Well folks, we are into Round 2 (final round) of the infamous (thanks to Twitter) Fried Chicken and BBQ Rib Throw Down. To check out the Twitter banter around the contest, go to #ThrowDown. If you want to know how this all got started, read the first few paragraphs of the LunaCafe’s Spicy Fried Chicken post, which was our Round 1 entry.
At the end of this post, you can also check out the throw down rules, list of contestants, and the recipe posts so far. Contestants have until end of day June 29th to post their entries.
But in case you don’t make it to the end, I want to add a special note of thanks here to Mark LaPolla of the Life By Chocolate blog, who orchestrated the contest and the unruly, hooligan contestants. We somehow managed to break every rule, especially the “Don’t taunt Bobby Flay” rule, and yet he handled it all with exceedingly good humor. Thank you, Mark! We owe you, cowboy! J
Now, on to the ribs…
If my BBQ ribs have a “secret ingredient,” it’s definitely the brining process. I confirmed this for myself yesterday. I was in a rush to launch this post and thus decided not to brine the ribs. I mean, really, whose going to notice?
Everything was going swimmingly until MauiJim took his first bite of the beautifully glazed, incredibly tender ribs. I was expecting RAVES. But instead he asked what I did differently this time. Rather than tell him, I asked for his impression.
His response was spot on. He said,” It’s like the flavor is ON the meat, not IN the meat.” He was right. Not only did I not brine the ribs, I didn’t marinate them in the sauce for any length of time either. I broke all my own rules. Never again though. I’ve learned my lesson.
Unless you have access to a smoker grill that will allow you to slow smoke the ribs and thus infuse a marvelous flavor in that way, brining, in my opinion, is a must. It is the only way I know of, other than smoking, to ensure that your chosen flavors permeate the meat all the way to the bone. Even a killer sauce can’t do the entire flavoring job.
My other BBQ Rib “secret” is to slow-poach the ribs prior to grilling. With slow poaching, you break down the connective fiber, which fast grilling does not do. The ribs are then incredibly tender.
I also love this method because I never have to worry whether the ribs are cooked to the necessary internal temperature for safe consumption. Plus all major steps are done ahead. All you need to do just before serving the ribs is heat them through and brown the glaze. It doesn’t get any easier than this.
I almost forgot to mention that these BBQ ribs are over-the-top delicious. I have served them at numerous Fourth of July family gatherings, and they are always the star attraction. Folks are still talking about them even years later. I LOVE that. J
Grilling Tips & Tricks
- For the best grilled flavor possible, use wood charcoal alone or in combination with wood chips (which must first be soaked in cold water). Mesquite, alderwood, peachwood, and applewood are all excellent flavor producers.
- Charcoal briquettes vary widely in quality and are less desirable as a grilling medium– although they are so easily available, it is always a temptation to use them. With briquettes, look out for the smell of petroleum (motor oil). It is often used to bind the pieces together and it doesn’t always cook off before you are ready to barbecue. A greasy, smudged residue on your hands after touching one of these briquettes is a good indication as to the use of petroleum by-products in the charcoal.
- Be sure to start your fire in plenty of time to insure it is thoroughly active when you begin to grill. This will usually take 35-45 minutes; the coals should be covered with a coating of ash.
- Your grill should be cleaned thoroughly after each use to prevent a buildup of heavy, off flavors. Always brush the grill rack with oil before putting anything on it.
- 15-20 briquettes are plenty for a couple of chickens or two racks of baby back ribs; be sure to spread the coals out evenly before you begin to cook. The closer together the coals are spaced, the hotter the fire will be.
- With the advent of urban living, condos with miniscule decks or no decks at all, and gas grills, charcoal grilling is not always an option. That’s OK. You can get delectable (although not the same) results using a gas grill or even an oven.
- Although baby back ribs should be meltingly tender even without a brine, there is no way (other than smoking) to get flavor all the way into the meat without brining it. If you cannot smoke and grill over natural charcoal with added soaked wood chips, don’t even think of not brining.
- Whatever flavors you add to the brine will permeate your meat.
- Baby back ribs are a great choice for BBQ because they are succulent, tender, and a perfect size for eating with your hands. I prefer pork, but beef ribs are wonderful too.
LunaCafe’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Garlic-Ginger BBQ Sauce
These ribs are meltingly tender as a result of the brining and slow poaching processes specified here. They are also a snap for the host, because they are fully cooked ahead, thus requiring only a brief period on the grill before serving.
3 full racks baby back pork ribs (each rib should contain 12-14 ribs)
2 quarts unsweetened apple cider (unpasteurized if you can get it)
1/4 cup wildflower honey
1/4 cup fine sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
5 star anise pods
Garlic-Ginger Barbecue Glaze
2 cups best-quality catsup
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup wildflower honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon anise, ground with a mortar and pestle.
- Cut the racks into 3 or 4 rib sections. You should get 3 to 4 sections per rack.
- Arrange the ribs in a large nonreactive container.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cider, honey, salt, ginger, garlic, and anise. Whisk to dissolve the salt.
- Pour cider mixture over the pork ribs, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
- Up to two days before serving, drain the brine solution completely from the pork.
- Put ribs in a large pot and fully cover with cold water.
- Bring water to a bare simmer?just a bubble or two on the surface.
- Maintain this bare simmer for 45 minutes, using a cover if necessary.
- Using long-handled tongs, remove ribs from the water and place in a large nonreactive container.
- While ribs are cooking, make the glaze by combining all glaze ingredients in a large saucepan and bringing to a simmer.
- Stir until the butter melts, and then remove from the heat.
- Dip each pre-cooked rib section in the prepared sauce and rearrange in the container.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill, preferably at least 6 hours.
- To grill, prepare a charcoal or gas grill and brush the grilling surface with vegetable oil.
- Arrange sauce-coated rib sections on the grill and lightly brown each side while heating through. Brush with sauce each time you turn. The glaze should look burnished and sticky, rather than wet, when the ribs are done.
- Alternatively, place the glazed ribs on a rack set on an edged baking sheet. Bake or roast at 400°, turning once, until the surface of the ribs is nicely browned and the ribs are heated through, about 30 minutes.
- Pile onto a platter to serve. Include additional glaze on the side.
Fried Chicken or BBQ Ribs Throw Down Rules & Contestants
A huge thank you to Mark LaPolla of the Life By Chocolate blog, who master-minded this throw down, corralled the wild and woolly contestants, and kept a steady stream of hilarious Twitter banter going around the contest. This throw down has been a hoot!
Also, our apologies to Bobby Flay, the throw down king, whom we badgered mercilessly on Twitter for weeks. It was all in fun, Bobby! We were really hoping you would join our party. J As a peace offering, there’s a pointer below to your Asian Spice Rubbed Ribs, which sound fantabulous.
SMS Bradley, Pacific Northwest
- LunaCafe’s Spicy Fried Chicken
- LunaCafe’s Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Ginger-Garlic Barbeque Sauce
Mark LaPolla, New York
Gluten Free Sanctuary
Leslie McLinden, Arkansas
Brenda Campbell, Washington
Jan Richards, California
Joyce Paige, Kansas
Twitter: @SilknPearls or @GFGrandmaBNC
Andrea Rowe, Pacific Northwest
Nancy Kohler, New Jersey
Other Noteworthy Fried Chicken or BBQ Ribs Blog Posts
David Lawrence, Los Angeles
Bobby Flay, United States
More Pork Recipes from LunaCafe:
- Apple Cider-Brined Tenderloin of Pork with Rhubarb Deglazing Sauce
- Homemade Mexican Chorizo–with a Secret
- Pasta Carbonara Perfecta Mundo
- Smoky Spanish Zarzuela with Chorizo & Emmer Farro
- Spinach & Egg Fettuccini with Wild Mushrooms & Pancetta (Straw & Hay)
- Strozzapreti with Spicy Italian Sausage, Broccolini & Garlic Crema
- The Best Damned Hash