For Perfect Ribs, Go Low And Slow

Tired of waiting on line at your local rib joint? Having a get-together and looking for something that will wow your guests? Grilling ribs is simpler than you think, and making them on your backyard grill has the advantage of allowing you to customize them to your taste.

Elizabeth Karmel knows a lot about the best way to marry meat and fire. Known as America's foremost female grilling expert, she grew up in North Carolina, where barbecuing was a way of life. She's now the executive chef at Hill Country, New York's hottest barbecue spot; in addition, she teaches at the Institute for Culinary Education and has written several cookbooks (Her "Taming the Flame," published in 2005, is considered a barbecue bible).

Karmel dropped by The Early Show to give us a quick course - call it "Ribs 101" - on how to produce meat that is tender, smoky and full of flavor. Her side dishes are all classics with a twist.

THE MEAT
Pork back ribs are the easiest to find (though you can also buy beef ribs).

"Cut from high up on the rib near the spinal column, back ribs are meaty, leaner than spareribs, and very flavorful ... Back ribs are usually sold in either full slabs (13 bones) or half slabs (7 bones) and are the most expensive cut. When they come from a pig that is less than a year old, they are referred to as baby back ribs; these generally offer more tender meat," Elizabeth writes in "Taming the Flame."

If you aren't entirely happy with the quality of the meat you're purchased, you can try Elizabeth's "rib refresher" trick. She combines 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar with 3 cups water and places the ribs in this mixture for about 20 minutes. Do not rinse this solution off the ribs before cooking. The trick is so good, she says, she sometimes does it even with really fresh, beautiful ribs. Essentially, the vinegar solution "cleanses" the meat and makes the flavors shine through without any "gamey" flavor.


THE FIRE
According to Elizabeth, you don't need a charcoal grill to achieve deliciously-barbequed ribs. "If you like playing with fire and stoking the coals, then charcoal is probably right for you," she writes. "If you like to put the food on the grill and forget about it until it's time to check for doneness, then gas makes sense ... The 'smoky' flavor that we all know and love comes from the fats and juices dripping down and hitting a heat source (charcoal or flavorizer bars, lava rock or ceramic briquettes) and immediately vaporizing into smoke." This happens on both charcoal and gas grills.

Cooking ribs takes time -- count on around two hours. You want to use indirect heat -- the low and slow method, as they say. Because ribs are mostly bone and muscle, it takes slow cooking at a low temperature to cook the meat until tender.


COMMON MISTAKES
In addition to trying to cook ribs over direct heat, Elizabeth finds that people commonly make two other mistakes:
  • Don't parboil!! When you boil ribs before placing on the grill (something people do to speed the process along) you lose precious fat and juices, which ultimately means you are losing flavor.
  • Don't sauce too early! If you brush barbeque sauce on the ribs too early in the process, you risk burning the ribs.




    SALT AND PEPPER TEXAS STYLE RIBS
    (Makes 4 to 8 servings)

    Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium-Low Heat

    Post Oak or other favorite wood such as Applewood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
    4 racks spare ribs or St. Louis Cut Ribs, about 3 pounds each
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
    1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

    Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Set up the grill for indirect heat; if using wood chips, place the soaked chips directly on the charcoal, or in the smoking box of a gas grill.

    Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs, if desired.

    In a small bowl, mix the salt, pepper and cayenne pepper together and sprinkle the ribs liberally with the mixture.

    Place the ribs, bone-side down, in the center of the cooking grate, or in a rib holder or rack, over indirect medium-low heat. Grill covered (at about 325 degrees F, if your gas grill has a thermometer) for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender and has pulled back from the ends of the rib bones.

    Leave the ribs unattended for the first 30 minutes -- this means no peeking; especially important if using wood chips. If the ribs start to burn on the edges, stack them on top of one another in the very center of the grill and lower the heat slightly. Twenty minutes before serving, un-stack if necessary and "if you gotta have it," brush the ribs with the barbecue sauce. Note: In Texas Hill Country, they don't use sauce -- they let the meat speak for itself!

    Remove the ribs from the grill; let them rest for 10 minutes before cutting into individual or 2 to 3 rib portions.

    Recipe adapted from "Taming the Flame" by Elizabeth Karmel (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, $24.95).



    BEER-BRAISED COWBOY BEANS
    (Makes 10-12 servings)
    12 slices lean bacon, coarsely chopped
    5 cloves garlic, minced
    2 green bell peppers, chopped
    6 cups cooked pinto beans, rinsed
    1 12-ounce beer, such as Tecate
    2 cups (32-40 fl oz) water
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 teaspoon ground ancho chile
    2 teaspoons McCormick chili powder
    1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
    10 scallions, trimmed and sliced


    In a heavy-bottomed 5-quart Dutch oven over medium heat, fry the bacon until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add green peppers and garlic; mix well. Let cook for 1-2 minutes or until garlic is soft.

    Add the cooked beans, beer and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the coriander, ancho chile, chili powder and salt. Add more water if necessary.

    Simmer gently for 40-50 minutes to blend flavors.

    Ladle into bowls and serve topped with a generous spoonful of sliced scallions.

    Note: Karmel recommends Carmelina Brands (Italy) Borlotti Beans in salted water


    Recipe adapted from "Taming the Flame" by Elizabeth Karmel (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, $24.95).




    BUBBA'S BUNCH BARBECUED BABY BACK RIBS
    (Makes 4 to 8 servings)

    Grilling Method: Indirect/Medium-Low Heat

    4 racks baby back ribs, about 2 pounds each
    2 lemons cut in half
    1/4-cup Classic Barbeque Rub (recipe below) or Willingham's WHAM barbeque rub
    Wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes (optional)
    1 cup favorite barbeque sauce

    Build a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Set up the grill for indirect heat and if using wood chips, place the soaked chips directly on the charcoal, or in the smoking box.

    Remove the silver skin from the backs of the ribs, if desired. Rub the cut lemons over the front and back of the ribs, squeezing to release as much juice as possible. Set aside for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the ribs liberally with spice rub and let them sit, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Place the ribs, bone-side down, in the center of the cooking grate, or in a rib holder or rack, over indirect medium-low heat. Grill covered (at about 325 degrees F, if your grill has a thermometer) for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the meat is tender and has pulled back from the ends of the rib bones.

    Leave the ribs unattended for the first 30 minutes -- this means no peeking; especially important if using wood chips. If the ribs start to burn on the edges, stack them on top of one another in the very center of the grill and lower the heat slightly. Twenty minutes before serving, unstuck the ribs if necessary, and brush them with barbeque sauce.

    Remove the ribs from the grill and place them on a clean platter. Let them rest for 10 minutes before cutting into individual or 2 to 3 rib portions.

    While the ribs rest, warm any remaining sauce in a saucepan. Serve the ribs hot, with sauce on the side, if desired.

    Recipe adapted from "Taming the Flame" by Elizabeth Karmel (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, $24.95).


    CLASSIC BARBEQUE RUB
    (Makes about 1 cup)

    2 tablespoons smoked paprika
    2 tablespoons kosher salt
    3 tablespoons sugar
    2 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
    1/2 tablespoon cayenne
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon garlic powder
    1 tablespoon celery salt
    1 tablespoon oregano, crushed

    Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. For a smoother rub, process the ingredients in a spice grinder until well combined and all pieces uniform (the rub will be very fine and tan in color). Use it to rub on meat before grilling. Extra rub can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


    Recipe adapted from "Taming the Flame" by Elizabeth Karmel (John Wiley & Sons, 2005, $24.95).


    FOR THE RECIPES FOR GRANDMA ODOM'S SITTING POTATO SALAD, KANSAS CITY-STYLE RIBS, SWEET K.C. STYLE DR. PEPPER BARBEQUE SAUCE, LONGHORN CHEDDAR MAC AND CHEESE, ICE BOX COLE SLAW and HOT PEACH SHORTCAKE WITH SWEET CREAM BISCUITS, go to PAGE 2

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