I’m throwing down that smoky backyard BBQ and a grate full of Kansas City-style winter Baby Back Ribs in a foot and a half of ice and snow, alongside my most trusted four-legged furry culinarian, Maddie. Teaming up with my good friends from Twisted Tea Hard Iced Tea, it’s all the right ingredients for the perfect weekend afternoon in the great white north of Pure Michigan!
Whether it be rain, snow, lots of snow, or sun and shine, for best results preparing these seasonal baby back ribs follow the 5 Pit Master best practices and step-by-step recipe below. Cheers and long live the long weekend! -David (and Maddie).
P.S. Don’t forget to pick up the secret ingredient, which you can also enjoy while you grill: Twisted Tea! Find Twisted Tea near you here: : http://www.twistedtea.com/twisted-finder
1. When Purchasing Ribs from the Butcher: Request ribs be trimmed and the tough silverskin membrane removed. This will save time in preparation, cooking and consumption. Worst case, if the silverskin is 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.
2. The “Two-Zone Grilling Method” is an elementary technique to create one hot searing zone (direct heat) and one cooler smoking zone (indirect heat). This grill arrangement is imperative to cultivating perfectly prepared baby back ribs. For a gas grill, turn the right side of the grill to high and leave the left side of the grill off. For a charcoal grill, ignite the charcoal in a chimney starter. When coals are glowing red, dump coals into a pile on one side of the grill floor. Rake a few coals the opposite side of the grill floor, creating one high-stacked hot zone and one cooler zone. For every hour of cooking, add a half-chimney of coals to the grill floor.
3. Slowly smoke, then sear the ribs using the 3-2-1 Method. For the first 3 hours, smoke the ribs over the indirect heat of smoldering charcoal and hardwoods, intermittently spritzing with Twisted Tea – but, just remember, “looking ain’t cookin’.” So, if opening the grill during the first 3 hours, be quick! For the following 2 hours, wrap the ribs tightly in a double layer of tin foil that has been filled with a quarter bottle of Twisted Tea. Place the wrapped ribs back over indirect heat and allow the ribs to braise. For the final hour, discard the tin foil and place the ribs over the hottest, direct heat grill grates and caramelize one layer of sweet, tangy barbecue sauce after another over the entire slab of ribs, until the ribs have reached the proper temperature. The sweet flavors in Twisted Tea really help the ribs caramelize while still staying juicy.
While that’s cooking be sure to #UnwindWithATwist. I tried the Twisted Tea Half & Half for the first time- the lemon flavors are super refreshing, especially when grilling!
4. There are several tests for ensuring appropriate cooking of ribs, but this is as much art as science. Rib meat should not fall off the bone – if so, they are overcooked. Ribs should nearly break when lifted with tongs, not wilt. If they wilt, they are undercooked. That said, the internal temperature is difficult to measure due to the thinness of the slab, proximity of bones and variances in size from one end of the slab to the other. 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. If able to accurately measure internal temp, remove from grill when ribs reach 180°F.
5. Last, but not least, don’t underestimate the value of rest! Once the ribs are finished, remove from the grill and lay over a cutting board, slather one last time with barbecue sauce, then tent with a sheet of tin foil. While the ribs are resting, sit back, relax, and enjoy a Twisted Tea. Voilà – pitmaster baby backs like a boss, every time!
Tea-Basted and Barbecued Baby Back Ribs
- 2 slabs pork baby back ribs trimmed and silverskin removed
- Olive oil
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 tablespoons granulated garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 level teaspoon ground all spice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt or to taste
- 2 Bottles Twisted Tea one for basting and braising, one (or more) for enjoying while you grill
- Barbecue Sauce favorite store-bought brand or homemade recipe
- Pecan and applewoood chunks soaked in water for one hour prior to smoking
- Rinse the ribs with cold water, then pat entirely dry with paper towel. Lay the trimmed ribs over a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, then massage a liberal degree of olive oil, all seasonings, salt and pepper across both sides of the slab. Wrap the ribs tightly with underlying plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours. Meanwhile, prepare barbecue sauce if using a homemade recipe, then set aside to cool.
- At least 30 minutes prior to cooking, remove ribs from refrigeration and plastic, then preheat grill to approximately 225°F using the 2-zone grilling method (see notes below). When billowing smoke thins and turns a light bluish in hue, the grill is ready. Rest rib slabs bone-side down over the cooler indirectly-heated grill grates. Cover the grill lid and cook slowly, untouched, for 3 hours.
- Remove the ribs from smoker, lay over a double-layer of tin foil, pour in ¼ of a Twisted Tea into bottom of the foil pocket, then wrap tightly. Place ribs back over indirect heat for another 2 hours.
- Pull ribs from the smoker one final time - peel away tin foil, then place ribs back on the grill over direct heat, intermittently caramelizing one layer of barbecue sauce upon another, until juices run clear and the internal temp reaches 180°F (see additional temperature notes below).
- Place ribs on a cutting board and rest 10-15 minutes prior to carving, plating and serving.