Real barbecue by definition involves slow cooking meat over a wood fire, infusing smoke and flavour while the meat becomes tender and succulent. What most of us do in our backyards is actually grilling, not barbecue...but that's okay. If you don't want to invest in a competition BBQ smoker or fuss with wood fires, there is a way to cook barbecue on your gas grill using a small metal smoker box and store-bought wood chips. The process is still low and slow cooking, and by placing the smoker box over the gas flame and the meat indirectly (not over a flame) you can achieve BBQ that is pretty close to the real deal.
If you're planning on having the ribs for a later afternoon or evening dinner, start your prep work early in the morning or night before (if you have the time). Baby back ribs are more tender and less fatty than side or spare ribs. One thing that may make them less tender is a membrane on the bone side of the ribs called silver skin. If your butcher has not removed this, do so using a paring knife and your fingers. Once the ribs are free of the silver skin, season liberally on both sides with the dry rub (see recipe below). Stack your rubs and wrap in plastic, and store in the fridge to marinate for a few hours.
All-Purpose BBQ Dry Rub
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp allspice
1 tbsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
Combine all ingredients, mix well and store in an airtight container. Apply to all your favourite BBQ and grilled food such as ribs, pork chops, chicken, burgers and hot dogs, and add to homemade BBQ sauce.
For cooking the ribs, allow about 4 1/2 to 5 hours for the cooking process. You'll want to slow cook the ribs for about 4 hours on low heat (225-250 degrees) and then cook them over a flame while basting in BBQ sauce for the final 10-15 minutes.
To cook the ribs, light your gas grill and set the front burner to high and leave the rear burner off. Fill your metal smoker box with store-bought wood chips (many supermarkets carry these now in maple, hickory, mesquite and apple wood) and place it over the front burner. I find that there is no need to soak the chips for this technique. Once the grill comes up to about 225 to 250 degrees place your rib racks along the back part of the grill, including the small narrow upper gates if your grill has those. Stay by for the first little while as you calibrate your front burner setting in order to achieve an internal grill temperature of 225 to 250. If your grill thermometer does not work I'd encourage you buy an accessory one. When I made these ribs last week I achieved an even temperature of 230 and let the ribs go for four hours. Half way through I turned all the racks of ribs and dumped out some of the black wood chips and added some new ones. Warning, the smell of real BBQ and wood smoke may draw in your neighbours so make sure to cook extra.
After the ribs have cooked for four-plus hours they should be quite tender and able to be pulled away from the bone. You can eat them as they are (dry) and they will be delectable or you can turn on both flames and cook them further by basting them in homemade BBQ sauce (wet). I like both styles and often put a rack of dry aside. I usually coat one side of the ribs with sauce, turn and coat the other side, letting each side cook face down for about 2-3 minutes. I then repeat the process. Be careful during this step as the sugar in the sauce can burn easily.
Serve up with some coleslaw, baked beans and other BBQ favourites like baked potato and you'll be having some of the best BBQ you've ever made. There might be a bit of work involved but once you taste this it will be well worth it. Look out for the smoke ring in the meat once you bite in.
About Me...The Wicked Newfoundlander
I'm originally from Newfoundland, Canada, and very proud of it! I moved to upstate New York in 2007, and I spend much of my time working and playing throughout New England. Besides my wife, our dog and hockey, I'm passionate about food. I love to cook and create great tasting food. I also love tasting and critiquing food, and comparing regional cuisine (notably Newfoundland and New England dishes).
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