Saturday, April 21, 2012

Kansas City Style Baby Back Ribs

I was searching high and low for a nice rack of beef back ribs, but alas, it was not meant to be. I settled instead for a very good-looking rack of baby back pork ribs.

The membrane had already been removed and there was only a little excess fat and silver skin to trim. So, there wasn't a lot to the meat preparation.

If you find yourself needing to remove the membrane there is no need to panic. Simply insert a butter knife between the outer membrane and a bone about 1/4 from the end of the rack. Work the membrane loose enough that you can get a finger in. The grasp the loose membrane with a paper towel and pull.

This guy knows what's up:
He also may have narrated the Dukes of Hazard. I'm not sure.

In a step that may have been totally unnecessary, I cut that rack in half and then brined it for about 4 hours in a simple brining solution (1 Quart Water, 3.5 Ounce Kosher Salt, 1/2 Cup Honey). I have had such great success brining pork, i figured it was worth a shot.

After patting the rack dry, I liberally applied a coat of mustard. This step gives the rub something on which to adhere. Mustard is used because during the long cooking time, it loses all flavor and thus does not affect the overall taste of the ribs.

The Rub:

2 Cups Brown Sugar
2 Cups Paprika
3 Tablespoons Chipotle Pepper
Dashes of:
White Pepper
Black Pepper
Celery Seed
Cayenne Pepper

The Brown Sugar used in this rub basically starts us off in the direction of Kansas City Style Ribs. The cooking method later confirms it as such. I applied the rub and let it rest in the refrigerator over night.

And then into the smoker.

I prepped the smoker (A half chimney of coals lit with the other half in the coal pan), regulated my temperature to 225 and got the Hickory smoke rolling. I filled my water pan and put on the ribs.

The game plan for the ribs was to smoke on 225 for 3 hours, then remove from the smoker and wrap in foil with a splash of apple juice, then return the ribs to the smoker for 1 hour. After an hour in the foil, I removed the ribs from the smoker. I took the ribs out of the foil and applied a liberal base of BBQS Sauce (more on that in a few). After the base was applied, I liberally sprinkled the ribs with Turbanado Sugar and then applied another layer of sauce. Then I just cooked them until they are done.

3 Hours in the smoker- ready for the foil.

In the meantime, Mariah started the sauce.

The Sauce:

Mariah warmed olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. She added a small diced onion and sauted until the onion was limp. She then added 3 cloves crushed garlic and cooked for another minute.

Next Mariah added a 1/4 cup of Killians Irish Red because she hates me.

Sam and I took a little nap.

In a bowl, Mariah mixed: 

1 cup of Ketchup
1/4 Cup Yellow Mustard
1/4 Cup Cider Vinegar
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
1/8 Cup Champagne Vinegar
1/8 Cup Molasses
1/8 Cup Honey
2 dashes Habanero Hot Sauce
1/2 Cup brown Sugar

Then she added the wet ingredients to the warm pot and simmered for 15 minutes to marry the flavors.

I intended to give the rack only 1 hour after adding basting with the sauce, but as you know- the road to tough, dry ribs is paved with good intentions. Ribs presented an interesting challenge for me as there is no good way to accurately assess the internal temperature. 

But what's the rush?
My goal internal temperature was 185. I wanted the pork to be moist and tender, but not to pull. Tastes vary, but I prefer to have my ribs give a little resistance in the chew but leave the bone clean. The collagen in the meat starts to break down between 180 and 190, so I selected 185 to compensate for my inability to accurately measure and to keep my ribs from being a sloppy, fatty mess.

But a lot of knowing when the ribs are done is just feel. I am still learning and can't really rely on gut feelings so I need some sort visual indication. 

I inserted my remove thermometer probe into a thick part of the rib meat being careful not to hit a bone. I waited until the ribs started reading 180 at which point I graped the end two ribs on my half rack with BBQs tongs and kind of bounced them. The goal was to see therack bend and give a little (and ideally, to start to break, but with my thick crusty rub, that was difficult to see).

It took three additional hours.

But it was worth the wait:

Thank goodness for warm spring nights

The ribs had a nice wide smoke ring and were moist without being fatty and tender without being sloppy. The mustard rub gave a nice crunch to the chew and a healthy but not devastating heat. Mariah's sauce was tremendous. Tangy and sweet without being sticky. It played beautifully with the rub.

Based on a simple google search, there are as many method for creating ribs as there are people cooking ribs. I think the idea is to read and research how people accomplish ribs that fit their tastes and then borrow and combine do create ribs that strike your fancy.

Kansas City Style ribs are distinguished as such due to the Brown Sugar in the Rub, the application of the mustard and most importantly the sauce basting of the ribs in the final cooking stage.

Memphis Style is a dry rub, mostly paprika based with no brown sugar. I really enjoyed the sweetness of these ribs and the crunch of the mustard rub. I may omit the turbinado sugar step next time (the heat was never high enough for the sugar to caramelize), but in general- these were a win for this style rib.

I may start the ribs a little earlier next time, though...


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