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Ribs in vinegar?

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I'm trying a new recipe tonight for barbecued baby back ribs. The recipe (from a grilling-related cookbook) calls for soaking the ribs in vinegar for at least four hours. Then you drain and dry them and marinate them in a rub (brown sugar, smoked paprika, garlic, etc.) for two hours. After that, you grill them and finish them off with barbecue sauce for the last twenty minutes. Any idea what the vinegar soak does? I've never come across that step. (I'm never happy with my ribs, so I keep trying new recipes!)Thanks.

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  1. The best cook I know does a vinegar soak (followed by a water rinse and paper towel dry)to her poultry and beef. Chicken is always crisp and moist and beef is always delectable and tender. She told me that the vinegar leaches out the blood. I don't have any idea if it really does, or if that is a plus, but it does something good.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kiwi

      The blood should all be gone by the time you buy the meat.

      The vinegar marinates the meat in a way similar to wine. It infused flavor and the acid in the vinegar stimulates your glands when you eat it, releasing salava that tenderizes the meat. The acid may have a small effect itself in tenderizing the meat.

      1. re: kiwi

        How long, and what proportion of vinegar to other ingredients (if any) does she use? It seems reminiscent of the brining craze that has been so popular recently, and I'd like to try it.

        1. re: Marsha

          I believe it's only about 30 minutes. I think she uses straight apple cider vinegar, not white vinegar. That's all that's in the soak. She's been doing it that way for probably 50 years. Ofcourse it's possible that she's insane and that the vinegar doesn't have anything to do with blood leaching, but that it's simply the acidity that tenderizes. It may just be that she buys really good meats. I don't know where you are located Marsha, but if you are in the Los Angeles area, she has always gotten all of her meat and poultry at Marconda's at the Farmer's Market on 3rd. Good luck.

          1. re: kiwi

            Actually, I had a butcher teach me this method of cooking ribs in a slow cooker. He said that the vinegar breaks down the ligaments and tenderizes the meat. It works everytime I do it and now even my mother-in-law uses this method.

          2. re: Marsha

            Brining and marinating aren't exactly the same thing, but they serve common purposes: to make the food taste better. A brine essentially adds salt to the interior of the food. A vinegar marinade injects flavors (in this case cider) and acid.

        2. Can you please post this recipe, and/or give the name of the grilling cookbook you referred to? Thanks!

          1. The cookbook is called Grilling: Delicious Recipes for Outdoor Grills by Louise Pickford.The recipe is called Smoky Spareribs. The vinegar did add a nice flavor, but the next time I make this I'll just do the vinegar and the rub and leave off the barbecue sauce. Guess I'm just not a sauce fan.

            3 Replies
            1. re: The Librarian

              yes always done it this way, my mum taught me, red wine vinegar then brown sugar, spices and some ketchup (yep). Fab on lamb chops too.

              1. re: The Librarian

                My homemade BBQ is always based on a combo of apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. The vinegar adds a really nice tang and I think it does make the meat more tender.

                In fact, I brought home pork chops the other day without thinking what I'd do with them. I grabbed a big ziplock bag and poured in balsamic, a glug of oj, fresh lemon juice, crushed red pepper, fresh black pepper, a little sea salt and apricot preserves. Let them hang in the fridge overnight and threw them on the grill the next evening. Man, they were tasty and tender!

                1. re: mojoeater

                  There is a recipe in the New York Cookbook by Molly O'neil that has a recipe called Sylvia's ribs. You soak them the night before in Vinegar. DEEEEElicious. I love them this way. The vinegar penetrates the meat for flavor and tenderness. The acid breaks down the toughness.

              2. I always use vinegar (white, red wine, apple cider, or balsamic) in pork marinades along with lemon juice, lime juice, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce in more or less equal parts for about 24 hours. The acids begin 'cooking' the meat and it goes a little brown, but it's OK. I think the acids add great flavour.
                For a rub, start with 1/2 cup of brown sugar and add some of everything you like from your spice rack. Make sure you taste it. Keep in mind that some spices don't have much of an aroma. I rub and refrigerate for another 24 hours. I've heard that more than 4 hours doesn't make a difference, but the rub sets up nicely in that time.

                1 Reply
                1. re: El Puerco

                  Just thought I'd mention that you have a pretty good avatar, Puerco.

                2. My last two batches of ribs I have been rinsing the ribs in white vinegar, and then rubbing the ribs with just plain yellow mustard before applying the rub, and refrigerating. The vinegar wash, and the vinegar based yellow mustard make the ribs seemingly more tender, and the mustard allows the rub to stick a little better. I plan on continuing to use this method as I have been pleased with the results.

                  1. All, the vinegar is used to tenderizes the meat. It is the Acidity as explained by kiwi. Some people even boil ribs in vinegar or back them covered in a pan with vinegar or spray vinegar on them as they grill them. Heat also helps to tenderize them before grilling.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Ronnard

                      I remember reading, so very long ago, that vinegar used with a meat that has bones made the calcium from the bone more available.
                      My mother had a quasi-Chinese recipe for sweet and sour pork ribs which was almost nothing like what you see in the restaurants today. I made that a lot when I was pregnant thinking I was getting more calcium. I don't know if it is true, but the kids turned out fine.

                      1. re: The Old Gal

                        Curious, did you eat the bones?

                        1. re: porker

                          No, the theory was that the vinegar extracted the calcium from the bones, so the calcium was (undetectable) in the sauce, or gravy, or whatever. I have no idea if this theory is still viable, but in the 50's this was the theory. And if you had seen those prenatal pills they gave you you would have searched an alternative, too.

                          1. re: The Old Gal

                            Well I only ask cause I remember doctors telling my mother that canned salmon was a good source of calcium. Not so much the salmon itself, but the bones...

                    2. Just had some St Louis cut spare ribs that were soaked overnight in vinegar and they were excellent. Done with a dry rub only. Cooked over a small bed of coals directly but about a foot off them for 2+ hours.

                      1. Apple cider vinegar is separate and not equal.

                        One of my greatest childhood events was moving to the Gulf Coast from the North. The American casserole debacle of the Dr. Spock's generation of followers was challenged with the beauty of Creole, Cajun, and endearing Black friends I made around food; that included the love for meat, greens and vinegar. Although there were many venues, there was no greater place to participate in the love of food with that acidic combo than on the banks of the Pearl River where in 1964 my white skin color wasn't an issue. While my friends could not come to the Whites Only part of the beach, I had at six years old the luxury of choice. I was welcome on the basis of racial blindness and wanting to celebrate food - preparation and consumption. Honest spirituality in my way of thinking.

                        For pork, the method I have adapted is to place the covered pork in the oven at 200 degrees and cook with an ample amount of time and apple cider vinegar. Generous time. I cook like I paint and sculpt. That is, I cook from the hip and with emotion-feel-mood; while my spouse writes often down what I am doing. No two creations are the same. Thus, she is better at recreating the dish.

                        The low temp 'rests' the connective tissue without compromising meat's integrity through the madness of overcooking, and the resulting taste of desiccation. What the acidic vinegar does is a matter of speculation or magic. It does make the ability to scrape, and therefore regulate the amount of fat, a lot easier.

                        As it is soulful, I cannot say how much time or vinegar is used before it is drained for later use when basting or for other foods - like greens. Try 90 minutes the first time before the meat is returned to the oven for more time at low temp. I return it with stock made of ham hocks, smoked neck bones or chicken. Some instances the combined time has been up to six hours or overnight in large batches. Before it is transferred from the stock bath to the broiler, or grill, the meat has been rubbed with dry harissa or whatever I fancy at the moment. This 'warm marinade' can do it's job - for me - at 2 hours, when I am looking to sauce it with other pH game changers with a fruit base.

                        Lastly, Apple Cider Vinegar, like the aforementioned atrocity of race separation, is not of the Heinz ilk. Low cost meats, like in Soul Food, maximizes the intrinsics of basic, affordable ingredients. Homogenization, filtering, purification and the rest is like Adolph's Tenderizer (for the love of food think unsated papaya). Offbeat, Mom and Pop food suppliers below the Mason-Dixon Line are sure to have the good stuff. Up North, where I live in Maine, cider is readily available in the fall. Otherwise, a good road-trip scramble is involved.

                        Like Satchmo's salute, Red Beans and Ricely Yours. Tim the Dad