Nothing is more American than barbecued pork ribs in the summer. The key to good ribs: keep it
simple and follow the basics. The rib experts at the Pork Information Bureau (PIB) for the National Pork Board
(NPB) offer these tips for cooking ease and preparation.
Any of these methods will add bold flavor without fat:
Rubs -- Combine favorite herbs and spices to create endless options for pork ribs. Or purchase an already prepared rub. Apply rubs directly to the surface of ribs just prior to grilling, or rub and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.
Marinades -- Marinades can be put on ribs an hour to 24 hours before cooking. Always include an acidic component (such as vinegar or citrus juices). Never marinate in tomato-based barbecue sauces, which contain sugar, they will burn during grilling.
Spiced-Up Sauces -- Doctor up your favorite store-bought bottled sauce with favorite flavorful ingredients such as chili powder, orange marmalade or grated gingerroot. Brush on sauces during the last 20 minutes of grilling to avoid burning.
From sea to shining sea, every region of the U.S. boasts its own distinctive flavor profile. Here are some ways to showcase regional flavors with ribs:
Northeast -- Enjoy a sweet-sour tang by basting ribs with a mixture of
1/4 cup minced onion, 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard and 1 tablespoon soy sauce during the last 20 minutes on the grill.
Southeast -- "True 'Q" -style ribs can be basted with 1/2 cup cider vinegar,
1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon molasses and 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes every 30 minutes while on the grill.
Midwest -- Heartland ribs are slow-roasted on the grill, then painted during the last 20 minutes on the grill with 1 cup barbecue sauce, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon yellow mustard, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce and
2 tablespoons honey.
Southwest -- For contemporary Southwestern flare, rub a slab of ribs with a mixture of 2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon garlic powder,
1/2 teaspoon cayenne and 1 teaspoon ground oregano before slowly grilling.
West Coast -- California dreamin' is a reality by marinating ribs in 1/2 cup orange juice, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 teaspoons ground cumin and 1/2 cup vegetable oil for 4 hours - covered, refrigerated - before grilling.
VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE
The variety of ribs available lets you select a rack of ribs that suits your style:
Pork Back Ribs -- Also called baby back ribs, pork back ribs are cut from the blade and center section of the loin, and are known for the "finger meat" between the rib bones. These are favorites of rib aficionados because they're meatier than spareribs. Plan on one pound per hungry person when purchasing pork back ribs, which generally weigh between 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 pounds per rack.
Spareribs -- Cut from the belly or side of the hog, spareribs are the least meaty of all pork ribs, but spare nothing in taste. Plan on one pound per serving.
Country-Style -- The meatiest of ribs, country-style ribs are cut from the rib end of the loin. These pork ribs are perfect for those who want enough meat to use a knife and fork. A half pound of country-style ribs satisfies most appetites.
GRILLING RIBS RIGHT
It's easy to get ribs right if you follow these cooking instructions:
Slow Roast Ribs -- Cook ribs over medium-low, indirect heat by banking the charcoal around the edges of a covered grill or roasting in a 300-350 degrees F. oven. Grill or roast ribs for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. You'll know the ribs are done when you can "wiggle" the bone somewhat away from the meat.
Finishing Touches -- Some sauces may burn on the grill if brushed on too soon. Save tomato-based sauces and sauces containing a lot of sugar until the last
20 minutes of grilling or apply the sauce at the table as a finishing touch.
It's in the Bag -- For extra tender ribs, remove ribs from grill and wrap in heavy foil; place in a large brown paper bag, close bag and let ribs rest for up to an hour.
For more grilling techniques and mouth-watering recipes, get your FREE Ultimate Guide to Pork and Grilling from the National Pork Board:
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