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How to BBQ Ribs

Michael Baker

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So, you want to know how to BBQ Ribs expertly? Well, first of all you should understand that professional chiefs use “smokers", the best ribs are not cooked on a BBQ, as the cooking is too fast and the meat is then tougher! It is possible, however, to cook them in a conventional oven; the only thing missing will be that nice smoky flavour, but that can be added by simply putting a small amount of liquid smoke into your sauce.

The secret to great ribs is that they need to be cooked at low temps for long periods of time. Professionals cook all their meats this way; at 225°F for 6 hours for ribs, 10 - 12 hours for pork butts and up to 18 hours for brisket. But, don't worry, I will show you how to do ribs in around 3-4 hours!

First to dispel a couple of myths about ribs:

"The secret to great ribs is to boil them first!" and “Boiling/steaming gets all the fat out", BOTH WRONG! Never, ever boil or steam your ribs! I don't care what your mother taught you or what a famous chef on Food TV did. Never do it! In essence, what happens is the water or steam goes in and the flavour of the meat (and some, but very little of the fat) comes out. If you doubt this, taste the water after you have boiled something in it. This is the whole concept behind making soup! All the flavour ends up in the water! So, just don't do it!


The night before you should choose your favourite rub (combination of spices) and apply it to the ribs. Then wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. A truly great rib can be tested using simply salt and pepper; this is called a “dry" rib (a “wet" rib has sauce on it)! I suggest everyone try their ribs “dry" first, and then start experimenting with various rubs and sauces to find their favourite.

Take the ribs out of the fridge about 1 hour prior to cooking.

Cooking Method:

Preheat your oven to 275 F. If you have more time, you can set the oven at 250 F, and it will take about 4 hours to do.

Place a cake pan of hot water on the lowest rack. You may need to add water to this near the end.

Place the ribs in the oven bone side down and don't ever turn them (this allows the fat to ‘travel’ through the meat leaving all the flavour behind)! Place them on a wire rack directly above the water pan to catch the dripping fat.

After 1 1/2 hours of cooking (not before!), splash or mop the ribs with a mixture of 3 parts apple juice and 1 part oil. Do this every 1/2 - 3/4 hour until done.

To test for doneness, watch for the meat to pull back from the ends of the bones or insert a toothpick between the bones and if it goes through easily they are done.

Finally, apply any sauces 20 minutes or less prior to eating. This will avoid the sugars burning and turning black, and believe me, there's loads of sugar in every BBQ sauce!

Like I said, this whole process will take around 3 - 4 hours depending what temp you cook at. It may take a little practice to get to your desired doneness but that's half the fun! That's it, that's how to BBQ ribs and without a BBQ too!

Definitely make sure you know how to BBQ ribs before you start having everyone over. Maybe a trial run will ensure that when the pressure is on, your BBQ skills will shine.

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