangria, an amazing pair with ribs or any BBQ! I recommend saving the big reds for another day.

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