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Rack Up Grill Flavor with Ribs

Ribs are a summertime favorite for the backyard barbecue.

But do you know ribs taste different all over the country?

Chris Kimball, editor in chief of Cook's Illustrated and host of "America's Test Kitchen" on public television, has come out with a new book called "Cook's Country Best Grilling Recipes" with his team at Cook's Country magazine that highlights some of America's diverse barbecue tastes.

And on "The Early Show" Thursday, Kimball showed how infuse your grill with those spice combinations, from classic Texas-style barbecue to Memphis, Kansas City and Chicago tastes.

When grilling ribs, you can choose between pork and beef. Where things get a bit confusing, according to Kimball, is that there are many different cuts of pork ribs from which to choose. They include:

- Spareribs: Whole racks of pork spareribs (cut from the underside of the pig, near the belly) contain the brisket bone and surrounding meat. They weigh four to five pounds. Their large size and irregular shape make them bulky and unwieldy (large racks don't fit on some smaller grills).

- St. Louis cut spareribs: These are pork spareribs trimmed of the brisket bone and surrounding meat. They are uniformly rectangular and weigh about three pounds per rack.

- Baby back ribs: Baby back ribs, also called back ribs, loin ribs, or loin back ribs, are cut from the area of the ribs closest to the backbone (above the spareribs) of mature hogs. They can be cooked like spareribs, but watch the clock: They will become tender more quickly because they are smaller and leaner. Depending on how the animal was butchered, racks of baby back ribs can contain anywhere from eight to 15 bones.

RECIPES

Texas Beef Ribs
Pork ribs are delicious, but don't even think about telling this to a Texan! Texans are all about beef ribs. The hallmark of beef ribs is, quite simply, their meatiness. The seasonings take a backseat to big, meaty flavor. It's also interesting to note that unlike pork ribs you're not after fall-off-the-bone tenderness -- a bit of "pull" is OK.

In Texas, good beef ribs are the secret handshake between experienced grillers. With a price tag of roughly $2 a pound and availability at nearly every butcher counter, beef ribs are both economical and convenient. But it is their huge meaty flavor -- combined with spice, smoke, and fire-that makes them a Texas favorite.

Serves 43 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
3-4 beef rib slabs (3 to 4 ribs per slab, about 5 pounds total) (see note)
1 cup wood chips , soaked for 15 minutes

1. MAKE RUB Combine sugar, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper in bowl. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and rub sugar mixture all over ribs. (Ribs can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 24 hours.)

2. STEAM RIBS Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange ribs on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet. Add just enough water to cover pan bottom, then cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until fat has rendered and meat begins to pull away from bones, about 2 hours.

3. SMOKE RIBS Tightly seal wood chips in foil packet and cut vent holes in top of packet. Open bottom vent on grill. Light about 100 coals; when covered with fine gray ash, carefully pile on one side of grill. Arrange foil packet directly on coals. Set cooking grate in place and heat, covered, with lid vent open halfway, until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes. (For gas grill, place foil packet directly on primary burner. Heat all burners on high, covered, until wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high, shut other burner(s) off.) Scrape cooking grate clean. Arrange ribs on cool side of grill and barbecue, covered, flipping and rotating slabs once, until ribs are lightly charred and smoky, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 10 minutes. Serve.

Kansas City Sticky Ribs

Kansas City ribs are slow-smoked pork ribs slathered in a sauce so thick, sweet, and sticky that you need a case of wet naps to get your hands clean after eating them. Aside from the sauce and the smoky flavor, the other defining characteristic of KC ribs is their unbelievably tender texture-the meat should pull off the bone with very little resistance.

Serves 4 to 6
Buy St. Louis-style racks, which are more manageable than untrimmed pork spareribs. If you can't find them, baby back ribs will work fine; just reduce the cooking time in the oven in step 4 to 1 to 2 hours.

3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) full racks pork spareribs, preferably St. Louis cut (see note above), trimmed of any large pieces of fat and membrane removed
1 recipe Kansas City Barbecue Sauce
2 cups wood chips, soaked, drained, and sealed in a foil packet
1. Combine the paprika, sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a bowl. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels, and rub them evenly with the spice mixture. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.) Measure out 1 cup of the barbecue sauce for cooking; set aside the remaining sauce for serving.

2a. For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom grill vents halfway. Light a large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (75 briquettes; 4 1/2 quarts). When the coals are hot, pour them into a steeply banked pile against one side of the grill. Place the wood chip packet on top of the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke -heavily, about 5 minutes.

2b. For a gas grill: Place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner. Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Turn the primary burner to medium-high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

3. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the cool part of the grill, away from the coals and flames; the ribs may overlap slightly. Place a sheet of foil directly on top of the ribs. Cover (positioning the lid vents over the meat if using charcoal) and cook until the ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping and rotating the racks halfway through. During the final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees.

4. Remove the ribs from the grill, brush them evenly with the 1 cup sauce reserved for cooking, and wrap tightly with foil. Lay the foil-wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet and continue to cook in the oven until tender and a fork inserted into the ribs meets no resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

5. Remove the ribs from the oven and let rest, still wrapped, for 30 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and brush them thickly with 1 cup of the sauce set aside for serving. Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with the remaining sauce.

Chicago Barbecued Ribs

Serves 4

If you can't find baby back ribs, St. Louis-style spareribs will work fine; just increase the cooking time in the oven in step 5 to 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. When removing the ribs from the oven, be careful to not spill the hot water in the bottom of the baking sheet.

Spice Rub and Ribs
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 (1 1/2-pound) racks baby back ribs
(see note above), membrane removed
1 (13 by 9-inch) disposable aluminum
roasting pan
1 cup wood chips, soaked, drained,
and sealed in a foil packet

Sauce
1 1/4 cups ketchup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke

1. For the spice rub and ribs: Combine the dry mustard, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, cayenne, and allspice in a bowl. Measure out and reserve 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture for the sauce. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels, and rub them evenly with the remaining spice mixture. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.)

2. For the sauce: Whisk all of the sauce ingredients and the reserved 2 tablespoons spice rub together in a bowl.

3a. For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom grill vents halfway. Light a large chimney -starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (75 -briquettes; 4 1/2 quarts). Add 2 cups water to the roasting pan and place it on one side of the grill. When the coals are hot, pour them into a steeply banked pile against the other side of the grill, opposite the pan of water. Place the wood chip packet on top of the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes.

3b. For a gas grill: Place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner. Add 2 cups water to the roasting pan and place it on a secondary burner. Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Turn the primary burner to medium-high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

4. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the grill over the water-filled pan; the ribs may overlap slightly. Cover (positioning the lid vents over the meat if using charcoal) and cook until the ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping and rotating the racks halfway through. During the final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees.
5. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet and add just enough water to cover the pan bottom. Remove the ribs from the grill, lay them on the wire rack, and cover tightly with foil. Continue to cook the ribs in the oven until tender and a fork inserted into the ribs meets no resistance, 1 to 2 hours.

6. Remove the ribs from the oven, loosen the foil to release steam, and let rest for 30 minutes. Unwrap the ribs and brush them evenly with half of the sauce. Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with the remaining sauce.

For a Memphis Spareribs recipe, go to Page 2.

Memphis Spareribs
In Memphis, ribs get their flavor not from barbecue sauce, but from both a dry spice rub and a thin, vinegary liquid-called a mop-that is -basted on the ribs throughout cooking.
Serves 4 to 6
If you can't find St. Louis-style racks, baby back ribs will work fine; just reduce the cooking time in the oven in step 5 to 1 to 2 hours. These ribs are moderately spicy, but you can adjust the amounts of cayenne and hot sauce as desired.

1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
Pepper
Salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
(see note above)
2 (2 1/2- to 3-pound) full racks pork spareribs, preferably St. Louis cut (see note above), trimmed of any large pieces of fat and membrane removed
3 cups apple cider
1 cup cider vinegar
2 cups wood chips, soaked, drained, and sealed in a foil packet
2 teaspoons hot sauce (see note above)

1. Combine the paprika, sugar, chili powder, 2 tablespoons pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne in a bowl. Measure out and reserve 7 teaspoons of the spice mixture for finishing the ribs and sauce. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels, and rub them evenly with the remaining spice mixture. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.)

2. Combine the cider and vinegar in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer, cover, and keep warm.

3a. For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom grill vents halfway. Light a large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (75 briquettes; 4 1/2 quarts). When the coals are hot, pour them into a steeply banked pile against one side of the grill. Place the wood chip packet on top of the coals. Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and open the lid vents halfway. Heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 5 minutes.

3b. For a gas grill: Place the wood chip packet directly on the primary burner. Turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat the grill until hot and the wood chips begin to smoke heavily, about 15 minutes. Turn the primary burner to medium-high and turn off the other burner(s). (Adjust the primary burner as needed to maintain the grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

4. Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place the ribs, meat side down, on the cool part of the grill, away from the coals and flames; the ribs may overlap slightly. Cover (positioning the lid vents over the meat if using charcoal) and cook until the ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping, rotating, and switching the ribs, basting with the warm mop every 30 minutes. During the final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 250 degrees.

5. Remove the ribs from the grill, lay them meat side up on a rimmed baking sheet, and cover tightly with foil. Continue to cook the ribs in the oven until tender and a fork inserted into the ribs meets no resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, basting with the warm mop every 30 minutes.

6. Remove the ribs from the oven and unwrap. Adjust an oven rack to be 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. Sprinkle the ribs evenly with 2 tablespoons of the reserved spice mixture, and broil until browned and dry on the surface and the spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes, flipping the ribs over halfway through.

7. Remove the ribs from the oven, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 30 minutes. While the ribs rest, add the remaining teaspoon spice mixture to the remaining mop and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and saucy, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with the sauce.

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