True barbecue, where meat is cooked long and slow has its place, of course, but isn't the easiest or quickest thing to cook at home. Grilled ribs are delicious, too, as long as you treat them right. No matter what ribs recipes you use, these four tips will make sure they turn out tender and delicious, with crispy bits along the edges, every time.
Looking for a specific recipe? This one for Spicy Glazed Ribs is my favorite.
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Don't Forget the Dry Rub
Dry rubs are usually made with herbs, spices, salt, pepper, and sometimes sugar. (Even a "rub" of plain salt will help ensure that ribs are as flavorful as they can be.) Dry rubs are important because the fat on the outside of the ribs will melt and meld with the dry rub, forming a delightful tasty little crust. Sugar in a dry rub will allow a bit of caramelization along with the Maillard reaction (that's the technical term for why browned meat is so delicious), creating an even... tastier rib.
If making your own rub, use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt for every pound of meat. Know that a bit of paprika (or smoke paprika!) adds some nice color to the mix and the final ribs.
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Cook Ribs Over Cool Heat
Cool heat? Sounds like an oxymoron, but it's the term for the cooler part of a hot grill. How you can create a "cool zone" depends on the type of grill you're using:
Charcoal grill: Bank coals to one side of the grill and cook the ribs over the area without coals under it. Large cuts, like ribs, that need longer cooking times to get tender take long enough to cook that the high heat from being set directly over coals will burn the outside well before the inside is cooked and... tender.
Gas grill: Turn all burners on until the cooking grate is hot, then turn off one of the burners and place the ribs over that section of the grill.
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Use a Drip Pan
Place a drip pan on the grill grate under the section of the cooking grate where the ribs will cook. It will help minimize flare-ups and burned ribs, and keep the "cool heat" section from over-heating.
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Sauce Them At the End—Fully Optional!
Quality grilled ribs don't necessarily need a sauce, but lots of people love to use one anyway. Most ribs sauces contain at least some amount of sugar, honey, or maple syrup—all of which burn easily. Saucing ribs at the end will help avoid a burnt and crusted sauce.