Few other cooking traditions feel as American as barbecue. There’s no denying people in the U.S. love meat – the average person consumes 270.2 pounds per year, as NPR pointed out. And barbecuing is a way to celebrate not just food but friends and family as well, no matter what season it might be. Whereas some folks like burgers or kielbasa, some think ribs deserve the crown of barbecue king. And rightfully so – if cooked right, a rack of ribs represents everything great about tasty, flavorful meat. As a chef, mastering ribs is just another notch on the belt.
Why not start today with these four tips for cooking perfect ribs every time?
“Baby back ribs are among the easier cuts to cook.”
1. Choose baby back ribs
The first step to cooking ribs is choosing the right rack of meat in the first place. According to the Barbecue Bible, your best bet is to go with baby back ribs – Not only are they much easier to cook, but they have plenty of marbling and a nice level of tenderness. No matter what cut you go for, you want something with plenty of meat. Anything where you can see bone – often called shiners – will make for inferior cooking.
2. Consider the temperature
Some chefs argue over the merits of gas versus charcoal cooking. However, what you should focus on is the temperature at which your ribs cook. According to Amazing Ribs, a good rule to keep in mind is the thicker the meat is, the lower the overall temperature. The so-called hot and fast approach – higher temperature over less time – works with things like skirt steak, while slow and low is better for denser meats that might otherwise burn too quickly.
To ensure the proper time and temperature, many barbecue gurus employ the two-zone setup: A place for radiant heat cooks the meat, while the indirect convection zone just keeps the meat warm after it’s done.
3. Avoid the common mistakes
As important as cooking time and temperature might be, The Kitchn noted that there are several costly mistakes you can make during the prep process. For one, you must always remove the rib’s membrane – if you don’t, expect to chow down on extra tough ribs. It’s equally essential you always pre-cook your ribs. This process will tenderize the meat and let you better control the cooking time.
4. Make your own rubs
Melissa Cookston is a renowned barbecue chef who has also written books on the subject. Speaking with Serious Eats, she said more people should make their own rubs and sauces. It’s not as difficult as some people assume, and it lets you better control cook time and flavoring. The important part is to rub your ribs down the night before to give ample time to set into the meat. If you opt for sauce, though, only apply it in the final 10 minutes of cooking to ensure a nice, even caramelization.