All About Ribs
When we speak of ribs, most of us are thinking pork ribs, though in
some areas beef ribs are in favor. We will stick with pork ribs for this
occasion. There are three basic types of ribs. First are the spare ribs.
The spare ribs come from the underbelly and side of the pig. They
contain the least amount of meat on the bone. Next are the back ribs. They
are from the blade and center section of the loin. They have more meat
per amount of bone than the spare ribs. Country-style ribs come from the
rib end of the loin and contain the most meat per bone.
When you are trying to decide how many ribs to buy, you can figure that
the spare ribs will produce one and a quarter servings per pound, raw weight.
The back ribs will give one and a half servings per pound and the country
style come in at two servings per pound.
The spare ribs and the back ribs seem to turn out better if they are
grilled, rather than slow smoked. You put them over medium heat, and they
should be done in an hour and a half to two hours. However, since country-style
ribs have a much thicker layer of meat and require a longer cooking time,
they benefit from slow smoking.
In any case, give the ribs a good coating of dry rub and let them set
in a plastic bag several hours or overnight in the icebox to let the seasoning
work in. Put the spare ribs and the back ribs on the grill -- bone side
down to start. Turn several times during the cooking time and give a mopping
with a good mop sauce. Just before they are done, you can use your finishing
sauce. [Note: See Barbecue 101 for Basic
Mop Sauce and Basic Finishing Sauce recipes.] You can test for doneness
by grasping one of the bones with glove or tongs and giving it a wiggle.
When the meat turns loose from the bone, they are done.
To really “tender up” your at home ribs, when they are done, wrap them
tightly in foil and place the package in a brown paper bag and let it set
for an hour. The steaming will really tender the ribs up. It is also helpful
when you get the ribs done a little ahead of the rest of the meal. You
can probably leave them in the wrapping longer than an hour without hurting
Ribs are amenable to all kinds of seasoning. Here are a few of the more
Texas Style: Rub with lots of black pepper and finish with jalapeno flavor
Memphis Style: Rub containing garlic and onion powder, white pepper, seasoned
pepper, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar and paprika. (Could be hot with
all the peppers.) Mop with apple cider.
Southern Comfort Style: Rub contains, paprika, garlic powder, seasoned
salt, dry mustard, oregano and chili powder. Finishing sauce, mild with
molasses and bourbon.
Pacific Rim Style: Rub contains, 5-spice powder, black pepper. Baste contains,
hoisin sauce, honey, sherry, soy sauce, gingerroot and garlic.
Chili Adobo: A favorite in New Mexico/Arizona. A good chili seasoning mix
is mixed with a little vinegar and oil to make a paste that covers the
ribs during the cooking process. Smells wonderful while cooking.
The cooking of ribs need not be confined to the grill or smoker.
They can be prepared in the kitchen with finger licking results. In my
family, fried spare ribs were a favorite. Mama would cut the ribs into
pairs and season with salt and pepper, dredge with flour and fry in hot
grease until crispy on the edges. Mama would also bake spare ribs in the
oven. Just seasoned and floured and baked. They were a little greasy, but
in those days grease wasn’t bad for you.
I like to do country-style ribs up like a pot roast. I season the ribs
with seasoned salt. Then they get a coating of flour and are browned on
all sides in a heavy skillet with a tight-fitting lid. When the ribs are
brown on all sides, I pour off the excess grease and add my vegetables.
First, on goes a green bell pepper, seeded and sliced. Next a big onion
sliced and broken into rings, then a potato or two, white or sweet potato
or some of each, several sliced carrots. Any other vegetables on hand are
candidates for the skillet. I like to finish off the load with some sliced
Keep the skillet over medium heat until it begins to steam. Cover tightly
and turn the heat down until you just get a simmer. Let it cook three or
four hours. When the carrots are tender, the meat is done, but the longer
you let it cook, the better it gets. If you have to add water, your heat
is too high. The vegetables alone will make enough moisture for a fine
Pass me another napkin or two, would you?