Nothing brings people to the table like ribs, whether you are feeding a crowd for the holidays or having a small, intimate meal. The juicy meat practically falling off the bone, that enticing aroma of spices and marinades, and the rich, mouthwatering flavour of every bite make eating ribs a transcendent experience. Unless the ribs are cooked poorly, then you have a slab of tough meat that no amount of rubs, spices, or sauces can repair.
If you want to be known as an absolute rib master and not “that person who ruined the ribs on Christmas.” Check out the Big Dog Spices Complete Guide to Cooking Ribs.
The Complete Guide to Cooking Ribs
Perhaps you have a bit of experience with cooking ribs, or maybe you have never done more than lick the sauce off your fingers after eating ribs. This guide is a way to help novices as well as those who want to learn more about making the perfect rack of ribs.
First Things First – Purchasing
An enticing platter of tender ribs begins at your grocery store or butcher shop. Here are a few must-know tips to save you from buyer’s remorse.
Ribs are sold in slabs, and each slab has approximately 11 bones
One slab can only feed two people (or one very hungry person) because about half of the weight is bone
Look for ribs that are pinkish-red and avoid pale ribs
To ensure flavourful ribs, buy a package that is well marbled
Do not purchase ribs that have dark spots on the fat
Refrigerate ribs for up to three days
Freeze if you plan to hold the ribs for longer than three days, they will keep well for about six months if frozen. Remember the ribs will need to thaw in the refrigerator for 12-14 hours
Before serving, cut slabs into single rib portions for spareribs or St Louis Style. Cut single or double rib portions of baby back ribs. Any larger than two ribs, and your guests will struggle to eat them and stay tidy.
Before you can perfect your rib recipe, you need to know a bit about ribs, how to treat them and why they deserve special treatment.
There are three types of ribs that pork lovers universally enjoy:
Baby Back Ribs
St. Louis Style Ribs
Each of these types comes from different sections of the same ribcage. Two points worth noting:
Country-style ribs are not part of the rib cage, so, technically, these cuts are not ribs.
Contrary to what some people believe, baby back ribs do NOT come from baby pig
Baby back ribs are from the top portion of the rib cage. They have more meat and take less time to cook than spareribs.
Spareribs are from the bottom portion of the ribs. With longer bones, they have less meat than baby backs.
A subspecies of spareribs, St. Louis style ribs omit the rib tips and brisket flaps of spareribs – yielding slabs of a uniform shape
Baby Back Ribs
We get baby back ribs from the top part of the rib bone that is connected to the spine below the loin muscle. Because these ribs are more tender, leaner, and tastier than other ribs, baby back ribs are extremely popular. The ribs are versatile and are delicious smoked, barbequed, baked in the oven, or cooked low and slow in a slow cooker or crock pot. Typically, there are between 10-13 bones in a rack of baby back ribs with a weight of 0.80 kg- 1.13 kg.
Extending from the edge of the baby back rib to the end of the rib bone, spare ribs differ from baby back ribs in that they are larger, more marbled, and have more meat between the bones. Spareribs are tougher and require longer cooking times than baby back ribs. You can enjoy spareribs by barbequing, smoking, cooking in a slow cooker, or baking in the oven. A rack of spareribs weighs between 1.13kg-1.5kg and has 12-13 bones.
St. Louis Style Ribs
The St Louis Style rib is not a cooking method from the American city with the same name. It refers to a cut of ribs popularized by meatpackers from St Louis in the 1980s. The style of ribs is simply the spareribs with the tips, and extra cartilage cut away. The once trimmed, St Louis Style ribs are straight and a bit shorter than spare ribs. You will find the same number of ribs in a rack of spare ribs with a few grams lighter weight. The same cooking methods used for a rack of spareribs will work well for St Louis Style. However, because of the uniform size and shape, these ribs are frequently bought by restaurants and are not readily available in grocery stores.
Regardless of your cooking method, there are a few steps to get your ribs ready for the journey to deliciousness.
Allow your ribs at least 30 minutes to come to room temperature
Trim away any large chunks of loose fat or meat because this tends to cook quickly and burn
You need to remove the thin membrane (called skin by some people) on the underside of the rib slab. The process is simple and takes two steps.
Work a small knife (or your fingers) in between the membrane and the ribs and begin to loosen
Grab the loosened membrane and pull it away. Many say a clean paper towel helps when grabbing and pulling the membrane. Once it is removed, discard it, and you are ready to move on to cooking.
There are several tried and true methods of cooking ribs and even more opinions about which way is the best. Here are four ways everyone can (hopefully) agree on working well to create mouthwatering ribs.
1. Ribs in a Slow Cooker
Using a slow cooker for your ribs is a great way to make tender and tasty ribs with little hands-on cooking time.
Ingredients (6 servings):
3-Racks Baby Back Ribs or 2 Racks Spareribs
150 Grams of Your Favourite Spice Rub
Remove the membrane and coat both sides of the ribs with a spice rub.
Press the spices into the meat
Store in the refrigerator for 30 minutes
Place ribs in a slow cooker and cook for 4 to 5 hours on high or cook for 7 to 8 hours on low for a deeper flavour.
Ribs are done when the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone with no resistance
I love cooking with different textures and flavours, and it’s no secret that I enjoy a good BBQ. I find that the combination of good quality meat and vegetables, combined with spices, smoke, and time, can create some of the most delicious and complex flavours.