Celebrate the Fourth of July this year with a bold declaration of independence: grill your own ribs! To nudge you along, here’s a guide for creating smokey baby backs layered with a spicy crust and a sweet nectar finish.
Equipment you will need:
Grill or Smoker —large enough to set up for indirect heat and still have space for your racks of ribs
Lump Charcoal or Wood (I prefer oak and pecan for these ribs because they produce a mild smoke)
Food items you will need:
Baby back or loin back ribs (desired number of racks—I usually estimate a half rack per feaster)
Basic Rib Rub (this is enough for 3 racks):
Granulated Garlic (half cup)
Onion Powder (half cup)
Smoked Paprika (half cup)
Ground Mustard (half cup)
Cumin (quarter cup)
Ground Ginger (quarter cup)
Black Pepper (quarter cup)
White Pepper (2 tablespoons)
Cayenne Pepper (2 tablespoons)
Apple Cider Vinegar (for misting while grilling)
Butter (squeeze bottle works well)
Remove the ribs from the package and rinse them thoroughly. Next remove the thin membrane on the back side of the ribs. (Tip: using a paper towel to grab the membrane helps).
Coat each rack of ribs with olive oil. Generously, salt each rack (both sides). Then generously apply the Basic Rib Rub to both sides of the ribs. Place the ribs in a sealed container (big plastic bags work great) and place them in the refrigerator for several hours (I typically allow them to sit overnight).
Start the smoker. If using a grill, you want to set it up for indirect heat and use lump charcoal (or maybe even add some wood chunks). The ideal temperature for cooking these ribs is around 225 degrees. Let the smoker or grill come to temperature before you add the ribs.
Put the ribs on the grill making sure that each rack has enough room. To add more racks, acquire a standing rack for holding the ribs vertical (each typically holds between four and six racks).
Allow the ribs to cook undisturbed for two hours. After two hours check on them being sure to rotate the racks to even out any hot spots on the grill. For moving the ribs and later placing them in foil, silicone gloves make the task easier.
Mist the racks with the apple cider vinegar and let them cook for another hour. At the end of that hour, mist the racks again with the apple cider vinegar and wrap each rack in foil. Let them cook for another half hour.
Pull each foil wrapped rack of ribs off the smoker and open up the top of the foil packet. Apply butter on the meaty side of the ribs, sprinkle with brown sugar, drizzle with molasses and then brush on the agave being sure to coat the entire rack. Place back on the smoker for another half hour to one hour.
The total cook time for baby backs at this temperature is around four hours. You want the ribs to be perfectly tender but not fall off the bones. The best way to tell they are done is to inspect the rack and see if the meat is beginning to pull away from the bone. (The most tasty way to tell is to cut one off the end and try it out —I do that more times than not, and sometimes it takes a few just to make sure).
Allow the baby back to rest for at least fifteen minutes and up to an hour in the foil packets. To ensure they remain fresh, slice them as they are served (slicing ahead of time is a time saver when serving but if they sit too long they begin to dry out).
Have a sweet fourth, my friend.