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Questions about cooking ribs

I think I might be getting confused, because in NY, where I come from, barbeque is a verb, and in the south, where I now live, it's a noun. I'm looking for help cooking the kind of ribs that are *not* covered in a tomato-vinegar sauce.

Are ribs (bone-in) supposed to be slow-cooked? In the oven, or broiler? Can they be cooked on a grill (as in "barbeque")? Should they be boiled first?

Lastly, is there a big difference in how one cooks beef ribs vs pork ribs?

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  1. I expect you're gonna get a ton of very opinionated suggestions for what makes "the best" ribs. So I'll throw down first. Like you, I prefer ribs sans sauce. I also prefer to use a dry rub. I imagine all will agree that slow cooking on a grill with low heat is the way to go. You can toss some wood chips into your grill if you like a smoky flavor.

    I'm lucky enough to live really close the the East Coast Grill in Cambridge, MA. Chris Schlesinger's ribs are some of the best I've ever had. His simple recipe is available online at:

    I've had great success with this recipe. The dry rub is simple and delicious.

    1. I second the dry rub and slow smokey cooking for ribs, preferably pork baby back, but I will finish off with a sauce. I've never boiled a rib in my life. I can't see how that would do anything but draw out juices. That's how my father did it when I was growing up and they were awful. For a dry rub I'll grind cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds, mix with sea or kosher salt, brown sugar, and cayenne to taste. Rub all over the ribs, drizzle with a little oil, and let sit in the fridge all day. Then smoke on a gas grill over low indirect heat until done (two hours or so turning every 20 minutes, unless you have a real smoker, then it becomes an all day project). I finish mine with sauce in the last 15 minutes.

      1. Yes, I think most would agree pork and beef ribs should be slow cooked.

        Because I have a small covered kettle grill and regulating heat is a pain, I oven slow-roast them on a baking sheet, seasoned with S&P, at 225 for 2-3 hours. They should be tender by then. Most of the fat renders, and the connective tissue gets soft and gooey.(test one to gauge time needed.)

        I then finish them on the Weber over indirect moderate heat, adding some soaked wood chips near the end. Sauce is always served on the side. I often do two or three racks of baby or St Louis style ribs in the oven at once, then freeze some for later grill-finishing when I don't have time to pre-bake.

        No experience with beef ribs. The bones are larger so might cook faster, don't know. But I would not boil any type of ribs unless I was making stock with them. I think dry heat does them the most justice.

        Good luck!

        1. Rib meat is not naturally tender, so they need slow cooking with moderate heat in the oven or on the grill.. "Joy of Cooking" recommends parboiling first to render out some of the fat, but I don't bother. Actually, tender ribs with no sauce at all are pretty tasty, but they're better for me with a sauce or dry rub.

          1. Here's my 2 cents... This website goes into smoking/bbq'ing ribs. http://www.bbqinstitute.com/Ribs.htm

            It's best not to boil the ribs. You're losing flavor when you boil (making stock?). Also, boiling gives ribs that "boiled" meat flavor/texture (lack of flavor). I don't know how to fully describe it.

            I'm with the "no bbq sauce" crowd. Coat the ribs with a dry rub... but lately I've just been using salt and pepper. A majority flavor is coming from the smoke. I like hickory.

            For pork ribs, indirect heat, low and slow, I tend to smoke the ribs for 3 hours at 200F afterwards I wrap the ribs in heavy foil and throw into a 200F oven for 3 more hours. This frees me up to do other things besides tending the coals.

            I tend to use pork spare ribs, but lately they've seemed very fatty. I'm tempted to switch to baby back ribs for the next few ques to see how they turn out.

            For beef ribs, you can smoke, but I like them grilled since that's the way I've had them growing up. Lately, I've been experimenting around with beef ribs (smoking low and slow or just grill) and haven't perfected the low and slow version, yet.

            2 Replies
            1. re: dave_c

              How do you cook the beef ribs? Are they less tender than pork? I'd rather use beef ribs if I have a choice.

              1. re: xnyorkr

                Beef ribs are less tender than pork ribs. Also, I believe most of the beef back ribs sold at the supermarkets are from the chuck, which is a less-tender cut.

                Due to rain, I've cooked some beef ribs in the oven.

                I trimmed the excess fat from the ribs and pulled off the membrane on the back of the ribs (it actually reminds me of parchment paper).

                Sprinkled a little (about 1 TBS per side) worcestershire sauce and coated with a dry rub or seasoned salt. The ribs were refrigerated overnight.

                Baked the ribs at 350 F for 1 hour. Started bone side up, rotated and finished meat side up.

            2. I do not boil ribs, I use a dry rub, and have hot sauce, or bbq sauce on the side, but rarely use the bbq sauce.

              I am lucky to have space on my deck for a smoker, so I use it, and use it often. I prefer babybacks, and they typically take about 4 hours on the smoker. In my opinion ribs with the pink smoke ring a smoker renders are the best.

              I do not eat beef ribs, so I cannot help you there.

              1. first off lets get two terms cleat on terms - barbecue is generally defined as low and slow cooking of meat usually in a smoker or on a grill but not over direct fire - grilling is over a direct fire - with that being said -

                I keep kosher so I only do beef ribs - like other people have said do not boil.and use a dry rub. There are many recipes out there my preferred is a commercially available one from the Spice HOuse - called Back of the Yards.Rub

                I too have the room for a smoker so that is my preferred method but I have grilled them as well.- I like my ribs both ways with and with out sauce. The one thing to do if you plan to barbecue or grill is remove the membrane on the back of the rib - I used to not do that and would always end up with a tough back of the rib -

                3 Replies
                1. re: weinstein5

                  Can you tell me how you grilled the beef ribs? Indirect heat? For how long? thx

                  1. re: xnyorkr

                    I grew up in a kosher home as well and we only did beef ribs. We still do beef ribs on the grill and like them medium rare. We request flanken style ribs, usually 3 bones per strip, cut 2 in thick. Usually 1 strip per person will suffice. I dry rub them with Lawry's season salt, black pepper, 5 spice powder, garlic powder, rosemary. We grill them over direct heat for 10 min or so per side. We serve a tomato based homemade BBQ sauce on the side for dipping. Try to find the leanest ribs you can so you won't have lots of flare up. Let stand for 10 min before serving. You can also use some hickory or mesquite smoking chips and will be tasty as well.

                    1. re: xnyorkr

                      I have grilled both beef short ribs and beef back ribs (the bones left over when you make a rib-eye roast) - I do them directly over the fire with a medium sized fire - U use a dry rub - either Back of the Yard Rub from http://www.thespicehouse.com/ or make my own - aasimple combination of onioin powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, sweet paprika, brownsugar and black pepper - i do not measure just eyeball the amounts-

                      For the beef short ribs - I put on the rub and I grill for about 15 minutes or until medium rare - I do like sauce and will put on the end of the grilling so it carmelizes a little bit

                      for the beef back ribs - I first remove the rib membrane that is on the back of the ribs - then I place the rub on and grill similarly to the short ribs but for a shorter amount of time 13 minutes - and sauce at the end -

                  2. i'm a florida boy and my wife's an alabama girl, so i'd say that we both qualify as southerners. you're absolutely right that barbeque is a noun in the south, and barbeque ribs should be served wet, dripping with sauce. dry rubs are a memphis/texas/st louis way of serving ribs and it's a waste of good meat! every person who has responded to your question has advocated dry rubs or sauceless ribs, and i have to completely disagree. there's nothing better than sucking the sauce off your fingers after putting away a slab of ribs and chasing it with a cold beer. i didn't know so many communists posted on this website! ;)

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: caeleric

                      That's hilarious! And I do have to agree with you about the sauce....even if I do live in Texas!

                      1. re: caeleric

                        I beg to differ...
                        Coating with sauce covers up the real flavor of the ribs. Also, the sauceless ribs are so juicy, I'd be licking the actually pork juice and pork fat from my fingers not some saucy ketchup concoction, but I am on the left coast. :-D lol

                      2. It's actually against the law in some states to cook ribs too fast. As it should be. ; )

                        Long slow cooking over a fire is the key. For pork baby back ribs, what I've had great success with is simply pouring on a little orange juice (maybe a half-cup, just enough to moisten the surface) and then seasoning well with commercial cajun seasoning - pretty much any brand will work. Heat up the gas grill, then turn one burner down as low as it will go and turn all the other ones off. Put some wood on near the burner, not too close, under the grill surface. Put your ribs on and cook them for 3 to 4 hours. If you want to get fancy, collect the drippings in a pan underneath the ribs and mix them with a commercial barbecue sauce and use for dipping. Simple and so good!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Bat Guano

                          I've been looking into buying a gas grill. This sounds great!

                        2. here is my secret for smoked ribs, it takes about 6 hours, first pull the skin off the bottom of the ribs, i use a dry rub first ( you can find a good dry rub from your butcher or grocery store) i take cherry wood or apple wood wrap up wood chips in foil ( make sure you poke holes in foil) place them directly above the flame on one side of the grill, leave the burners off on the other side, place your ribs on the grillside without flame, let your ribs smoke for about 3 hours, you will have to add additional wood chips throughout the cooking process, you will know when because you wont have much smoke from grill, then remove ribs from grill & wrap them in foil, throw them in a cooler with ice or freezer let them sit for 30 minutes, then remove from freezer toss them back on the grill and continue to smoke them, this is when i use a marinade on the ribs, generally bbq sauce is not a good marinade bacause the mollasses burns, but where im from we use a bbq sauce called mauls to marinate with, keep the ribs marinated, continue to smoke, for the last 15-20 minutes i cook the ribs directly over the flame, ( for 2 reasons 1: to speedup the process & 2: so the smoke flavor is not too overbearing, if you dont like real smokey flavored bbq, smoking actually takes 8-10 hours) within the last 10 minutes i add a different bbq sauce like kc masterpiece, not too long though or it will burn, long process i know but well worth it, the best ribs i have ever eaten!!!

                          p.s. for the guy who said stlouisians use dry rubs not true, stlouis loves to cook with mauls, always marinate

                          1. Once in a while, I'll prepare a prime rib roast. I cut the ribs off the roast leaving a rack of prime rib bones as well as a boneless roast. I rub the entire roast with montreal steak spice. Next I tie the ribs back into place with 3 pieces of butcher string (rubbing the back of the ribs with spice as well.
                            Pop the entire thing in the oven at 500 (or as high as your oven will go) for an hour.

                            OK OK, I'm almost to the rib part...

                            Remove the roast and let cool to room temperature. Cut the strings and remove the ribs. Once again, two pieces, ribs and roast (you can do this a day or three ahead).

                            Slice the roast (you gotta let it cool first) into pieces as thick as you want. Note the roast is seared on the outside and raw in the center.
                            Sprinkle with more spices and finish on your grill (charcoal or gas) rare to medium, however you like.
                            Also grill the ribs on high, turning often, avoiding flareups, until you get a nice crust (you can cook them as rare or well done as you like). Cut the bones individually and serve alongside the grilled prim rib roast slice.

                            I enjoy these so much, I often times simply buy the equivalent ribs and enjoy them on their own, but thats me...

                            1. Do. Not. Boil. Ribs.

                              Unless you want to throw away money, or make stock and throw away the meat.