Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
With the weather last Sunday being a full on proper spring day there was no way I wasn’t going to be getting my smoker out. Add to this the fact that I had on the Saturday picked up at Roath Farmers Market some gorgeous looking meaty baby back ribs from Charcutier Ltd (great products, very nice people) I was ready from some hot smoking fun on my Pro Q Frontier
Now the beauty of low and slow cooking on a smoker is once the meat is in you can pretty much leave it to its own devices (indeed looking is generally a no no as you lose heat). For me this is usually the excuse to sit down with a glass of wine and watch a bit of sport (ideally rugby). Mrs. SF had other ideas and instructions were issued to mow the lawns. I hate mowing the lawn, but had no valid “I need to keep an eye on the food” excuse and therefore, muttering under my breath, I trudged off to do my chores whilst the ribs were happily getting started in the smoker. I think we need a goat to crop the lawn. Mrs. SF thinks I would barbecue it (mmm interesting).
Going back a few steps, after top quality pork ribs the next most important thing for a good set of barbecue ribs is the rub . There are a myriad of different rub recipes out there and mine is a dry one based principally on a Kansas City dry rub recipe, but with a slight twist.
So here it is my recipe for baby back ribs.
Step 1 – Prep the baby backs
1 baby back per person (get good meaty ones)
Before you put the rub on you need to take the silver skin off the back of the ribs. You do this by picking at a corner of the concave side of the ribs until you get enough of the thin membrane on it to grab with a piece of kitchen towel. Then pull it from top to bottom of the ribs as if stripping a bit of wallpaper. It comes away very easily once you have hold of it and it is really important to do this as the ribs with be grim if you don’t.
Step 2 – the rub
2 tablespoons paprika (use mix of smoked and normal paprika if cooking in a conventional oven);
2 tablespoons of soft dark brown sugar (I used muscovado);
1 tablespoon salt (not low sodium);
1 teaspoon chilli powder (up to you heat wise but too hot and everything else is overpowered);
1 teaspoon onion powder;
1 teaspoon granulated garlic;
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper;
1 teaspoon ground cumin (this is the slightly unusual ingredient)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
This is only my rub and part of the fun is developing your own with flavours you like (plus there are loads of rub recipes on the internet) or you could always buy a ready made one.
Massage the rub all over the ribs making sure they are totally covered on both sides.
Put the rub covered ribs in the fridge for at least 6 hours and preferably overnight. Either wrap then in clingfilm or put them in a dish and cover it with clingfilm. This helps with the process and help stop the smell (nice as it will be) lingering in the fridge. I know this as I didn’t do this and the fridge still smells of the rub (luckily we have two fridges and I didn’t put it in the main one or else I would really be in the dog house).
Step 3 – Smoking
Prep the smoker in accordance with my Pro Q bullet smoker – a good introduction to the art of smoking post (this includes a description of how to set up a standard kettle barbecue for the indirect heat method of cooking). Get the temperature at between 220°f and 250°f ( 110°c – 120°c). Don’t go any higher as sugar burns at 265°f (130°c) and my rub has fair whack of sugar in it.
I used soaked mesquite wood chips for the smoking. Mesquite makes for quite a bold smoke flavour so is not suitable for delicate flavoured foods, but it is perfect for ribs.
Put the ribs in the smoker for 5 hours and in the meantime make up your mop/barbecue sauce to go on ribs after initial cook phase. I used a spicy tamarind sauce (2 tablespoons) which I bought and to which I added 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar and 3 teaspoons of apple juice.
After 5 hours I took the ribs out and brushed (generously) the mop sauce over both sides and then wrapped the ribs up in tinfoil and put them back in the smoker for another hour (30 mins would of probably done it)
If you are using an oven I would suggest around the 3 hour mark and put the mop sauce on (and wrap in tin foil) after 2 hours, Check how tender they are after the 3 hours and if they need more they can always go back in. In the oven you won’t get the smoke flavour I got from using the Pro Q, but use of some smoked paprika will help a bit (not the same though).
You should have, as the end result, really tasty, tender, smokey, lip smackingly good ribs and who doesn’t like ribs. Yummy.
I drunk a cold pilsner lager with the ribs as just fancied one or two that night, but wine wise an Aussie Shiraz I think would work well or if you want something a bit different try a Uruguayan tannat based wine. Waitrose current do a tannat merlot blend.
Whilst time wise (with the rub time and cook time) it takes a while to do these ribs, once the prep is done it really is a case of sit back (ideally with a glass of wine or a beer in the sun) and wait until they are done. Pop them on the smoker in the morning and then have a day at leisure (or mow the lawn grrrr) and by mid afternoon you have lovely ribs.
Would I do this recipe again? Hell yes – both Mrs SF and I didn’t leave a scrap of meat on them bones.