Killer Griller: Smoked & Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

baby back ribs smoking ribs city barbeque sauce

Finished Ribs with Smoke Ring (that’s the pink edge) and Sweet BBQ Sauce

New York is one of the biggest cities in the world…OK, like 38th, but that’s pretty big. Still, there are things you just can’t do here.

Like big meat grilling…I mean unless you have a big terrace, deck, back yard (ha!)…you just can’t outdoor grill. And, then there are those pesky laws about transporting gas tanks – like for a gas grill – through any of the tunnels or over any of the bridges. Uhm, this is an island, how am I supposed to transport my off-island bought gas tanks?

No worries…With any luck, we have all found friends and relatives with places outside of the city. In a perfect world, these generous people who open up their homes to us, have a grill. While I prefer a gas grill, no need to be picky…In many cases a charcoal grill is actually better.

On a recent trip to Cincinnati – remember, where my people live and cheerleaders date minors – I marveled as the grill master (aka, my brother) made some unbelievably good smoked and bbq baby back ribs using his old school charcoal Weber grill.

Tiny Apartment Tip: Make friends with homes off the island….

Hickory and Applewood Smoked Baby Back Ribs (serves 6)

Warning: This is an all day event….but, you’re in the country or at least out of the city, what else would you be doing?

Ingredients:

  • baby back ribs smoked barbeque kroger

    Kroger Baby Back Ribs – I think these were each over 3.25lbs – and very moist and tender

    2 giant packages of pork baby back ribs – 3.25 – 3.5 lbs each

  • city barbecue barbeque original sauce

    City Barbeque Original Sauce

    1 – 2 cups City Barbeque Original Barbeque Sauce

  • 2 TBSP Sea Salt
  • 2 TBSP Garlic Salt
  • 2 TBSP Garlic Powder
  • 2 TBSP Onion Powder
  • 1 TBSP Paprika
  • 2 Meat Injectors worth of Bacon Grease  – just go with it
  • A Bunch of Hickory Chips
  • A Bunch of Applewood Chips

1. In a large bucket or pot or bowl or whatever, combine the wood chips, cover with water and soak for at least 2 hours…

dinner baby back smoked barbeque ribs

The Bucket Method for wood chip soaking

2. Remove the ribs from packaging and peel the membrane from the back side. This was a bit tricky because the membrane is slimy and tough to pull off…but, you can lift the edge of the membrane with a butter knife and then use a paper towel or rubber tongs to pull back the membrane

baby back ribs pull back membrane

Paper Towel Pull Back Method

3. In a bowl, combine the Sea Salt, Garlic Salt, Garlic Powder, Paprika, Onion Powder. We also threw in some Hickory Flavor Rub…

4. Rub the meat on both sides generously with the spicy mixture – my anal retentive brother puts his hands in plastic baggies and then rubs…but you can also just use your bare hands and, omg, wash them after – your call

Smoked grilled barbeque baby back ribs

Generously Season both sides…

5. And, this is pretty OTT…but, whatever…Using your meat injector (a tool only found in Sweeney Todd’s or Hannibal Lector’s collection…or the home of teenage boys who like science and bacon) Inject each rib with a good squirt of bacon fat…Yeah, that’s right, we injected pork fat into pork ribs…

meat injector bbq ribs

OTT Meat Injection: Bacon Fat into Pork. Yeah, we did that.

6. Wrap the ribs tightly in tin foil and put in the fridge – ideally overnight – but, at least 3 hours

dinner barbecue smoked baby back ribs

Wrap the Ribs tightly in Reynold’s Wrap

7. After the overnight dry rub fridging….Prepare your grill – this is a charcoal grill only event:

smoked barbecue barbeque baby back ribs

Indirect Heat…And, snow. Grilling knows no season (see no charcoal or wood chips in the middle)

  • Set the grill for indirect heat – that means the center of the grill basin doesn’t have any charcoal in it…but, instead, the charcoal is in two piles – one on either side of the grill basin. My brother used bricks to keep the charcoal piles contained to the side of the grill – he’s smart like that.
  • Get the charcoal going, then cover the charcoal with the wood chips and replace the grate
  • Cover the grill…and, yes, it’s going to smoke…a lot…that’s the point

8. Prepare your ribs for the smoking process…In my brother’s case this meant:

smoked bbq baby back ribs tools

Murderously Fabulous Grill Gloves and Rib Rack

  • Don some murderous looking grill gloves….these are like totally jacked up kitchen gloves – specifically designed to withstand great heat
  • Spray a rib rack (again, not a city accoutrement, but apparently quite the rage off the island) with non stick cooking spray
  • Place each rib in its own rack slot
  • Using a large skewer (preferably a wooden one that you’ve soaked for at least :30mins) pierce through the ends of each rack to elevate them
barbecue barbeque rib rack

Racked and Elevated Baby Back Ribs Smoker Ready (not murderous gloves)

9. Place the racked ribs on the grill and cover. Cook for 2 – 2.5 hours

baby back ribs in weber grill smoking

Smoker in the Snow…Ribs Racked and inside

10. Remove the ribs from the rib rack and place in a large, high sided pan. Preferably a tin foil one you can pitch afterwards…

11. Generously cover the ribs with Barbeque/Barbecue sauce – we used City Barbeque Original Sauce…pretty good

City Barbeque original sauce baby back ribs

BBQ Saucification of the Ribs. A family affair.

12. Preheat oven to 250 degrees

13. Cover the ribs with tin foil and put in the oven for 2 hours

14. After the low baking process…remove the ribs from the oven and from the pan…BUT, don’t eat yet! Nope, put the ribs on a cutting board and cover with tin foil for up to an hour to give the meat a chance to rest and re-juicify

15. Slice and serve

baby back smoked bbq pork ribs sliced

At Last….Slicified and Ready to Serve

The ribs were fall off the bone amazingly smoky, sweet and fabulous. Took all day…but, more than well worth it.

If you’re lucky enough to guest at the home of a Killer Griller…try this.

My brother and I have always been pretty competitive with one another – it’s a gene, I think. And, let’s just be honest, I’m the much better cook. That said…my brother is a Killer Griller.

Lessons Learned: Fry Failure and what kind of roach I would eat.

I believe strongly that I could eat anything if it was fried. After Titanic first came out in November of 1997 catapulting Leonardo DiCaprio to super stardom and teen heartthrob status, I was speaking with a sales guy from the now defunct magazine Teen People. Teen People put Leonardo DiCaprio on the cover for its debut issue in May of 1998 and immediately sold out at newsstand. I believe they even reprinted twice – unheard of for magazines even then. While the sales guy was happy to tell me that the magazine was amazing and far exceeded expectations, he was honest enough to tell me that at the time he could have put a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on the back of a roach and sold it for $100.

I feel about fried food the way that teenagers felt about Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack in Titanic. And I totally understood his roach example. I hate bugs. All bugs. I even hate butterflies (let’s be honest, they’re really just dressed up moths) and I even hate Lady Bugs. I do not discriminate based on appearance. I just hate all bugs. BUT, I honestly believe that I could eat a roach…if I deep fried it. Seriously.

So the fact that I had never – until yesterday – made fried chicken, amazes me. There are some things about frying that make it a challenge…I live in a small apartment with a very sensitive smoke detector that screeches ‘There is a fire! There is a fire!’ when set off. My neighbors are somewhat used to this, but I don’t want to push it. And…the apartment sort of smells like fried after fying – go figure.

When I visit people with larger kitchens and a good cross draft, however, I try to fry at least one thing. Yesterday it was Ina Garten’s Oven-Fried Chicken. But, I must admit…not my best effort…

Here are the directions and my notes that might help should you give this recipe a go:

1. Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour 1 quart buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

NOTE: Ina uses two whole chickens each cut into 8 pieces. I bought 4 thighs, 4 legs and 2 breasts w/rib meat at the Kroger – not expensive and easier – I’m not a butcher!

2.  The next day…….Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

3. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper in a large bowl.

NOTE: When I tasted the finished product, I thought this was too salty – which I NEVER say – and also I added a pinch of Paprika – because the Neelys add ‘pap-a-rika’ and I like the Neelys…I don’t like a lot of heat, but the pinch was just right for a little southern kick. I mean, it’s fried chicken!

4. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture.

NOTE: If at all possible – do all of the chicken pieces in one step. In other words, if you have a large baking dish that can fit all of the flour mixture and all of the chicken, that would be best. Otherwise, if you dip in batches, the flour mixture gets all goopy and needs to be remixed. I know because it happened to me.

5. Pour vegetable oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

NOTE: you can use a pretty deep (3 inches or more) sauce pan safely.

6. Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don’t crowd the pieces.

NOTE: Unless you are magic, you must have a thermometer. I tried to do it without a thermometer – using some evaluating temp techniques – and just ended up disappointed in the first batch of chicken I dropped into the oil as the oil wasn’t hot enough and the chicken didn’t crisp up in 3 minutes. It absorbed too much oil and lost some of the coating. I served it anyway…but it wasn’t as pretty and had a bit of a flour taste to it.7. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan.

8. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. Repeat until all of the chicken is browned on both sides

9. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.

THIS is where my improvising totally failed…don’t tell my brother, but he didn’t have a sheet pan, so I used a wire rack on a cookie sheet and during the baking process of the preparation, the oil from the chicken ended up dripping all over the bottom of his oven…oops! I know, totally stupid. But it’s what happened.

All in all – much learned and I look forward to visiting a larger kitchen again so that I can get a second go at this recipe. And, while the 2012 domestic release of Titanic 3D only ‘met expectations’, I hope that my Ina Garten’s Oven-Fried Chicken reboot will far exceed! Because if I ever need to eat a roach, I want to make sure it’s fried to perfection.