By Mike Barnett
Talk barbecue in Texas and images of the best brisket in the world dance in my head. I’ve never cooked a decent brisket, but I do know it’s a lengthy process and an art. So I go to one of the famous Central Texas pits to cure my BBQ cravings. Unless I have a hankering for pork. I’ve found acceptable—but not really good—ribs in the Lone Star State. So, I learned to cook my own.
My family craves them. My friends demand them. They are really easy to make.
I first tried them several years ago after I heard about a recipe on WBAP radio in Fort Worth. I don’t remember what they called them, but I do remember that I tried them and they were better than any I had ever eaten. So, I’ve refined the recipe over the years to suit my needs.
For Mike’s Baby Back Pork Ribs, you will need…
2 slabs (3-lb. each) baby back ribs
Fiesta Rib Rub
One bottle of beer
Kraft Thick and Spicy barbecue sauce
4-6 chunks of mesquite wood
A little bit of water
I only cook things that meet three criteria: 1) it must be easy; 2) I don’t have to measure; and 3) other people can’t cook it better. These ribs hit the mark.
First, choose your ribs carefully. I like meaty baby backs with some fat on top. Some people recommend cutting the membrane off the back of the ribs during prep. I don’t because it’s too much work. I justify it by thinking that the membrane keeps the ribs moist and juicy. It tends to shrivel up in the last process anyway.
Second, prepare the ribs for cooking. Some people prefer to mix up their own rub, but remember, this is an easy recipe. Buy some Fiesta Rib Rub. It’s great. Apply a thin layer of mustard on both sides of the ribs. You can’t taste it after it cooks, and it helps form a char to retain moisture. Then, sprinkle Fiesta Rib Rub liberally on both sides of the ribs. Let them sit at room temperature for one hour.
Prepare your fire 30 minutes before cooking. I use indirect heat on a Weber charcoal grill. Pile 35 bricks of charcoal on one side of the grill and light. Too much charcoal and your fire will get too hot.
Pour the beer into a drip pan. Place in the bottom of the grill next to the fire. When the charcoal turns gray, the fire is ready. Do not spread the charcoal.
Place the ribs, meaty side up, on the cooking surface on the opposite side of the fire. Add mesquite chunks (two to three) directly on the coals for smoke. (The grilling surface on my Weber has flip-up wings, which makes it real easy to add more charcoal and wood. I did it on a regular grill for years, but it’s a bit more challenging.) The vent on the bottom of the grill should be fully open. Also, open the top vent all the way, and put the grill top on with the vent directly over the ribs to draw smoke. Cook for one hour.
After an hour, you need to maintain heat in the grill. Add 10 more bricks of charcoal to the burned-down. Add two or three more chunks of mesquite. Turn the ribs, meaty side down, and move the ribs to where the one furthest away from the fire is now closest to the fire. This ensures one slab doesn’t get ready before the other. Take a nap for another hour.
Now you have enough smoke. You’ve formed a char on both slabs. The ribs are nice and juicy but not yet tender. Wrap the ribs separately in aluminum foil, adding about half a jigger of water to each. Add 10 more bricks of charcoal and cook with indirect heat for another hour.
The way to tell if the ribs are ready is to stick a fork in them. There should be little to no resistance. Cook longer if needed, although I rarely have to.
Take the ribs off the grill. Some people can’t resist and eat them right away. I prefer to add one final step.
Leave the ribs tightly wrapped in foil and build another fire. This time, spread the coals when ready. It’s important not to get the fire too hot, so go easy on the charcoal. Remove the foil and apply a thin coating of barbecue sauce on both sides of the ribs. I use Kraft Thick and Spicy because I like the way it tastes and it spreads easy. Throw the ribs back on the grill, cooking 2 ½ to 3 minutes on each side. It puts an additional char on the ribs that gives them an extra oomph!
Now you’re really hungry because you have smelled the wonderful aroma of grilled pork all day. Serve with pinto beans, pickles, white bread and a glass of iced tea…heaven on a plate.
From all of us at Texas Table Top, enjoy!
Recipe: Mike’s Baby Back Pork Ribs
Summary: Easy smoked pork ribs that fall off the bone
- 2 slabs (3-lb. each) baby back ribs
- Fiesta Rib Rub
- One bottle of beer
- Kraft Thick and Spicy barbecue sauce
- 4-6 chunks of mesquite wood
- A little bit of water
- Prepare ribs by applying a thin layer of mustard to both sides. Liberally sprinkle ribs with Fiesta Rib Rub. Let ribs sit at room temperature for one hour.
- Half an hour before cooking, prepare the fire. Pile 35 bricks on one side of the grill and light.
- Pour the bottle of beer into a drip pan and set next to the charcoal pile. Do not spread the charcoal.
- Once the fire is ready, place the ribs, meaty side up, on the side of the grill opposite the coals. Add 2-3 chunks of mesquite wood to the coals. Cook ribs for one hour.
- After one hour, add 10 more bricks of coal to the pile, along with 2-3 more chunks of mesquite wood. Turn and rotate the ribs for even cooking. Cook for an additional hour.
- Remove ribs from heat and wrap each rack in aluminum foil. Add a small amount of water to each foil pack.
- Add 10 more bricks of charcoal to the fire. Place ribs (wrapped in foil) back on the grill, opposite the fire, and cook for another hour.
- For added flavor, remove the ribs from the grill and build another fire. Spread coals evenly when ready.
- Remove foil, and coat ribs with barbecue sauce.
- Put ribs back on the grill, cooking for 2 1/2-3 minutes per side.
- Remove ribs from the grill and serve.
Prep time (duration): 4 hours, 15 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6-8