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Need EASY Rib Cooking Tips

Okay, I've tried it twice on my own now and failed both times, dumping racks of baby back ribs into the trash that were tough, chewy, and basically inedible. Maybe I should give up on doing them on the grill, but ribs are summer food in my mind and I can't bear running the oven all day when it's miserable outside. I'd much rather use the grill and do the whole meal out there.
I've followed different recipes, listened to tons of advice, and I still achieve the same miserable results. Before I give up forever on this effort - and I'd really like to be able to do this, because I'm a big fan of food you can just let cook all day and it tastes wonderful with little effort - can someone please give me some simple ways to guarantee tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Thanks!

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  1. Do you boil them first? I always do and they are a hit every time - and I mean every time. Do you cook them over high heat on the grill or low? They need to be boiled in a pot for about 5 minutes, drained and cooled (best done the day before). Slather with BBQ sauce of choice and leave to marinate. The next day, wrap in foil, and place in BBQ over low heat. After an hour, raise the heat to high, remove foil, and let the skin get crispy (during this last phase, baste liberally with sauce)

    Do that, and then come and tell me they were crap. I dare you LOL

    Good luck

    1 Reply
    1. re: maisonbistro

      I rubbed them with a dry rub this afternoon, left them in the fridge all day, then put them on the grill with indirect heat at about 300 for 2 hours. I painted them with sauce about 15 minutes before I took them off. I haven't tried boiling - seems odd to boil meat - but I will give it a go if you say it's infallible. Better than running out for chicken nuggets after ruining them...

    2. This is how I make mine, and it's VERY easy.

      Cut rack of ribs up enough so that you can fit them in your biggest pot. Simmer the ribs for 1 hour, covered in water. I know this sounds like a long time, but it works great. After that, slather on whatever sauce you like to use, I usually use KC Masterpiece. You can refrigerate them after this until you're ready to grill. Then grill them until you get some nice marks and they're slightly charred. It doesn't really matter how long, as they're already fully cooked before you put them on the grill, you're basically just heating them up and getting some crispiness to that outside. The meat will be falling off the bone, and will still have good flavor despite the boiling.

      I'm sure the puritans won't approve of this method (no smoking involved), but you asked for easy. :)

      1. I would avoid using any sauce until just around the finish. If you use a good enough rub you can serve'em naked with sauce on the side. Sauce burns really easily if you are not careful or if the flame is high.

        One trick I learned from family in Memphis is that if you are afraid of over cooking you can wrap them in foil and stick then in a cooler until just before you want to serve them. They will continue to cook slow and low, especially if you have a several racks in there. You can throw the bones back on the flame for 5 minutes just before serving to crisp them up. This allows you to get the ribs done ealier in the day and not having to worry about when will they finish while your hungry guests are standing around the grill questioning your skillz!

        Coolers work just as well to keep things hot as cold. When I have summer BBQs I roast sweet corn on the grill in the husk and then throw them all in the cooler before my guests arrive. They will stay hot for hours.

        1. Meaning no disrespect to anybody -- and knowing this is a never ending argument -- I myself believe it is a high crime against swine to boil your ribs first. IMHO. I believe that y'all are enjoying the flavor of your BBQ sauce on top of tender, tasteless meat. It is my opinion that you need to dry rub, then cook low and slow, preferably over coals/wood but even on a gasser with some wood in a foil pouch to deliver smoke. That's the only way actual flavor will penetrate the meat. Once they have been cooked by boiling, they will not have the ability to absorb flavor of smoke or spice. They may "taste good" as a result of sauce on tender meat, but... not for me.

          jboeke, you say you did a rub, then cooked indirect at 300 for 2 hrs, then did a little sauce glaze at the end. Sounds good. It may be that you simply needed another 30 minutes on the smoker -- they could still be "tough" even though they look done. My rec: try to go indirect at 250 or so instead of 300. By indirect, we mean there is no fire under the ribs... this would turn them into coal. You want to cook at that temp, I find 2.5 to 3 hrs, depending on the heft of the baby backs (they vary). take some wood chips and place in a foil pouch with some holes poked in it, and place that over the live fire. This will generate smoke. They will be done when the meat starts to recede from the bottom of the bones (the meat will start to "pull up," exposing the bottom of the bones), and when you try to pick them up and the rack almost breaks in half (or does). Also, when you can grab a bone at the end of the rack and twist it off the rack... the meat should be tender. Try going a little longer, at a little lower temp. BTW, you should try to remove the membrane on the back of each rack, before the rub (or the rub will not penetrate the back -- or bowl-shaped side -- of the ribs). Try grabbing at the top corner of the short rib end with a paper towel... some use a screwdriver to get under the membrane and get it started... it will then peel away from the rack fairly cleanly. This makes for better eating later.

          1 Reply
          1. re: woodburner

            This will probably get moved to the home cooking board once someone notices.

            I'm right there with you, woodburner. Boiling ribs is just making pork stock that you're going to throw away, then eating the remnants. If I was paying as much as most markets seem to charge for baby backs these days ($4+/lb), I wouldn't do that.

            Making smoke somehow is the key. And turning that gas grill down, then doing your best to make sure the ribs aren't getting direct heat, is just as important.

            If you're pushed for time, one shortcut is to wrap the ribs in foil for a little while at then end. I'd do it only if you're really pushed for time (and a lot of competition Q cooks do it). It may dissolve away your rub. But a tight wrap while still on the heat for about 30 minutes (YMMV) will get the ribs nice and tender- look for the meat pulling back like woodburner noted. You can then unwrap them and glaze w/ your finishing sauce for 15 min or so. A lot of folks use the 3-2-1 method for spares (look at the virtualweberbullet.com for more); I tend to go shorter on the foil time, if I need it at all, to keep them from falling apart.

            Oh, and I use my needle-nose pliers to remove the membrane (washed before and then washed after).

            And there's always a $20 Weber kettle off Craigslist to do it on charcoal (and get a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid for gosh sakes). ;-)

          2. It's the truth, you have to boil. I boil mine for 45 minutes to an hour, until they're about 3/4 of the way cooked. Then I slather on the sauce and throw them on the grill. (No tin foil -- what is the point?) It takes about another hour to cook them completely.

            Also, I have found that ribs from a fancy specialty meat and fish market (Citarella) taste better than supermarket ribs. But people will love you for either.

            6 Replies
            1. re: KateC.

              Gosh...I NEVER boil babyback ribs... I dry rub mine and let them marinate overnight in the fridge. Then, I bake them, foil-covered, in a 250 degree oven for 2 or 3 hours...then I finish them on the grill with barbeque sauce. That's it...works beautifully everytime.

              1. re: Val

                Exactly the method I use. I cooked two racks last weekend, and they were wonderful- not smoked ( or bbq), but really good grilled ribs. The meat was moist, tasty and not falling off the bone.- but tender and easy to eat. If not smoking ribs, this is the only method I would recommend.

                1. re: macca

                  Me three. It's the only way I make them. I've heard boiling is a way to do it, but I just can't bring myself to boil meat like that! It feels so...wrong...

                  My method is almost the same as Val, except I add a little braising liquid (just over a cup) to each rack's foil pouch, then after 2.5 hours, I drain them and cook the liquid down until thick and sticky. Brush it on instead of bottled sauce, then throw under the broiler to caramelize.

                2. re: Val

                  You can still get a decent smoke flavor using this method if you build a small fire in the grill as the ribs are finishing in the oven, then put the racks in the grill (indirect) with soaked wood chips in a foil packet or pan. after 15-20 minutes, they are pretty smokey. Just don't make the fire too big...just enough to smoke the chips. You don't want to dry out the ribs.

                  1. re: Val

                    I do almost the same but I put them on a rack in pan and cover the bottom with broth or water. Then cover tightly with foil. Steams them and they fall off the bone. If you want more smokey you can add a few drops of liquid smoke. I also cook 3-4 hours but usually have the pan pretty full since they freeze so well.

                  2. re: KateC.

                    You HAVE to boil ribs? Really? How is it that myself and fellow bbq'ers have been winning competitions for years without ever boiling ribs and turning out an amazing product? Do explain.