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Ribs: Fast or Slow?

I love making ribs and I am good at it. My way is low and slow, 4-6 hours, with the last couple of hours, covered, to essentially braise. But then I saw Ed Mitchell.

Ed is a real North Carolina rib man, whom Bobby Flay challenged on Food Network. He clearly knows his ribs. But surprise!! He cooks them on high heat (he didn't say how high) for 20 minutes a side!!!

No, that can't be!

So what's the low-down (or maybe the high-up) on high heat ribs? What's your way?

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  1. OK, found a thread on this topic on the Barbecue Bible's bulletin board <http://tinyurl.com/ltdjsf>. One person said that Ed smoked the ribs first, then put them on high heat before serving. That makes sense, if they are reporting it correctly.

    I don't think you can do ribs in less than an hour -- of anyone has another experience, please advise.

    1. Depends on the "rib".

      Beef and pork back ribs come off of a prime tender part of the animal. They can be grilled at high heat.

      Spare ribs will not yield a tasty edible product treated this way. They need longer cooking time under lower heat.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Brandon Nelson

        I would agree here with Mr. Nelson. It depends on the ribs of choice. Baby Back Ribs can be cooked in a shorter amount of time, but I still prefer a longer slow roast at a low temperature of 225* whenever time is not a factor or problem. Covered or not, both BB and St Louis Style ribs both come out with excellent results. Whenever I cover ribs, I always cook on a rack...which essentially becomes a steam, rather than a braise. Cooking on a rack insures the seasonings stay on the ribs a little longer than swimming in liquid. Whenever ribs are covered or wrapped in foil, the ribs are always finished on the grill or under the broiler.

      2. yes, it is possible to cook ribs in 45 minutes or so. it is surely possible to get them done over this period--think pork chops. they'll be more grilled than smokey and more "peel off the bone" than "fall off the bone."

        i don't do this very often--i prefer slow smoked ribs (and honestly, all the fooling around called for when cooking this way). still, the faster method is a useful change up to have in your repertoire of techniques. i wouldn't say "high heat"--rather, the heat you'd use to grill pieces of chicken or a smidge hotter, depending on the fat content of the ribs. you're shooting for a dark color with some charring--not a slab of bone-in cinders.

        1. Bobby Flay smoked his ribs before grilling. Ed Mitchell cooks his on the grill. Mitchell starts with North Carolina cut ribs, Flay uses St. Louis cut ribs. Mitchell states he goes fast and hot. Though Mitchell doesn't specify a temperature. (Flay on another rib throwdown episode had the temp at 450-550. I'll update if I catch that other rib episode again. Mitchell seasons with dry rub before he grills, and he mops with two sauces (combo of east and west North Carolina style sauce) after the ribs are cooked. Mitchell states that mopping with sauce before or during cooking only cooks/burns the sauce not the meat. Mitchell says cook your ribs first, then put on the mop. Mitchell also states during the episode that he cooks the ribs about 20 minutes on each side.

          2 Replies
          1. re: chowhoundfan

            Amending previous post...In the second rib Throwdown with Bruce "Buz" Grossberg of Buz & Ned's Real Barbecue, VA, Bobby Flay cooked his ribs at 500 degrees for 1 hr - 1hr 20min.

            1. re: chowhoundfan

              I just saw this episode and I don't get it. 20min /side at high heat. This isn't enough time to breakdown collagen for fall off the bone ribs.

              What exaclty is a North Carolina cut of rib? His racks looked like trimmed St. Louis style.

            2. I only do spare ribs. Smoke them for three hours via indirect heat after applying a rub. After removal from the smoker, I baste them in a white vinegar mop sauce, sprinkle on more of the rub and then slice. I've not had their equal anywhere if I do say so myself.

              1. You can do baby back ribs on the grill over direct heat. Takes about 40 minutes. Definitely a different product than smoked ribs cooked low and slow but still tasty.

                1. I have a friend who does his baby backs on the rotisserie on the grill. I think he only cooks them for an hour or less. They are pretty good and not tough but definately not as tender as the ones that I do low & slow in the oven for hours and then finish on the grill.