Summertime is upon us – women look better, beer tastes colder and, for some reason, we’re drawn like a magnet to the outside grill. In past posts, we’ve talked about some great grilling ideas, such as
- Argentinean flank steak
- Six-Pack Chicken
- Smoked Brisket
- Tacos de Carne Asada (Grilled Beef Tacos)
This summer, let’s talk about ribs on the grill. They are inexpensive, healthier than you think, and easy to prepare, especially with our KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) recipe.
When we talk about ribs on the grill, we are talking about pork ribs. We are not talking about beef ribs such as the “Standing Rib Roast”, which is a wonderful dish, generally roasted in the oven, and more of a winter dish. The other rib cut from beef is the “short rib” which is really the end of the rib in the belly area. These tend to be fatty but they can be rendered with slow cooking in the oven. Again, this is not really a summer dish and almost never done on the grill.
There are two types of pork ribs:
- Spare Ribs come from the lower portion of the rib cage. Often, they are trimmed into a neat rectangular shape and called St. Louis ribs. Spare ribs are generally larger than back ribs, have more meat and fat, but are also tougher. You can often find them on sale for a about $2.50 a pound.
- Back Ribs, or baby back ribs as they are commonly called, are the generally preferred cut. They come from the upper portion of the rib are generally smaller than spare ribs, but are less fatty and more tender. They are also more expensive, usually about $5.00 a pound.
Pork ribs are surprisingly good for you. They have a 30% protein content. Even the fat is relatively healthy. Fifty percent of the fat is monounsaturated which is the same as olive oil and avocados. The remainder is mostly saturated fat, which, in moderate amounts, is now considered beneficial by many nutritionists. In any case, a good portion of the fat is rendered away during cooking. Pork has no trans fats, but does have tons of vitamins, especially the B vitamins, including thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin and riboflavin. They are also loaded with minerals, such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium. Bottom line: Eat ribs and forget the vitamin pills.
Probably no subject has more variations than cooking ribs. Everyone has their favorite seasonings, sauces, rubs. We have more than 500 rib contests all across the country every summer; one has a $75,000 prize. The arguments about best recipes and techniques are endless and about as interesting as most of the hunting, fishing and other stories men tend to tell when beer is involved. It’s all too complicated – we need something SIMPLE!
In the summer of 2015, we did some Wandering Foodie articles about restaurants in the Wisconsin and we talked to some of the best known rib makers. Those conversations and my own experience have convinced us that there is a simple way to prepare ribs that will still wow the crowd. We call them KISS Ribs.
To start, we have to remember that ribs are very tough and have a lot of connective tissue. The best way to “melt” the connective tissue is to bake the ribs at a medium heat for about two hours for back ribs and a little longer for spare ribs. You can do the baking any time, even the day before. When ready to serve, take the cooked ribs, add your favorite BBQ sauce and put them on a very hot grill for about 10 minutes. You will have perfect ribs that fall off the bone.
For the smokers in the crowd, we know that it is almost sacrilegious to cook the ribs first in the oven, but we urge you to give this technique a chance. Bake the ribs first, get your favorite wood chips and put the cooked ribs in the smoker for about 1-1/2 hours. You’ll love the result and you don’t have to man the smoker all day or all night.
Smoking on the Grill
If you don’t have a smoker, you can set up a gas or charcoal grill for smoking. Here’s how you do it. Buy a small aluminum foil pan and some wood chips; both are usually available at the supermarket. Punch about 10 holes in the bottom of the pan with a pen or screwdriver. Soak the wood chips in water for about at least 15 minutes, drain and put them in the foil pan. Set your grill for indirect cooking, which means most of the charcoal on one side or, for gas grills, one burner is on high and two are on low. Place the pan with the chips over the hottest part of the coals or over the gas burner set to high. While cooking, keep the lid closed and refrain from checking how things are going.
Here’s the recipe: Legendary KISS Ribs:
- Two racks of back ribs or spare ribs
- One can of Coca-Cola
- Two tsp. salt
- One tsp. pepper
- One 16 oz. jar of Hines Original BBQ sauce (You can use any BBQ sauce. I just think it is difficult to beat Hines Original)
- One lb. wood chips (if you are smoking)
- One aluminum foil pan (if you’re smoking on a grill)
- Put the ribs in a large roasting pan with a wire rack on the bottom.
- Pour the Coca-Cola over the ribs and then sprinkle salt and pepper on top.
- Cover the roasting pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees F. for two hours for back ribs and two and one-half hours for spare ribs.
- When finished, set aside, covered, until ready to finish on the grill or smoker.
- Get grill to a high heat (at least 400 degrees).
- Brush a thick coat of BBQ sauce onto the ribs and put onto the hot grill.
- Cook for five minutes on each side, basting to your heart’s delight.
- If using a grill, set it up for smoking as described above
- Soak the wood chips in water for at least 15 minutes; drain when ready to start cooking.
- Get grill or smoker to about 250 degrees F. and add the wood chips.
- Put the ribs onto the smoker or the low heat side of the grill for one hour. If you really like the smoked flavor, let them go for 1.5 hours.
- Decision Time: Serve the ribs as they are – the purist alternative, or baste with BBQ sauce and finish on the grill – the crowd pleaser alternative.
Cut the meat into two-rib portions before serving and enjoy. You’re eating something good and also healthy.
Pork Fat or Lard – Healthier than You Thought
The pork fat from ribs, bacon, belly and other fatty cuts is commonly called lard. Lard has, unfortunately, earned a bad earned a bad reputation because of saturated fat. Lard has about 40% saturated fat. However, “a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease.A Japanese prospective study that followed 58,000 men for an average of 14 years found no association between saturated fat intake and heart disease, and an inverse association between saturated fat and stroke (i.e. those who ate more saturated fat had a lower risk of stroke).”
The FDA has is reviewing the data and, in the meantime, continue to list saturated fat as a cause of heart disease. We feel that saturated fat, like the egg, will be vindicated soon.
Even more encouraging is that 50% of the fat in lard is monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, which are the same heart healthy fats you find in olive oil and avocados.