Drew’s Clues: Pork Spareribs

by firsthandfoods on April 8, 2014

Included in our (M)eat Local Box this month is a rack of pork spareribs.  The spareribs are cut from the section of the rib cage that runs along the side or belly, while the baby back ribs are from the section that is closer to the back or loin.  Our spareribs are cut “St. Louis Style”, which just means they are trimmed of most of the bone or cartilage that runs along the bottom of the ribs.  This makes it much easier to cut through the meat in between the ribs.

pork ribs diagramAnd speaking of that meat, in my opinion it is some of the tastiest on the hog.  Rib meat really can’t be beat for flavor and sweetness.  Only trouble is, it is pretty tough stuff that needs to be cooked long and slow in order to reach a state of supreme edibility.  There are a number of ways to achieve this.  They can be cooked in the oven, on a gas grill or on a charcoal grill.  The charcoal grill is what I like and think it bestows the best and most complementary flavor to ribs.  It does require a bit more work than the other options, but ribs are sort of a “project” meal so go ahead and embrace the project.

As for seasoning, the most traditional style would be a rub, but a standard brine works great too.  For my most recent attempt at ribs I borrowed from a Thai recipe.  It suggested combining ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup Shaoxing wine (I happened to have this around but you could replace with sherry or some other booze if you don’t have time to run to the Asian market), 2 tablespoons finely grated ginger, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and marinating the ribs over night. I used a large gallon size Ziploc for this and turned it over a couple of times to make sure that all the ribs are well coated with the marinade. This quantity of marinade is intended for 4 lbs. of ribs.  When you’re ready to cook, set aside a few hours and get your grill going.  I use a standard Weber kettle grill and got a charcoal chimney going with a full load of briquettes.  Once they’re lit, place the briquettes all the way to one side of the grill before replacing the grill grate.   You’ll want to wait until the temperature of the grill dies down to about 200-250°.  Hopefully your grill has a built in thermometer but if not use an oven thermometer.  Place the ribs on the grill opposite the charcoal and cover with the lid making sure the vent holes are over the meat in order to draw the smoke and heat through the ribs.  The trick is keeping this relatively gentle grilling temperature going for 2-3 hours.  I like to add a couple unlit briquettes every half hour or so.  Turn the ribs a couple times during the process and once they’re tender glaze them with diluted honey (about ¼ cup honey to 2 tablespoons of hot water) for about 10 minutes.  Let the ribs rest for a few minutes before digging in.  You could serve these with sticky rice and a salad, or just cold beer.

Oh, and if you happen to not have a charcoal grill or just don’t want to mess around with all that you can cook them in an oven or on a gas grill.  The bottom line is you want to cook them at around 200-250° for 2-3 hours.  In the oven you can do this on a rack over a sheet pan.  In both cases turn the heat up for the last 20 minutes or so and glaze with the diluted honey.  These methods won’t necessarily provide the nice smokiness, but will avoid the difficulty of keeping the temperature just right on a charcoal grill.

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