Cheaters Sometimes Prosper

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Just keepin’ it real, folks!  Hard core pit masters with the time and equipment will baby ribs for up to seven hours in their smokers.  Without the aid of gas or electricity, much effort is put into keeping the temperature and smoke just right.  As much as I revere this ever-so-pure form of authentic All-American BBQ, the reality of limited time, a bum ankle and a cheap smoker led me to cheat!  I’ll clarify later.

If you want good ribs, you can’t cut corners in the preparation.  First off, I prefer spare ribs, as opposed to the yuppy choice, baby backs.  Spares come from the belly of the pig and are bigger and much meatier.  But they require some surgery.  There are two distinct sections in whole spare ribs: the tips and the actual ribs.  The tips have a whole bunch of cartilage and gristle and cook up differently.  We split the sections, BBQ the ribs, and use the tips to make some killer New Mexican-style Green Chile Stew (the tips make some crazy good broth).  Also, there’s a rubbery membrane on the back of the ribs that needs to be removed.  Since I’m a gimp right now, I asked my better half to do the dirty work.

Removing the membrane is a cinch.  Use a knife to get under it right on top of a bone.  That's one slippery booger, so use a rag or paper towel to just pull it right off...

Removing the membrane is a cinch. Use a knife to get under it right on top of a bone. That's one slippery booger, so use a rag or paper towel to just pull it right off...

See, just like that!

See, just like that!

With the ribs properly trimmed and peeled, they’re ready for a good rub.  My seasoning rub consists of (in order of prevalance): celery salt, sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, New Mexican red chile powder, chipotle chile powder, black pepper and cumin.  I like to let the rack and rub get to know each other for a couple hours.

I’ve come to prefer “grill smoking” ribs.  That means I put them directly over a thin layer of lump charcoal along with a chunk of hickory that smolders over to the side.  You’ve got to be careful with this method, as you can torch your ribs if you don’t keep the temperature low.  Let ’em brown on one side for about five minutes (depending on how hot your coals are), then flip.  I keep it in the smoker this way for about an hour.  The initial blast of heat makes for a tasty crust, then the coals slowly cool off enough to gently smoke.  The flavor is unbelievable this way.  But here’s where the cheatin’ comes in.  After the hour in the smoker, I wrap the ribs real tight in foil and finish them off in a 225-250 degree oven.  Total cooking time was just under five hours.  The meat fell right off the bone, which some people like, but a bit mushy for my tastes.  I like my ribs to be tender, but still have some integrity.  As far as moisture and flavor … man, don’t mean to sound “Joe Biden-arrogant”, but I nailed it!  Some of the tastiest ribs I’ve ever had.  Tenderness probably would’ve been perfect if I pulled them half an hour earlier.

Cheatin’ never tasted so good!

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10 comments so far

  1. cindy on

    wow those ribs look goooood! i happen to be a christian “foodie” too and luv your blog. 🙂 keep it up!

  2. jaynepomuceno on

    Thanks for coming by, Cindy! I think Christianity and food go together like creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly!

  3. RoBb on

    man jay.. your the man!!! one day your preaching hard at us teens about principles.. next day your hoopen it up with a bunch of magetts.. next your milkin ur ankle *injury*… then your cookin like a pro.. while cheating.. u really r amazing!!! wat was i missing my whole life.. u jay.. r really my HERO!!!

  4. jaynepomuceno on

    No, no, no, Robby… YOU’RE the HERO!

  5. nwkathy on

    This article makes me hungry! I grew up in Taos NM, now in Oregon. Care to share your green chile stew recipe? Haven’t had it in years!

  6. Renae on

    I am not really fond of ribs because I don’t like eating meat off the bone! But your ribs did look good! I am sure James will have a much better comment than me! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed your food!

  7. lonestarpreacher on

    seems you need a pretty big smoker to keep your chacoal far enough from the ribs. they look great though!

  8. jaynepomuceno on

    Kathy, my wife grew up in Santa Fe. Our recipe is forthcoming!

    Renae, shoulda put a “raw meat pic” warning up for ya.

    lonestar, I have a pretty small, cheap Chargriller. It’s just a matter of controlling your air intake, just enough to keep it from dying too fast. Also, I can’t use Mesquite Charcoal, it burns way too hot for my little smoker. Plus, I think it’s a bit harsh. I know that’s sacrilege for an east Texan, but hickory is my choice!

  9. S.J. on

    Cheater, cheater! Pumpkin eater!!!!!
    Wait…
    Cheater, cheater! chocolate, spam, barbeque,…(blah blah blah)… eater!!!
    Or pumpkin pie eater… OH whatever! You know what I mean…

  10. Butt Barbeque « BarBeQuethMinistry! on

    […] pit masters usually cut their teeth on this most forgiving of BBQ meats.  Unlike tri-tip or ribs, they don’t require much prep.  Season it up (I use the same rub I put on my ribs–that […]


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