There are literally hundreds of rib recipes out there. The one we proffer here is one we like because it is really easy, and it gives you a couple of places where you can stop and rest if you need to. Maybe someone breaks out mint juleps or their best homebrew. Maybe the guys out fishing or hunting are late getting back. Maybe the game goes into overtime. Hell, we don’t know. We just know it’s nice to not have to time everything like it’s a soufflé.
The first threshold you have to cross with ribs is: Pork or Beef? This is one of those intractable questions, like: “Paper or Plastic?” “Regular or DeCaf?” We don’t take sides here, as both have their merits. Wait a minute – yes we DO take sides. We prefer pork. But we like them both. Can we move along now?
Thanks. We expect you beef rib people out there to tell us why our heads are up our uh – well, let’s just say we expect constructive dialogue.
OK – So let’s just say that you’ve got a bunch of pork ribs. You need to know that ribs are tough. They’re an animal’s ribs, fer chrissakes. If you just throw them on the grill, they will tighten up like shoe leather. That’s why virtually any rib recipe will employ at least one technique for making them tender. This can be done by braising them, boiling them, or cooking them for a long time at low heat. All of these methods work, and all have their merits.
In this recipe, we boil them. Put the ribs in a big pot and boil them for 90 minutes. No more, no less. Also, it’s helpful to bring the water to a boil first.
Why, you ask?
The reason is that if you just put them in a big pot and throw the heat to them, the bottom rib will often stick to the pan and burn. This makes the whole batch taste like ashes, which is NFG. This is one of the things we learned the hard way. (See how sharing the WHY part of a recipe is helpful?)
Get the water boiling, put the ribs in, and then SLOWLY bring it back to a boil. Not a full rolling boil, just enough to keep the water bubbling a little.
Now rest. You’ve got 90 minutes to do something else. Have a beer, for instance. Or poke the fire. Maybe check the score on the game.
When you remove the ribs from the boil, they should still be strong enough to hold together if you put a big fork in them to lift them from the pot. If they have boiled so long that they come apart, they will be difficult to handle once they are on the grill. You MAY want to check them periodically as they are boiling, to make sure that they don’t get overdone. But remember, 90 minutes.
Whew! Ribs boiled and out of the water. Let them drain, then sprinkle them generously with salt and let them rest.
Ribs salted and standing. We don’t recommend letting a stack of ribs like this sit around anywhere there is a Labrador retriever.
Another WHY tip here -- You don’t want to salt the water they boiled in because you PROBABLY want to reduce the liquid for stock. If you salt it before hand, the stock will be too salty when it’s reduced.
If you don’t already have a ravenous crowd standing around you waiting to be fed, take another break.
Ribs salted – fire checked – Get a fresh beverage. It’ll do you good. Maybe you are even the type of cook who does all this boiling the day before, so you can relax on burn day. Just a thought….
When you are about a half hour from feeding time, it’s time to cook the ribs. Really, you aren’t cooking them, since they are already well cooked. You are finishing them on the grill.
You’ve got a lovely bed of nice, deep coals ready, right?
Ignore the Dutch oven – for now. This is what a deep bed of grilling coals should look like. This is WHY you start a big fire one or two hours ahead of cooking time.
Now put the grill on the Cauldron, and put the ribs on. The notion here, the goal, really, is to brown them and sauce them so that the sauce has been absorbed into the meat, and isn’t dripping and running off everywhere.
It’s best to bush or spoon on the sauce so you have some control, and don’t waste much.
This is Chef Denny. You’ll see a lot of him around here He’s a real iconoclast, and one of the best cooks we know – as much as we hate to admit it. Denny is also the founder and owner of Butter Pat Industries -- our sister company which produces the finest cast iron skillets in the country.
He ONLY cooks South Carolina style ribs, which you see here, but the principle is the same.
One more HUGE tip, which we remind you again, you didn’t pay for, but should have.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate.
You know, even your most imbecilic buddies can be co-opted into rendering serviceable assistance, if you give them simple, direct instructions. There’s just no reason they should be drinking cold, frosty beer while you are doing all the work.
Here’s what to tell them: Brush or spoon on the sauce, especially the meaty side, because the bone side won’t absorb much. Once the sauce has pretty much sunk in, turn the ribs briefly to evaporate the liquid, then repeat. You want the ribs to be nice and brown.
Look at all the hustle and bustle – and I’m taking pictures! Cauldrons make cooking SO easy.
Dan here couldn’t cook his way out of a cardboard box, but with clear instructions he did just fine.
Here are a bunch of ribs ready to feed the masses. Note that they aren’t all sloppy and goopy, with stuff everywhere. They are browned, sauced, and will make you a culinary rock star. Like Chef Denny.
Hey, I tried your recipe and it didn’t work…. Blah blah blah.
First Rule of Life & Cauldrons: No whining.
Second Rule of Life & Cauldrons: Practice makes perfect. If you over-boiled your ribs, burned them, dropped them in the sand, or whatever, think about where the mistake was. Try one more time. Seriously. We’re not saying try, try again or any of that other mamby-pamby inspirational crap. Apparently, that’s what office posters are for. Just learn from your mistake(s) and give it one another shot. We’ll bet that you kick some serious ass the second time around.
And a last practical tip: You don’t need to make ribs for 50 your first shot try. In fact, for sure, don’t to it. You can experiment on your friends, but you probably want to make just one or two racks some afternoon to get the hang of it all. The worst that can happen is you spend a few pleasant hours around a beautiful fire.