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Another bbq thread: Is parboiling really acceptable?

In the spirit of annually reawakening such controversial topics as authenticity, I thought another bbq argument was long overdue.

In a recent Boston thread, we got sidetracked into a parboiling argument. I was flabbergasted to hear the number of chowhounds that felt that parboiling ribs was a perfectly acceptable thing to do, and their claims that it was done everywhere.

I’m sure parboiling is done by people at home who don’t have a smoker. I’m also sure that this is a compromise product – no matter how good it tastes, it is not going to have the same texture, flavor, and look to it that a real low and slow cooked rib is going to have. But low and slow is hard to do on a weber or gas grill, especially with something as thin and unforgiving as ribs, so compromises must be made.

But it was contended that this was a standard practice for commercial operations. Other than Chili’s or TGIF, I find this difficult to believe. No legit q joint would parboil their ribs. I have driven all over the US, and had ribs everywhere from Memphis to KC to St, Louis, to OKC to Northern (east and west) NC – I have yet to penetrate the whole pig culture of the low country, but that’s on my list. I just haven’t had a parboiled rib at any real q joint. I can’t imagine that happening.

I have been smoking for over 20 years and smoke spare ribs all the time (baby backs are just too expensive to be considered cheap meats to be enhanced by low and slow over embers). To me, parboiling is never an enhancement – only a shortcut. No knowledgeable person would parboil ribs (or anything else) in order to improve its flavor or texture.

It is entirely your right, of course, to feel that parboiled ribs are delicious, even more delicious than ribs that are low and slow cooked over embers in a smoker, if that’s your preference. But you’re not going to find your preferred ribs on Beale Street or in a KCBS or NCBBQSociety sponsored event. (See Rule 6 in the KCBS Rules and Regulations.)

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  1. never acceptable, I also do not even think slowly baking them in an oven is acceptable, or allowed to be called bbq.

    1. Boiling ribs makes broth, not barbecue.

      1. Parboiling ribs is only acceptable to make a really good tonkotsu base for ramen, but that ain't bbq, is it?

        1 Reply
        1. re: ricepad

          Yes - anytime you boil meat and use the liquid (stocks, stews, braising), the flavor is preserved in the dish that is being served. It's when you boil the meat and toss the liquid, that makes little sense.

        2. Folks, this is one of those topics that brings out the darkest, most partisan divisions in what's usually a friendly, tolerant community. We're going to ask for your utmost care in allowing all voices, including those you don't agree with, to be heard without making others wrong in the process.

          1. Are we discussing bbq the method, And the authenticity contained in such a definition?
            I would maintain that it has to involve a wood heat source, covered, and indirect heat, but I realize others would chafe at such a strict reading of the subject.
            Parboiling shouldn't even be allowed in the discussion.
            And AH, I agree with your assessment of baby backs.

            1. Parboiling is not "cooking." It means to put in boiling or simmering water for a short time. Some cookbooks suggest it to get some of the fat out, not to change the flavor or texture. I don't bother, myself. But the choice is not between parboiling andr barbequing. One can do both.

              7 Replies
              1. re: mpalmer6c

                but why would you want to get the fat out?
                The real pupose of low and slow is to transform the collegen in the "lesser cuts" of meat.

                  1. re: paulj

                    true, but I was trying to distinguish between the External fat (trimmable)and the internal fat inherent in the cut of meat.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Not at all true. Collagen = protein, not fat. It is a connective tissue that bundles muscle fibers. McGee explains it well, but this wiki article seems to be accurate:


                      bbqboy hit the nail on the head - low and slow transforms the meat, both the fat and the collagen melt and create a tasty, tender treat.

                      1. re: applehome

                        yeah, when I read "collagen=Fat" I think my old high school biology teacher's ghost turned over in his grave! Thanks, Applehome

                    2. re: bbqboy

                      To guard against atherosclerosis and weight gain; some people don't like the taste of a lot of fat, or the mouth-feel of excessive grease.

                      1. re: mpalmer6c

                        if the meat is greasy or fatty, then it wasn't smoked long enough to dissolve it.
                        That's pretty much the point of the process.

                  2. How true you are. Those who love and take pride in well crafted BBQ will always cringe when the other side advocates this despicable practice.

                    Boiling ribs is a sacrilege, like using tomatoes and beans in chili.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bkhuna

                      Being an elderly cook whose spouse absolutely requires tomatoes and beans in her chili (she considers perfect chili to be a bean dish with meat in it), I will take issue with your "despicable." What I choose to produce is food that tastes good to the people who are going to eat it. And although we have eaten and loved shoulder, ribs and brisket from a friend's iron-roofed backyard pit, as well as from some more formally organized commercial facilities, we prefer to hang out in the realm of what we can do without spending the whole damn weekend at it, which usually entails such "horrors" as parboiling. liquid smoke, time in the oven and a (ugh, shudder) gas grill. You don't like it? Then don't eat it. End of story.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        We'll agree to disagree, that's what forums are for :)

                        Enjoy the weekend.

                        1. re: Will Owen


                          I think you pretty much have the right answer. It's acceptable if you want to accept it. My mom parboils back ribs. I smoke side ribs. The two are completely exclusive of each other. I really like my moms ribs but would never have my ribs even see boiling water. Much less bathe in it. I would never buy back ribs either (Unless there was a really good sale) since side ribs are much more flavourfull and take seasonings much better.

                          To me, chili is a meat dish with beans in it and a tomato base. I make it the way I like it. Mrs. Sippi loves it. A few others who've sampled my wares have agreed. If it's not for you, as you said, "Then don't eat it". It's always been my motto. If you like it, who cares??


                      2. Here we go...
                        I remember the first rib festival I visited. After tasting various camps, I thought, "Geez, WHAT are these guys doing? I can kick their butt!"
                        Of course, I did not have an understanding of what competition BBQ was all about.

                        As I learned, I realized what competition BBQ was: kinda like a dog show where a certain product is judged and any aberation is outlawed. Is this right? Is this wrong? No, it is simply the rules of a game.

                        I'm sorry but there's plenty of rib preperations out there (and mutts) that are not pedigree, but certainly loved and enjoyed by many, maybe even your own kids.

                        A nod to the chowwhound team on their warning about tolerance.

                        I mean its like religion; I understand and respect what you are doing, please respect and try to understand what I'm doing.

                        OMG, a poster asks if its alright to parboil ribs for the family BBQ and all of a sudden, they're made to feel like cretons...whoaaa wait a minute.

                        Almost as passionate as fishing, or drinking scotch (yechhh). It seems like if you don't abide by mainstream definitions of a structured technique, you should be labelled as a freak.

                        Nay say I.

                        OK, enough said, I'll get off the wine box ahhhhh soap box...

                        you know what I mean...

                        1. A long long time ago (the 1980's) I bought into the slow simmer with beer garlic before putting on the grill with a sugary glaze. Over time I learned about low and slow off the heat (coals on one side, meat with just basic S & P and garlic on the other) - not smoking, but it gets a red ring. I would never go back to the parboiling thing. We just have to educate them folks by inviten em over for a Q!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: torty

                            Actually, while I'm sure the OP's BBQ and yours are great, the good ole smoked stuff has been seemed pretty bad to me ehile traveling, even the mail-order ribs from George W..'s davorite order-out place. Unaccpetably tough. No, I'm not a smarty-pants New Yorker . I just expected something with considerable smokri flavor and tenderness. Haven't seen much of either. Not a regional thing, just a disappointment after all the talk.

                          2. applehome, for a trucker, you sure are unusual (in a good way)!
                            To start with I worked for an engineer who made it his point to find the best ribs in Dallas (and wherever we were, if we traveled). My exposure, under his tutelage, started when I was 17, and ended when I was 25. Then I had to make it on my own.
                            I agree that the "Right" way to do ribs is without parboiling (though it sounds too much like Bush saying, "There's something you need to understand" (and it's black and white).
                            There are also the non-legal, unethical, in-between methods that work very well. I feel like this is heresey coming from my Texan mouth but I don't think low and slow is ALL there is!

                            I wonder if you started this thread because of the NY Times Food Section article (dated 5-21) had a half-page devoted to braised and grilled ribs? I decided to try a variation on that theme last night! What a coincidence!
                            My younger brother prides himself in his Q as much as I do in my Texas chili. He dry rubs his ribs then puts them in a sealed foil pouch, with a little beer inside, in the smoker. In a short while he removes them from the foil and finishes them on the grill. They are very good. Last night I used Sam Adams Cream Stout and did the same. For one rack I used about three or four ounces. I sealed the foil as best I could. Medium heat. When I took them out of the foil there was just enough drippings to wet the top of the ribs before the final smoking. We thought these were some of the best I have done, regardless of the method. They were slightly crusty but juicy inside, and yet, did not fall off the bone or be mushy, like when they have been cooked in liquid. To me, you should be able to pull ribs apart easily by hand yet the meat should not fall off the bone. Other than not having as strong a smoke flavor as some I've had or fixed, they were extremely satisfying.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Scargod

                              I'm not a trucker - "my rig" is a class A RV with a motorcycle on the bumper and a toad (towed - also called a dinghy). I've driven this from Maine to Washington State, California, Florida... with many trips to OKC to visit the in-laws. I started this because of the Village Smokehouse post on the Boston board. Everybody agreed that the place is mediocre at best, and everybody agreed that they didn't have a smoker despite their name, and that they parboiled their ribs and baked them, the same as Chilli's and other chains and lousy pseudo-bbq restaurants. However - when it came to understanding why their product was lousy, some folks felt that it was not because of parboiling, parboiling can make perfectly acceptable bbq ribs, and that many places, including in the south, parboiled ribs. We started arguing this, but the mods snipped it - rightly so, as the discussion was far afield from Boston. So I re-started the discussion here.

                              I actually don't think that it's about definition of q, although that's an important aspect. It's about what parboiling meat is all about. Braised ribs are indeed delicious, as chazzerking says below - but that's because the meat is in the water (or other liquid) and stays there through service. You added liquid in a sealed pouch - once again, not parboiling. Parboiling is boiling meat in water, then removing it for further cooking elsewhere. It is used to cook meat quickly, period. It is a shortcut. It removes flavor, not enhances it. da-de-da-de-da-de-da alright... horse is dead

                            2. All I'm questioning is terms like "is parboiling acceptable" or "the ultimate truth that it (parboiling) is indeed a shortcut". I think they should be put into context.
                              Your average, garden variety home cook may suddenly think "I don't have a smoker, I don't have a charcoal grill, therefore I cannot cook ribs. Any other method is WRONG. I am a good person, and god forbid, I don't want to do anything wrong..."

                              But whats right and wrong? Is getting a tasty meal together for your family wrong? I think we'd say no.
                              Is parboiling ribs, slathering them with Kraft Hickory Smoke BBQ sauce and re-heating them on the gas grill wrong? (I admit, the Kraft reference is simply to raise your ire... hehe).
                              No I don't think its wrong, in context.
                              Calling it BBQ, well, maybe thats wrong.

                              But hey, lets not attack a poster with holier than thou stuff..

                              In the end, I think we all know what we're arguing about anyway, right?

                              With the threat of excessive run on,
                              I'll add that technique is part to blame in this topsy turvy world of opinionated American BBQ. I assume that many a backyard griller may have tried to smoke a rack, but without proper guidence or skill or know how or equipment or whatever, came up with a terrible product. So, mr (or mrs) griller says "Dang nabbit, I'll stick to what mom has done all these years - that was better than THIS" and they'll parboil or slap the ribs on raw or whatever.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: porker

                                I was thinking about the idea that some have poor results and give up, too. I didn't give up because I knew it was possible to do it right and I had a decent grill and chips. I even used to do country style backbone with Woody's Cookin' Sauce on it. Then I realized why it would burn; I changed my ways and started using a dry rub and less heat, saving the Woodie's for a finish coat at the end, if at all. Lots of trial and error and some folks don't care enough, just resorting to dumping sauce on them and popping them in the oven. Yea, they're edible... Q?

                              2. Parboiling is always acceptable, as long as you don't think the resulting product is barbecue. Truth is, it doesn't take all that long to BBQ good ribs and end up with a fabulous dish. Most successful competitors in th Memphis network cook their ribs 4 hours or less. I've cooked and judged lots of excellent ribs that were cooked for 2 1/2 hours, if done right. On the other hand, any time I taste a rib that has been parboiled, the texture is unmistakable; like mushy sawdust. it is the nature of the method. If you are going to cook large spare ribs, it's not a bad idea to have a signifcant source of moisture in the grill, as those can get pretty tough if cooked dry, slowly, but again done right there's no need for ruining them by parboiling. I love braised pork ribs; I just know the difference between that and BBQ

                                1. Our neighbor JF parboils then grills, and his twice-cooked fall-off-the-bone ribs could be served with no problem at any retirement home. They're also quite tasty because he knows his grill heat and he uses a good locally made sauce (Mansmith). I like JF's ribs very much but they're not BBQ. My SO and I like to wash a slab in good vinegar, rub it well with one of my homemade rubs, let it sit a while, then grill the ribs over medium heat for no longer than 25-30 minutes, basting at the last minute with my homemade sauce (kind of dark and vinegary and spicy and a bit sweet). We love these chewy but tender grilled ribs and know they're not BBQ. Neighbor ST has a big fat smoker and uses my rub (it IS good) and slow smokes all afternoon and those ribs are really delish and they ARE BBQ. I love pork ribs and I'm not in any way bigoted about how they're cooked. Twice-cooked, grilled, BBQ.. they all can be really tasty. Any one of those styles can yeald some real duds too.

                                  1. I'm sorry guys... I know I said I wouldn't beat the dead horse - the conversation is over and restarting it is just going to annoy people. But I made some delicious ribs for Memorial day, once again, and it got me thinking. They had better be delicious - it's taken me 20 years of everything from voodoo and parboiling, to wrapping in foil and baking, and finally getting a smoker that can actually sit at 200 for 4-6 hours, gently smothering some hickory wood embers.

                                    Over those 20 years, I have gotten into q - not from the perspective of wanting to follow somebody's made-up dogma, but from one of seeking deliciousness, and understanding that very often, traditional foods are the most delicious. There is a reason that the dogma developed to the point it did - why there are true believers. It's as true with sushi and tempura, as it is with baking bread and pasta.

                                    Here's what I've come down to. Falling off the bone is mush. There's nothing at all wrong with mushy meat if that's what you consider delicious, but I think that at the point that meat is mush and falling off the bone, it is the sauce that is delicious, not the meat. So braised short ribs are a very flavorful delight - but if you actually had a piece braised in water or a light liquid, with no flavor, I would think that most folks would not think it delicious at all. Baby backs parboiled and baked until falling off the bone have to be sauced to death - by themselves, they would be flavorless pablum.

                                    Spare ribs, done so that it is not mush, but is still firm to the bite, and yet tender and delicious, requires low temp radiant heat, as moist as possible, but not steam, and certainly not immersed in water.

                                    Regardless of the definition of barbecue, the idea of cooking ribs well, to the maximum deliciousness of the cut, precludes parboiling. You ought to be able to pick up a rib, with no additional sauce, and bite into the meat, pulling it off the bone cleanly, and chewing it with no problem, and have it taste mouth-wateringly good. If you prefer to add some sauce and wet it down, fine, do so - but the point is that naked, it tastes good.

                                    I alternate between Memphis or St.Louis Style and leaving it whole. Cutting the top cartilaginous area off certainly makes a more evenly cooked rib. You can cook the top section separately and leave it in longer to get it done right, if you wish. But there's something to be said about holding the whole big thing in your paws, and gnawing on that top meaty section - spitting out all the little cartilage pieces - real cave-man stuff. Monday, it was whole. The reddish outside, with the smoke reaching well into the meat, crisp outside but not at all dried out. My rub had melted in - garlic, onion, paprika, and highlights of a little ginger, coriander, pepper, and cumin. It smoked for just about 6 hours - necessary if you leave the top section on, but the bones were still firmly in place, not at all falling apart. And that's perhaps the amazing thing - once you have the right rig, it really is quite easy - no muss, no fuss. Dry rub (the night before) and throw it in the smoker - no foil, no basting - just one step cooking. Yes, you have to tend the firebox, but 6 hours is no sweat - when you get into 12+ hours and the wee hours of the morning, it gets to be a pain sometimes (for full briskets and big butts).

                                    I served both the standard Stubbs sauce and one I had made, a little sweeter, but not overwhelmingly so. I had made sides the day before and that morning - a quick vinegary pickle of sliced cucumbers and onions, a Vietnamese salad with shrimp and shiitake, and my wife's famous potato salad.

                                    I watched Hell's Kitchen last night, and what's the first thing they do with the chicken? They parboil it - there's no other way to get it baked in the time they had. And of course, there's a sauce you have to add, which one of the contestants forgot. I am absolutely sure that this happens in mediocre restaurants all over the place. But I have to wonder if this happens in the French Laundry. Does Keller parboil his meat? I'm no 3-star chef, but I know that the only time I throw chicken in the water is to make stock!

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: applehome

                                      Ah...., go on and on. Music to my ears. Reminded me of getting up at 3AM to see how my baby (err...., brisket) was doing, and having to sample it as I took it off!
                                      Do you trim your whole brisket at all, prior to cooking? I usually leave everything on while cooking.

                                      1. re: Scargod

                                        Yeah, I agree - plenty of time to trim afterwards.

                                      2. re: applehome

                                        So braising in a liquid that adds flavor to the meat is good, but 'parboiling' in a liquid that leaches all the flavor from the meat is bad? It almost sounds as though you are setting up 'parboiling' strawman just so you can shoot it down. The 'dry roasting' purists seem to be imagining wet cooking at its worst (flavorless, overcooked, etc) and calling that 'parboiling'. With that kind of definition, 'parboiling' has to be bad!

                                        The practical question for the home cook, is there a way of getting good ribs, that does not require tending a smoky fire for 4-6 hours. How about roasting the meat in a sealed foil packet till 2/3 of the way to being tender, and then dry smoking it? Or what about the thing that some competition cooks do - smoke them for a couple of hours, and then finish them wrapped in foil?


                                        1. re: paulj

                                          You're right - I mixed up some stuff in that last post. Braising is not par-boiling. So if you were to braise that short rib in plain water until done, it would be just that - braising, not par-boiling. Par-boiling (partial boiling) is meant as the first step of a 2 or more step process, where the meat is finished off in some other way. It is not commonly done to flavor the meat, but to cook it quickly, as the Hell's Kitchen example was showing.

                                          "The practical question for the home cook, is there a way of getting good ribs, that does not require tending a smoky fire for 4-6 hours."

                                          Well, sure, just like there's the possibility of good sushi at home. But there's no great sushi, unless you're an Itamae that's brought home his knives and equipment and incredible tane. Sometimes, the ultimate product just requires equipment and knowledge (experience), and there's no short cut. Good enough is just that - good enough. So if par-boiling is good enough for you, then great, but it's a technique that's most often used as a shortcut to save time, not to make a better product.

                                          Over those 20 years, I went through all the iterations you speak of - par-boiling, finishing in foil, starting in foil, finishing in the weber. The product is mushy meat. If that's what you consider to be good ribs, then great. Perhaps you can live with that and leave the ultimate ribs to the smokehouse experience. But if you want to really replicate the best Beale St. ribs at home, you can't par-boil, and you have to have a good smoker.

                                          1. re: applehome

                                            I agree with most of what you say, and applaud the enthusiasm, but there are othe4r ways of making good if not excellent ribs, besides slow smoking them. You can get good flavor and tenderness in less time. It doesn't include parboiling, but searing and partial wrapping then open cooking for a total time of 3 hours can produce quite excellent results. it strill requires dry marinating, preferably oveernite, and finishing witha sauce of your preference, but doesn't require constant obsessing and 6 hours. I guarantee that no place on Beale St(all 2 of them) cooks their ribs for more than 3 hours.

                                            1. re: chazzerking

                                              First, my "obsession for 6 hours" was to put them on, and check the wood and temp 3 times - putting in more wood 1 time. Compared to your searing, foiling, opening... egads, man - do you like to work hard?

                                              I am no pitmaster. I am entirely self-taught. But I have spoken to several pitmasters over the years and seen others interviewed on TV and in print. The places I have admired and had the opportunity to speak with the cook - places in Memphis, St. Louis, NYC and Boston, and numerous sanctioned bbq events, have all told me that it takes them 4 hours to do St.Louis style spare ribs. (Mine would also have been 4 hours if I had prepared them St. Louis style.) The Dinosaur BBQ guy says 5 hours but he keeps his smokers at 200-225 where most of the others did 225-250.

                                              Not one of them ever said they used foil or any other convolution - it would simply be far too labor intensive. Like me, they want to throw the rack on and take it off several hours later. Some of them definitely mop their ribs - not with a sweet sauce, but with cider vinegar or a concoction of their own - the intent is not to have a wet rib, but a dry rib that is moist. I've found that with the water pan in my smoker, I don't have a problem with dryness, so I don't mop. They all prefer, as I do, to serve the sauce on the side.

                                              Are there other styles of spare ribs? Of course - there's Chinese spare ribs, for one. So I can't speak to all spare ribs. But my 2 main points are:

                                              1) No meat - spare rib or otherwise - is ever enhanced by parboiling.

                                              2) Shortcuts, like parboiling, are the playground of the "good enough" fairy, and "good enough" is the enemy of excellent.

                                              1. re: applehome

                                                I'm not disputing your approach. the reason most of the places you describe dont do anything with foil or searin is because of the labor intensivity you observed, and being commercial establishments, just can't do that with the volume of meat they cook. I'm also not sure what you are referring to by "st. Louis style ribs" St. Louis style refers to the cut of the ribs, with the flap and the cartilage removed, yielding a fairly uniform slab. I'm not familiar with any st. louis style of cooking BBQ. I do have at least a little cred on this topic, having won several Memphis sanctioned events and 1 KC network comp., but one of the reasons I quit competitive BBQ is that they have very specific guidelines for the judges as to style and methodology. It definitely cramps any creativity. anyway, I agree with your 2 main assertions re parboiling.

                                      3. seven hells, no! that's just not acceptable.

                                        1. My hat is off to Will Owen and the CH Team.

                                          Let me repeat what I've repeated before.

                                          For up to twenty people I do low and slow, dry rub, dry heat and all that. Best one can do.

                                          But I generally don't do BBQ for my small getherings: I prefer to cook.

                                          But I do get asked to do ribs for groups of 50-150 people at least a couple times a year. In these cases, logistics demands that I fire up the big burners on the outside high output stove, sear/brown the ribs in huge pots, then braise them in the same pots, and finally finish and sauce on a grill.

                                          So, I'm on both sides of the divide. But a question for you purists. Can you rub and slow-and-low for 150 people?

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Hi Sam,

                                            You can do low and slow for large groups of people if and only if you have the equipment. A typical backyard smoker is not going to cut it because the temperature needs to stay in the 200 to 220 degree range consistently, and overcrowding will impede that process. If you were only serving ribs and sides, you would be looking at sixty to seventy-five racks. That takes multiple smokers or professional equipment. The other alternative is to do them in waves, wrapping each completed group after three or four hours in heavy duty plastic wrap and keeping them warm, but not necessarily on the smoker. This is often done in BBQ restaurants, and I have a friend who regularly competes in BBQ contests who does this too. Since BBQ is not something that needs to be eaten the moment it gets removed from the smoker, this technique allows you to smoke in batches, but you will be cooking all day long. Ribs and small pieces of meat are the only things that can get this treatment because they can cook in the three to four hour timeframe. Forget trying this with a brisket or pork shoulder -- the batches could take twelve hours each.

                                            I understand that here in Texas, parboiling is a capital crime (and you know about capital crimes in Texas). I have never seen it done, and anyone who did would be laughed out of the backyard or barbecue competition and instructed to take a job at Tony Roma's. However, I can understand the point of it (since I am not a native Texan) and have often wondered if braising a brisket before smoking it would help make it more tender. Never tried it, but I have wondered.

                                            1. re: RGC1982

                                              RGC1982. Thank you! In my work life I deal with trade-offs between environmental protection and pro-poor development. Good to see someone on these boards who understands that trade-offs are necessary in the real and practical world.

                                              Lacking "multiple smokers or professional equipment" I'll have to try "...to do them in waves, wrapping each completed group after three or four hours in heavy duty plastic wrap and keeping them warm, ..." But, remember, I do this stuff as a favor. I don't like standing over 65-70 racks for 10 - 24 hours and not joining in the fun.

                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                well, forgive me Sam, i don't want to be rude, but mightn't there be other options that would solve the dilemma? i can think of two that we could at least consider:

                                                you can easily smoke 70-85 lbs pork shoulder in a commercial, backyard smoker (feeds 200+ --i'm doing it right now in the real world, compromising nothing, taking leisurely breaks to chowhound, and drinking a surly)-- perhaps if the ribs are too much, you could just consider another cut of meat/not doing ribs maybe?

                                                alternately, not having "multiple smokers or professional equipment"-- you can always do the low-tech, original method-- dig a pit-- do the ribs (or any cut of meat, or whole animal/s), keep everything warm/done at the same time, still not compromise the meat. i have to completely disagree with the statement "you can do low and slow for large groups of people if and only if you have the equipment." the so-called "equipment," as any hawaiian would tell you, is a shovel, and the pitmaster's wealth of experience :)

                                                digging a basic pit is how they feed 20,000+ people bbq (for free)at the annual xit rodeo in amarillo, for example. they do it that way because it's the way to feed many folks traditional bbq, at one go, without any equipment whatsoever to speak of. it either works really well or they get *really* lucky every year, and everybody *does* get to take part in the fun of the rest of the event!

                                                respectfully submitted, your fan, --sk

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  Commercial back-yard smoker: not available here.

                                                  Dig a pit: my dad's family used to do that in Hawaii. That was with a huge fire, lots of rocks, meat wrapped in ti and taro leaves, long stick to eventually poke the meat and figure out if everything was done... good all day fun for large groups of men at the beach.

                                                  But really, sk, if no commercial smoker, then dig a pit is the bottom line? Have you dug a hole in your back yard?

                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                    Sam, it sounds like you have a system that works for you, and i don't want to mess with it--at least w/o trying your wares first :)

                                                    by commercial back-yard smoker i meant a common pre-fab $80-$100 hardware store set-up rig. of course, people have made their own smokers out of all manner of things-- oil drums, old refrigerators, parts of junk cars. very inventive stuff in people's backyards, especially in my neighborhood-- but heck i'm no welder!

                                                    the main trigger for my post was that i just really disagree that anybody needs pro equipment or a shortcut method to bbq for a crowd-- that's the opposite of how it all started, which was a whole pig or a whole steer, and some guys who had a lot of other things to do all day other than babysit the meat. for that matter, hovering over the smoker is unnecessary-- great for drinking beer and passing down the family stories, but strictly speaking-- for the cooking-- bbq is not labor intensive save for the schlep at the beginning and the schlep at the end. some people's systems involve a zillion steps; soaking unbleached cheesecloth with mop sauce and wrapping each piece of meat after the first hour, and then wrapping in plastic, and then in foil and making a raffia bow on top like martha stewart. . . great, glad those people have nothing better to do. when you have a zillion steps serving little purpose, couldn't that time be better spent on the rest of the food?

                                                    i hope that i am clear in that my post was not really intended to be critical or argumentative, i definitely commiserate with you with the challenges and trade-offs involved in feeding large groups. it's not easy by any means. by "dig a pit"-- i was referring to how massive bbq feeds for hundreds have been done historically. i used to love talking about hawaiian pit feasts with my uncle, the late u. mookini. he'd take part in traditional cooking that would feed upwards of 800 people-- maybe he hung out with your dad, Sam. i certainly can understand the average person maybe not wanting to dig a pit in their own back yard, but if we're talking about practical, "real world" concerns, as you say, for a special event feeding many & no equipment, that's certainly the traditional way and it still works great.

                                                    i'd be more inclined to change the menu in order to keep it managable though-- to pork shoulder bbq or briskets, more compact. as i said i have no problem fitting 80 lbs in just one smoker-- no bones means more meat, feeds more people, less running around at the last minute. what's no big deal for smaller parties, whether it's racks of ribs or piping-filled peapods, gets ridiculous at a certain point. for a 20 person party, yeah the peapods are cute and fun and playful. everyone loves them, 40 people come next year, and 80 after that, the peapods are famous and now they are also a major rinky-dink pain in the ass to pull off by yourself. someone says they love the peapods so much they want them at their benefit dinner for 500, or their wedding. you can ask for a crew of 25 peapod pipers, paid for by the charity (obviously this is stupid), or you can go mad trying to do it yourself for three days prior, with freshness/quality compromises, or you can suggest a different menu item. this kind of thing happens all the time when you're feeding large groups. when it hits a certain quantity people get overwhelmed and overworked, the rinky-dink stuff just gets stupid, and this is where the super-high stress levels come from. someone needs to step back and either make a change in the cooking, or make a change in the menu (this never seems to happen before someone goes to the loony bin). sometimes when you make something really special, it gets popular and people want you to make tons of it and have it all the time, and you need to say sorry, we're going to continue doing it the way we always have because the trade-off isn't worth it-- ex: we still knead the dough by hand, despite the high demand for this loaf, there is only a certain quantity we'll produce a day, first come first served, no discounts. . . you know, it's tough-- it seems like just when an item becomes super-popular is when it becomes impossible to keep up with it, and i think this is why so many restaurants end up cutting corners when they really should be *counterintuitively* scaling back or limiting quantities to maintain the highest quality. the problem is that these things creep up incrementally until you really are a nutcase and are so effing *busy* that you can't take a step back to observe your own system. then a friend walks behind the line, watches, and makes a simple suggestion, and you're like *duh*, that would make my life easy by comparison. . .

                                                    sorry Sam, you did nothing to deserve being subjected to my interior monologue. your situation is certainly familiar and i do commiserate-- mostly i hope that you and your crew are still having fun, since it's for charity, and that no-one is getting overwhelmed or stressed out. if it were me,i would put a cap on the headcount i'd do ribs for, or have lots of help, and above the red line i'd make some menu switches. if it ever reached a point that i wasn't happy with the quality i would also switch menu. i guess i can't see myself using the stovetop rib method, but that's my own deal, nothing to do with your situation. see my first sentence-- sounds like you've got your system together! start to worry when the numbers creep up, though! have fun, i'm all through now! LOL :-)

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      sk, our minds and hearts have come together on this one.

                                            2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                              I've done over 50 in my backyard system - a combination of ribs and brisket. It was for my wife's 50th, which is a big deal to her family - they drove up from Texas and Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Plus we had all our local friends. We rented out a small hall (at the Lion's club) and I provided all the food. I started smoking a few days ahead and did 12 racks and a couple of whole briskets. I wrapped the ribs in plastic and put then in a cooler on ice. Bought a bag of corn. The hall had a large outside grill - we brought our own charcoal and roasted the corn and warmed up the ribs for service. I sliced the brisket up, sauced it in several deep roasting pans, covered with foil, and user their oven to heat them up. Lots of sides... a bunch of buns...

                                              I did 3 batches of ribs (4 racks per batch) at 6 hours apiece, and 1 overnight with both briskets - about 2 days, although I was doing so many other things, the entire week was spent cooking one thing or another.

                                              I never sauce ribs on the grill - I used to, but then I figured out that's why they burn, silly. I serve sauces on the side - let people put on what they want.

                                              I don't know if I would ever want to do 150 - especially without help.

                                            3. I doubt that most "good" BBQ spots will use this technique, but they have smokers available to them. That said, we use a broiler pan, with a little water in the bottom to "parbroil" our ribs, prior to placing them on our gas grill. The water, along with the rendered fat, is then used as a baste and as a base for the BBQ sauce. Even in the oven, the heat is low and the time is slow. Now, if I had a smoker, I would probably rethink this operation. I've done brisket on the grill, with indirect heat, a spit and a pan of water below, but ribs just do not take well to my spit.

                                              Is this "authentic" [Grin], or even acceptable? In our house, it is. Would I champion my method? Naw, I'd spend our savings and put in the ultimate outdoor kitchen, but my wife seems to be against that - something called "retirement... " Are my ribs good? Yes, but not the best that I have had in many states. Still, they suffice for us.

                                              Good article/question,


                                              15 Replies
                                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                Bill;Keeping a drip/moisture pan in the grill isn't parboiling. It's just good bbq'ing technique. They are a lot ofthings you can use as the liquid that will impart some additional flavor to your meat. I like to use apple cider or tea or port.

                                                1. re: chazzerking

                                                  I also have used cider with some rubs and sauces, to good advantage. Because I start these on a "broiler" pan, and do use a low Broiler setting on the oven, I made an assumption. Guess I was wrong. Thanks for the correction.


                                                  1. re: chazzerking

                                                    I'd like some clarafication here, if I could. Sounded like Bill was talking about starting out in the oven with the meat in the pan with some liquid. These liquids were then used for basting ribs on the grill without pan. He mentions a pan, with water, when he did a brisket. Different item...
                                                    Chaz, are you saying that you flavor the water in your drip/moisture pan, on the grill?
                                                    Some clarifying, please.

                                                    1. re: Scargod

                                                      I'm not Chaz, but I do often add flavors (cider, vinegar, wine) to the liquid, in a broiler pan, for the initial stage of prep - ribs, or brisket. The rendered fat from the meat melds with the liquid, which also adds humidity. If I am doing brisket on the spit, I place this "juice" into a pan on the grill, below the meat. With ribs, I have to place them on the grill, but still use the indirect heating elements. There, I do not have any pan, beneath the meat. Still, I do baste both cuts from the renderings. I'll also either make a "sauce" with the drippings, or will "add" it to a pre-made sauce. Any sauce is applied after the meat is done, or so close to that point, that it will receive little heat, and carmalize/burn.

                                                      Hope that Chazzerking will chime in with specific recipes, etc.


                                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                        actually, what I do isn't adding liquid to the water in the drip pan, but rather using other liquids instead of water. For most pork, apple cider (or juice will work, just not as intense a flavor) is put in the drip?humidity pan. when the meet is done or nearly so, I'll drain the pan into a saucepan, and reduce it over high heat to a syrup consistency, which I then use to glaze the meat. The drippings will add some of the spice that was used to rub the meat and amplifies those flavors. the cider glaze gives the meat a great finish. For poultry, I'll use an mixture of black soy, vinegar and lime juice, or sometimes tea, especially when I'm doing a duck. I'll also sprinkle some of the tea leaves on the coals, to add some of that flavor to the smoke. The leaves should be slightly damp or they will just about vaporize when added. For Brisket, I use a mix of orange juice and red wine for the pan. when I'm reducing, I'll throw in a little tomato paste which just adds the right touch for the beef. ordinarily, I'll return the meat to the fire for about 5-10 minutes just to set the glaze. It can burn pretty quickly, so you do need to kep an eye on it once glazed.

                                                        1. re: chazzerking

                                                          I understand all the stuff about using the drippings, and how the water adds moisture in the oven. It sounds like neither of you have meat that ever touches water in the oven. Correct?

                                                          1. re: Scargod

                                                            That would be correct. Although in my case, neither the meat nor the drip pan ever enters the oven, but rather the grill

                                                            1. re: chazzerking

                                                              My son taught me a method where we make what would best be described as a steamer for ribs in the oven, then finish them on the grill. We use a dry rub on the ribs first. Then we get two of those heavy-duty aluminum roasting pans, ball up some foil in the lower pan, put an inch or so of water in it, set the second pan down on the foil balls with the ribs in it on a rack. Then we cover the whole thing with foil and slow cook over low heat for several hours. It's like smoking without the wood. The meat is pretty close to falling off the bone when they're ready for the grill.

                                                              Where does that fall on the scale of Q acceptability? Sounds like it's much like what Bill Hunt describes. Actually, I prefer slow grilling dry-rubbed ribs on the low heat side of the grill. I add a glaze for just the last 5-10 minutes. I think I'd really prefer a smoker if I had one, but just can't seem to justify it for as infrequently as I'd use it.

                                                              1. re: Midlife


                                                                My favourite rib joint (Dreamland) occasionally sprays water on the wood to keep the fire down and to create steam.
                                                                From what I've seen from competition footage and from restaurants, steaming is a very important component of fantastic ribs.


                                                                1. re: Midlife

                                                                  It's not so much steaming, as having a fair amount of ambient moisture in the grill throughout the cooking process. The process you describe is really steaming. It will produce very tender ribs, but not a lot of flavor, IMO. better to have the pan of liquid in the oven, if that's where you have to cook, but not sealed in with the meat.

                                                                  1. re: Midlife

                                                                    actually, when I do Chinese style spare ribs, I suspend the ribs from the upper rack in the oven(with some "S" hooks that I made for just this use) over a pan of water with ground ginger added to it. This keeps the oven moist, and also keeps the smoke from dripping fat down to a manageable level.

                                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                                      Midlife - the answer is obvious. Smoke more often and you will justify the smoker. Smoke ribs, smoke shoulders (butts), smoke beef briskets, smoke fish, duck, mussels, whatever you can get your hands on.

                                                                      I agree with Chazzerking about moisture. Controlling moisture is important - it's what makes good ribs. Periodic sprays of liquid creating clouds of steam could be a way to do it, but let's be clear as to what steaming is. Spraying water onto the ribs or fire is not really cooking with steam. The process you describe, on the other hand, could be steaming, if you get the temp above 212F, and the water turns from liquid to vapor, and the sealed environment means that you have on-going contact between the steam and the meat. If you do actually make and use steam to cook the meat, I believe that you will almost inevitably make it too moist - you will end up with falling-off-the-bone ribs, which I think of as mushy. Because steam is a gas and there is not a constant liquid convection against the meat, there may be less flavor lost when compared to par-boiling. But it would not yield the same result as low and slow cooking with convection over embers throughout the entire cooking process. I doubt that it would be acceptable under any bbq society rules.

                                                                      Moisturizing the hot air is not the same as steaming. If the water never boils, evaporation at lower than 212F is increasing the humidity of the air that is providing convection around the meat. The hot air also has the aromatics from the smoke in it, and that combination is what cooks the meat while giving it the right flavor and maintaining the proper humidity.

                                                                      Once again, this is not about how you should like your ribs. If you like your ribs to be falling off the bone, then you should cook your ribs to be falling off the bone. But that isn't classic q.

                                                                      I don't know a single person that regrets having bought a smoker. I know many that fooled around with their grills and wood chips for years before succumbing, and they all said the same thing - I wish I had bought the smoker sooner. I once gave a smoker to a friend as a wedding present, and they told me years later that nothing they got that day has given them as much pleasure for as long, as what I gave them.

                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                        Thgis may be a dumb question, buyt I really don't like the taste of some smoked meats like turkey, ham, etc.. I assume it has to do with the type of wood used in the process because I don't mind it so much with ribs or fish. Am I correct about the wood type or do certain specific meats/fish just smoke with very distinctive tastes?

                                                                        1. re: Midlife

                                                                          Actually, the type of wood doesn't have as much effect as you might think. The time in the smoker and amount of wood smoked has more to do with the overall strength and quality of the smoke flavor than the type of wood used. It's true that certain woods have a specific, strong flavor - particularly mesquite. But generally, you're not going to taste a huge difference between hickory, alder, and most fruitwoods. If you use freshly cut wood of any sort, you will get different flavors - but you may be poisoning yourself. Fresh wood has a lot of esthers and undesirable aromatics that create creosote, which will mess you up - both flavor wise and lungs if you inhale it - also messes up chimneys. Make sure all your wood is aged (dried) at least a year before using for food (or in the fireplace).

                                                                          Based on what you said, what you probably don't like is the brining - the curing or pickling of the meat prior to smoking. Q is typically not cured, although salt is part of the dry rub. By Q, I mean pulled pork (shoulder/butt), ribs (all kinds, including beef), brisket, and the whole pig. But meats like bacon, ham, and birds (chicken, duck, turkey), are typically cured by brining or direct chemical injection first, a process that is much stronger in terms of both providing protection and altering meat than just using salt in the dry rub. These meats are typically kept around a lot longer, and they need to be wiped clean of harmful microbials (botulism, salmonella, e. coli) so they don't spoil and become dangerous while stored.

                                                                          Curing meat is another preserving process, like smoking, but more effective. The two are often done in conjunction. In addition to salt, chemicals used are Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate), Pink Salt (Sodium Nitrite), and Sodium Nitrate. I have an old post that explains how these are used and what they do:


                                                                          Go to my entry at the very bottom of this thread - it's about as complete as I've put together here. Not to disparage anyone else, but there's a lot of hooey about these compounds not only on that thread but elsewhere on this site, so stick with that entry or get some of the books I mention in that entry.

                                                                          Fish is most often cured, as well (e.g.- smoked salmon), but perhaps you don't taste the curing quite in the same way. When a whole pig is smoked, it includes the pork belly, where the bacon is, and the ham (rear leg) - but these are smoked uncured, and have a different texture and taste than their cured counterparts. In fact, you can get hams and bacons that have not been cured, but only smoked, and you will see a big difference - you will probably actually like that ham.

                                                                          My #3 son has the same problem. He doesn't like store-bought hams (even some of the best). But he loves prosciutto, iberica and serrano, as well as true schwarzwald schinken - all hams that are cured only with salt, and not with sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate. The schwarzwald schinken is heavily smoked, while the others are just air-dried. You might try those to see if you like them. BTW, most store-bought hams labeled black forest ham are not even close to real schwarzwald schinken, despite the fact that, that is the translation.

                                                                          There's no such thing as a dumb question - but watch what you ask - someone may want to write a book in response... ;-)

                                                                          1. re: applehome

                                                                            I think you're correct that what I don't favor is the brined taste of smoked turkey and the like. Although...... I've had smoked BBQ ribs that had a similar taste, so it's possible that some Q is brined in the preparation. I can think of one place, in Monrovia, Ca. that I went to and found that taste in the ribs and chicken too (if I'm remembering correctly). I certainly do like prosciutto and serrano. And I like the ribs at Outback, Claim Jumper, Wood Ranch (LA area), Bad To The Bone (OC)....... which I'm guessing are not brined.

                                                      2. oh jeez. My korean mother loves to parboil ribs and then throw them in the oven, and then god forbid... slather them with kraft bbq sauce ):

                                                        When I hear that she's going to "bbq some ribs" I run for the hills. However last year I threw some in the smoker after brining them and covering them in a homemade rub and she loved them. The nice thing was that I didn't even cook them for that long...only like 4 hours and they turned out pretty good (for my first attempt).

                                                          1. If the flavor of the meat is so important, why do you use a dry rub or other flavor additive? I'm watching the 'Memphis in May' competition on FN. The overall winner pumped his whole hog full to overflowing with a well seasoned marinade. Others added sugar to enhance the bark.

                                                            Can anyone really taste the pork?


                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: paulj

                                                              You're saying that you can't taste the pork? Of course you taste the pork! When I make ramen, I boil pork and pork bones to extract the flavor into the soup. I add seasonings, including salt and pepper, but without the base of the pork flavor, the entire stock would be tasteless.

                                                              Enhancing the flavor of meat in a complimentary way is no sin. Removing whatever flavor there is - now that's the sin. You can take any piece of meat - beef, chicken, fish, duck, alligator - whatever, and boil it and remove it from the water. I will guarantee you that it will have less flavor. And that the water will taste better!

                                                              There are many wet ways to cook meat - poaching, braising, boiling. But they are known for making bland meat. Poaching, particularly makes bland meats - that's why it's such a well used method for cooking for older people, who cannot take sharp flavors or excessive seasonings. When serving such food to people with normal tastes and diets, the meat is enhanced, typically with rich sauces, often made from the reduction of the liquid of the boiled meat or other boiled meats.

                                                              If you honestly can't taste pork, then we have no argument - there is no way I can ever convince you of the removing of something you cannot tell was there to begin with. But I think that if you look around at the effort people spend on cooking meat, and the techniques they have developed to enhance the basic flavor of meat (e.g. - the maillard reaction), you'd have to agree that someone, somewhere appears to be able to taste it.

                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                The maillard reaction is the initial basis of searing/browning and then braising and finally grilling--what I do for large groups.

                                                            2. So there I was, lazily doing the crossword while the television was on. I hear stuff like "ribs" and "so you cook them before you cook them?"
                                                              Peering over the paper, I'm looking at the Fine Living network program called Food Finds (its either food shows or chowhound).
                                                              It was an episode on Boston.
                                                              So they're interviewing a woman who runs a sauce shop in Faneuil Hall (spelling?). Anyways, they're in her kitchen and she starts boiling a slab of ribs in mojo (you can buy it bottled in her shop, of course), so I smile, thinking how the posters are squirming already.
                                                              After an hour of boiling, she slathers them with a BBQ sauce (also available in her shop....), then, then, completely wraps them in foil so that "they remain nice and juicy" and plops the whole thing on her gas grill. She says you can even do it in your oven!
                                                              I just thought I'd share...

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: porker

                                                                Only Fine Living - the other non-food-TV Scripps channel - would showcase "bbq" in Boston. I guess they would go to Memphis for lobster. hmmm... I wonder if they low and slow cook lobster in Memphis if they boil ribs in Boston?

                                                              2. Okay,Here is my 2 cents'
                                                                IF you have all the stuff you need, go low and slow.
                                                                If you don't, put your ribs in a large/deep oven proof vessel " This is important" with the thick side of your spare rib pointing down as close to vertical as possible. Put in about enough water to cover the little knuckle bone. Cover with 2ply foil as tight as you can. Place in a 275 oven for about 2-3 hours,then cool them off before you put them on the coals.
                                                                Put a nice crust on them before sauceing/glazing.
                                                                It ain't right but it's damn good!!

                                                                1. To "tack onto" Applehome's thread, how many folk remove the interior membrane from a side of ribs?

                                                                  Just curious,


                                                                  14 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    Definitely! deft knifework before getting started is a must.

                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                      St. Louis style cut requires that you remove the membrane, the flap, and the cartilage. It creates a more even set of ribs, that cooks quicker. I do this most of the time, but not always. Sometimes, I leave the ribs whole (in terms of the cartilage and the flap), and just slice the membrane along the rib to insure that the rub gets in between.

                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                        Applehome & Sam,

                                                                        Thanks for the confirmation on this. I did not mean to hijack a thread, but thought this the best place and time to ask.


                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                          Bill; it's reall easy to remoove the silverskin on the insode of a side. Just slide the tip of a knife under the edge of the skin on the lower end (away from the backbone) of a middle rib and using the back of the knife, tent the skin just enough so you can get a finger under it. remoce the knife, insert your finger and push it along the bone to the other end. then gently pull up from the middle of the side and the skin will peel to the ends and then tear away. Once you get the hang of it, you can do a whole box of ribs in about a minute.

                                                                          1. re: chazzerking

                                                                            Question: is the very thin membrane on the back side of a rack of babybacks (as sold at most markets, Costco,etc.) the membrane you are all talking about? I don't remove it but it seems to disintegrate during the cooking process and is undetectable when the ribs are done. I've tried to remove it just to see if I can and it is so thin that it doesn't seem to want to come loose. What's the story on this?

                                                                            1. re: Midlife

                                                                              We weren't talking about back ribs, but about side or spare ribs. The thin membrane is removed for competition, but as you can see below, some folks like it. It doesn't disappear - it turns hard and kind of crunchy, and easily pulls off with the teeth.

                                                                              Some competitors feel that leaving it on hinders the flavoring of the meat in between the ribs - the dry rub doesn't penetrate. I've done both - removed it when making a St. Louis cut, but left it on if I'm leaving the flap and the cartiledge section in tact. But I do slit it between the bones so that the dry rub gets as far into the rib as possible. Personally, I like the rib left whole - but it does take longer to cook and does not come out as even. If I'm cooking for an event or a friend's cookout, I'll St. Louis it. People often think they're eating back ribs because the ribs are of even size and the rack is smaller. That's good - as back ribs are about twice the cost of spare ribs.

                                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                                Actually, my expeerience is that most sides of back ribs have the membrane aas well. these are the ones that are easy to remove. on full sides of spare ribs, as you indicate, knifework is needed. Personally, I like the flap left on but I like to trim off the tips and the vertebral edges, to a modified St. Louis cut.

                                                                                1. re: chazzerking

                                                                                  I trim the flap off. It gets smoked and then used in the bbq beans.


                                                                      2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                        I don't. I like the *snap* when I bite into the membrane.

                                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                                          I always feel like a Boor when you have to scrape the meat off the membrane with your teeth.


                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                            I used to remove the membrane, but I actually prefer on. Not so much for the *snap* as ricepad likes (which I appreciate as well), but rather the tearing sensation as its ripped from the bone with my teeth.
                                                                            I can understand the boor reference (even though I had to look it up!), but I feel its more than that. For me its a kind of feral or carnivorous thing...

                                                                            1. re: porker

                                                                              The very act of eating with your hands should be feral enough.


                                                                            2. re: Davwud

                                                                              I like to chew but I don't suck. That would make truly make me a sucking boor. I don't like it when people suck on their rib bones!
                                                                              I may be a boor but I don't think I am a pesant-like boor for wanting to chew all the meat off a bone. I don't make noise doing that either; my dog does...

                                                                            3. re: ricepad

                                                                              OK, Ricepad, I'll give you that one! However, it is a "to each, their own," sorta' thing. I'm not cool with the "snap," but that is just me.

                                                                              As for some of the following posts, in favor of the membrane, maybe it's that I'm from Mississippi, and only have ONE good tooth left... Or, maybe I just like to not have to deal with it, while eating.

                                                                              I was just curious, and I do see your point(s).

                                                                              From hence forth forward, I will *think* about the "snap!"


                                                                          2. Plain and simple, discussing and arguing about the "right" way to barbecue ribs is simply something to do to pass the time while you're waiting to eat. The very best ribs are always cooked the way that tastes best to you. And don't let anybody tell you different. '-)

                                                                            Caroline, the Heretic

                                                                            15 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              That is indeed the traditional Chowhound answer. But that answer leads to food anarchy - anything is acceptable to anybody, there is no reason to learn any existing technique, and any new technique or ingredient is always acceptable as long as you say it's good. If I burned something to a crisp and said I liked it, then it is acceptable.

                                                                              That's argument by extreme - and the truth, as always. lies somewhere in the middle - we all accept some truths to be self-evident, and spend our time hunting down the rest.

                                                                              The truth that I've argued here is that parboiling meat rarely leads to anything good. That's not to say that you can't parboil (in order to speed up the process) and then make up the lost flavor by some other technique, usually involving sauce (Sam mentioned searing to create a Maillard reaction). But indeed, you must be willing to do something to make up for the lost flavor. And if you had taken the time to roast or grill at a low temperature for a longer time instead of parboiling, I would bet that the final product would be even better - and there's no reason why you couldn't still sauce or sear to your heart's content.

                                                                              Ribs are difficult. Sushi is difficult. Charcuterie is difficult. Specific traditions evolve around some of the most difficult foods to cook, because there is a narrow range of excellence - perhaps a much wider range of edible or acceptable. I think you ignore those traditions at your own peril - you may be forever doomed to stating how much you like mediocre ribs, just like those that are forever going to say how wonderful that local Chinese restaurant sushi is. Of course, it's your right to think so - indeed, don't let anybody tell you different.

                                                                              1. re: applehome

                                                                                Very nicely written, but... WHERE did I say anything about mediocre? Where did I say not to use a technique suited to your goal? You are reading a whole lot into what I didn't say. Undoubtedly why I'm normally so wordy. Fear of being misunderstood.

                                                                                And for the record, I cook a lot of very difficult things and do them well. And no one -- not one soul -- has ever tasted my barbecue beef ribs and not fallen in love with them. But I wouldn't tell you guys how I make them for all the tea in China! It's quite enough for me that even the biggest barbecue "you have to do it this way" buff falls in love with them. '-)

                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                  Beef ribs!? we don't need no steenkin' Beef ribs! :)

                                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                    Well then - I will dream of your beef ribs, as I will probably never have the chance to try them. But bbqboy is right - the subtext of this entire discussion has been pork spare ribs (and the further denunciation of pork back ribs as a real bbq item... although that's admittedly somewhat arbitrary).

                                                                                    For myself, playing around with bbq as I have for over 20 years, I have learned to do spare ribs, brisket and pork shoulder (blade) as made into pulled pork. I simply haven't had the time (in my youth) to play with bbq beef ribs. I do beef short ribs as flanken, braised with several different sauces, and Korean kalbi, which is marinated and grilled, but both are far afield from American bbq.

                                                                                    So while I can speak with authority on spare ribs, I honestly can't comment on beef ribs - although what I believe in terms of parboiling meat in water is as much a scientific principal as a cooking one - something that comes from reading everyone from Herve This, Harold McGee, and Shirley Corriher (who quotes Kurti in warning against making meats tough by boiling). But perhaps there is absolutely no way to radiantly low and slow cook a beef rib, and it absolutely has to be parboiled. Since I've never done it, I can't say. Have you tried not parboiling your beef rib, but cooking it low and slow (not necessarily with embers, but perhaps in the oven) as a matter of comparison? How do you know parboiling makes it better?

                                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                                      Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! And where did I say I parboil my beef ribs? I did say I was not about to discuss how I make them. BIG secret! What if all of the rest of the world learned how to make the world's most fatastic barbeque beef ribs? I know how to keep a secret!

                                                                                      I will say this about barbecue spare ribs, and then I will run and hide and put on heavy armor... I have never had a well cooked, suculent pass-me-a-second-helping slab of ribs. Dry. Stringy. They always make me wish I had a hot dog.

                                                                                      The last time I had GREAT barbecued pork was in Greece. They did the whole pig.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        And that's obviously because you haven't had one of mine.

                                                                                        But this discussion is all about parboiling. Why admonish those who are decrying the parboiling of meat, if you don't believe in it yourself?

                                                                                        1. re: applehome

                                                                                          I did not say I don't believe in it. But I will add that for pork, I cannot see how parboiling would offer any advantage *IF* the pork is to be finished over the coals (or lava rocks). Parboiling melts and renders the fat, and it's the fat that makes meats flavorful and "juicy." Pork ribs have so little tissue around them that (seems to me) parboiling seriously boosts the chance of having dry, stringy meat (or what there is of it) in the end. And that would seem to be the only kind of barbecue pork rib I've ever had.

                                                                                          What are called "country spare ribs," that have a large portion of meat attached MAY be a whole different matter. But I've never come across those in a rack, nor had them barbecued (that I can recall).

                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            We need to get you to a real bbq place, caroline. Ribs should not be dry and stringy if done properly.

                                                                                2. re: Caroline1


                                                                                  I do agree with you. What is YOUR favorite wine? Why don't I love it, as you do? It's about personal tastes and nothing more.

                                                                                  OTOH, it does give me (us) something to do, while the computer is doing a three hour render of a video production, or similar. Yes, it is a CH-thing, and probably moot. But, it is so-o-o much fun to debate, and discuss.

                                                                                  Besides, CH does a little fanfare, when some post reaches the greatest # of responses. Maybe this will be the '08 winner?

                                                                                  Remember, I DO agree with you, and am just having a bit of fun, with my response. It's all about personal tastes and practices.


                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                    And learning - without which personal tastes and practices will never change. Imagine, you're forever doomed to drink nothing but California jug Chablis because you know you like it.

                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                      Favorite wine? Oh my god, Bill, cruel question! Would you ask the mother of twelve to name her favorite child? '-)

                                                                                      I have a strong preference (with some exceptions) for reds. Great beef demands great wine. While I do like most California reds, as well as reds from other countries, states, and regions, I love the soils of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Chianti. I love a great ruby port.

                                                                                      For me, whites are rather like the "filler" flowers in a bouquet. Champagnes (of couse!) are in a class by themselves. I've had great German whites, good American whites, but they just don't sing to me the way that reds do. With one singular exception: Sauternes! I may never have another bottle of Chateau d'Yquem in my lifetime, but that one bottle etched a memory like a glacier carving stone. It is for the ages! Which is a good thing since, alas, a medication has put the kabosh on wine with any great regularity. <sigh> My heart insists on syncopation, my cardiologists insists not. Which explains why I am not an avid participant in the wine discussions.

                                                                                      I think the greatest shortfall of cyberspace is its inability to physically deliver taste and smell. Which is why I find discussions such as this so amusing. About twenty years ago, around the time I got my first computer, I came up with an idea for a peripheral and software program that you placed in your mouth (the peripheral, not the software), then chose from an on-screen menu of foods, and the flavor, texture, and temperature would be precisely simulated in your mouth electronically. Alas, technology has failed to catch up with my thinking. But IF such a thing were possible, then this thread could turn into one magnificent global barbecue throwdown! And wouldn't THAT be fun!

                                                                                      Until then, we're limited to words. And words, at best, are mere innuendo. Especially with food.

                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                        Very good discussion Caroline.

                                                                                        BTW, I love beef ribs too. How do you do yours??


                                                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                                                          Oooh, DT, you're a good guy for asking, but there is no way I would share my secret recipe here... I might be lynched! '-)

                                                                                          1. re: Davwud

                                                                                            But I would share my barbecue sauce recipe with you, if I could remember it. I always make it from scratch, and I can tell you what I put in it. I just can't tell you the amounts because I keep putting in more until it tastes right.

                                                                                            I use a giant sized bottle of ketchup as the base. You can do it with tomato sauce, but it requires so much more doctoring. So:

                                                                                            tomato ketchup
                                                                                            cider vinegar
                                                                                            Worcestershire sauce
                                                                                            Colgin or Wright's liquid smoke
                                                                                            brown sugar
                                                                                            maple syrup
                                                                                            touch of cinnamon
                                                                                            minced garlic or garlic powder
                                                                                            dehydrated minced onions (make nice chunks in the sauce)

                                                                                            Then, depending on what I'm going to use the sauce on:
                                                                                            maybe some cumin
                                                                                            maybe some thyme
                                                                                            maybe some Szeged sweet paprika
                                                                                            maybe some Szeged hot paprika
                                                                                            maybe some La Chinata smoked paprika
                                                                                            maybe some chile powder
                                                                                            And sometimes, a little booze of choice. Bourbon is good, so is rum, tequila is okay, and vodka is a waste of good booze.

                                                                                            I usually simmer the barbecue sauce about a half hour to blend the flavors. It's the brown sugar that gives it a rich deep burgundy color. And no, I don't use wine in it because the wine is lost. I grill first, sauce later. Just a tiny careful bit of grilling with sauce on adds a nice flavor and touch of authenticity.

                                                                                            Sorry the proportions are out of reach. I'm a tasting cook, not a measuring cook! And truth be known, I'm pretty sure it's my barbecue sauce that people fall in love with, and not my beef ribs per se. Hope this helps... A little bit, anyway.

                                                                                    2. A very LOUD and resounding NO!

                                                                                      1. Its now rule 3A which states: "Parboiling and/or deep frying competition meat is not allowed."