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Aug 7, 2007 10:47 AM

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.

            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.