Perfectly Grilled & Smoke-Infused Pork Ribs – Appalachian-Style BBQ
Smoky. Sticky. Sweet and spicy. Appalachian BBQ Spare Ribs.
This recipe takes me back to my days as a young college buck on the country roads & rolling hills of northern West Virginia. Yes, Your’s Truly was a Mountaineer. The landscape, from mountain top to white-water rapids – Breath-taking. But, it was time with friends & their families on weekends in God’s Coutnry, that this recipe was inspired – The aroma of slowly caramelized, carbonized & barbequed pork, sounds of John Denver filling the night sky, the cheap beer, dancing until sunrise & laughs shared with one another – This is what I will remember of my time in Appalachia.
Appalachian BBQ Spare Ribs
- Dry Rub Ingredients:
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- Appalachian BBQ Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion finely diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- 2 minced jalapenos seeds removed and discarded
- 2 cups ketchup
- ¾ cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 grated crisp apple peel removed and discarded
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar packed
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 tablespoon paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
- Kosher salt and fresh ground peppercorn to taste
- 2 slabs pork spare ribs trimmed and membrane removed
- 3-4 disposable hardwood chip packets applying new packet to grill every 90 minutes
- Dry Rub Instructions: Pulse the olive oil and all the other spices and herbs in a food processor to create the rub. Season additionally to taste. Set aside.
- Appalachian BBQ Sauce Instructions: In heavy bottom pan over high heat, bring oil to a gentle simmer. Toss in the garlic and onion, then sauté 10-15 minutes or until beginning to caramelize. Turn down heat to low and add all remaining ingredients. Cover. Simmer for 30-45 minutes minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce thickens. Remove pan from heat. Let cool for 5-10 minutes then puree in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
- BBQ'ing Spare Ribs - Grilling Instructions: Rinse the ribs with cold water, then pat entirely dry with paper towel. Then lay the trimmed ribs over a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, brush with oil, then massage a liberal degree of dry rub across all portions of the slab. Wrap the ribs tightly with underlying plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 6 hours, up to over night. Remove ribs from refrigeration and plastic 1 hour prior to grilling. At least 30 minutes prior to cooking, preheat grill to low (225°F), using the 2-zone cooking method. Place wood chip smoker pack/box in back corner of hot zone. Once grill is at 225°F, remove ribs from plastic and re-wrap tightly in tin foil. Lay ribs bone-side down over cool zone grates. Cook for 90 minutes, rotating once after 45 minutes. Remove the ribs from grill and discard tin foil. Place the racks back over cool zone grill grates, bone-side down, for an additional 45 minutes, basting intermittently with oil and rotating every 10-15 minutes. Remove ribs from the grill grates and turn both sides of the grill to maximum heat. Place ribs over the grill's direct heat zone, brushing every 2-3 minutes with layer upon caramelized layer of Appalachian BBQ Sauce. Remove slabs from grill when juices run clear and the internal temp has reached 180°F (see additional temperature notes below).
- Place ribs on a cutting board, brush one final time with sauce, then rest 10-15 minutes prior to slicing and serving.
Special Tips, Recommendations & Best Practices – Purchasing & Preparing Grillmaster Ribs:
When Purchasing Ribs from the Butcher: Request ribs be trimmed and the tough membrane removed. This will save a tremendous degree of time in preparation, cooking & consumption. No one wants to play tug of war to remove that membrane… and, it’s just as difficult to chew through – Remove it before that rib leaves butcher’s counter.
Worst case, if Membrane Not Removed: Simply lay the ribs, bone-side up, on a cutting board. Create an incision in the membrane by slicing through the tough flap with a sharp knife. Then, with a paper towel in hand, grip the membrane and pull away from the bone – slicing and pulling until it’s entirely removed.
Two-Zone Cooking Method: Heat only one side of the grill, creating one hot direct heat zone and one cooler indirect heat zone. This technique is imperative to the cooking process.
1-burner grill – Turn the grill to high, then leverage the warming shelf, lined with tin foil, removing the meat from direct contact with the grill grates.
2-burner grill – Turn right side of the grill to high & leave the left side off.
3-burner grill – Turn far right side of the grill to high, the middle to low-medium and the left side off.
4-burner grill – Turn far right side of grill to high, middle right to medium, middle left to low, & leave the far left zone off.
Hardwood Smoker Packs: Tear off 3-4 8″ sheets of tin foil. Pour a handful of your favorite hardwood chips onto the foil in a mound. Wrap the tin foil around the chips creating a package-of-sorts. With a knife or fork, perforate the top of the packet allowing smoke to billow from the package when the chips are heated. *Note: Never soak your woodchips – 0 value-add to process.
Charcoal: Ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red, dump coals onto the grill floor. Rake coals, pushing ⅔ to one side of the grill, slanting the remaining coals to the opposite side of the grill, establishing high-piled 1 hot zone & 1 cooler zone. For every hour of cooking, add a half-stack of coals.
Rib Doneness Guide: There are several tests for ensuring appropriate cooking of ribs, but this is as much an art as it is a science. 1. Ribs meat should not fall off the bone – overcooked. 2. Rib slabs should nearly break when lifted with tongs, not wilt – undercooked. 3. Internal temperature is difficult to measure due to the thinness of the meat, proximity of bones and variances in size from one end of the slab to the other. 4. With a toothpick inserted, juices should run clear and if cut into for a sneak peek, the meat should appear white with no pink remaining. 5. If able to accurately measure internal temp, remove from grill when ribs reach 180°F.