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Friday, March 5, 2010

Country-Style Pork Ribs

Another old post.
I like smoked ribs. I like grilled and smoked foods in general, especially smoked brisket, but country-style pork ribs have a special place in my heart. They're usually cheap and they make great additions to other dishes, like a crock-pot full o' pinto beans.

This is how I like to cook 'em.

I start by marinating the ribs. Usually, I'm cooking about ten pounds of ribs and, if you put 'em in a big bowl, it takes surprisingly little marinade. I don't usually measure; I just pour about equal amounts of common vegetable (soybean) oil and reconstituted lemon juice over the ribs. Marinating them in straight Coca-Cola also works well. I usually let 'em sit for about an hour, turning 'em over once midway.

About half an hour before I want to start cooking, I start the coals and start soaking my smoking wood. I always use hardwood lump charcoal. Usually my smoking wood is hickory, but I also like cherry. I don't use starter fluid; I use a charcoal chimney starter.

I currently use what's commonly called a water smoker, or a bullet smoker, but I don't use the water pan anymore, not for ribs. I find that without the water pan, I get better caramelization on the ribs.

Once the ribs have marinated and the coals are going, I add a few chunks of water-soaked smoking wood to the fire pan and put the ribs on the grills, making sure to leave room between the ribs for smoke to circulate.

About every 45-60 minutes, depending on how cold it is outside, I add a little more charcoal and smoking wood. Cooking time varies with the outside temperature, too, but generally, about three an' a half hours produces a nicely caramelized "crust," a tender inside, and a pronounced smoky flavor.

This is the basic version, which I usually serve with barbecue sauce on the side. Variations are as endless as your imagination: add Louisiana hot sauce and cider vinegar to the marinade; use a rub; baste the ribs with barbecue sauce half an hour before they finish cooking.

The ribs freeze well, and one of my favorite things to do is to use leftover ribs (if any) as a flavoring meat in a potful of pinto beans. The smoke flavor gets all through the beans, and if everyone in your household tolerates onions and peppers well, there's not much better to eat on earth than pinto beans made with smoked ribs, big chunks of yellow onion, and chopped bell pepper, served with corn bread.

For further ideas, my two favorite resources are Charlie and Ruthi Knote's Barbecuing and Sausage-Making Secrets and Jamison and Jamison's Smoke and Spice.

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