Few things excite the carnivore class more than some perfectly cooked baby back pork ribs. While most any recipe is quite simple, executing great ribs at home can be tricky.
The biggest problem is uneven cooking as the thickness of the rack of rib differs from one end to the other. The second issue is the difficulty in hitting the sweet-spot of doneness. Underdone ribs will have a great meaty chew but ripping the meat from bone will challenge your choppers. Overcooked ribs can range from dry meat to mushy meat.
To combat the challenges of cooking ribs some will suggest par-boiling the ribs to give them a head-start and to begin breaking done the tough connective tissue. I’m not a fan of boiling ribs as you are losing flavor in the pot of water. Other recipes call for baking or steaming the ribs but I have found that these methods frequently result in mushy, flavor-stripped meat.
In my view the answer is sous vide. Sous vide is the technique of cooking food sealed in plastic bags (or vacuum sealed) submerged in a warm/hot water bath maintained at constant and precise temperature. This method was reserved for the restaurant world but now, thankfully, there are affordable home versions of sous vide cookers. If you are on the fence in regards to jumping into sous vide cooking – this rib recipe may inspire you to take the plunge. (A very serviceable home sous vide cooker will run you about $125 to $200.)
My recipe is quite simple requiring: the sous vide cooker (of course), quality baby back ribs, large freezer zip-top bags, dry rub, and barbecue sauce.
With a sharp knife score the back of the ribs (the no meat side) with two or three horizontal cuts running from one end of the rack to the other. Cut the rack in half to better fit in the bags. A single layer of ribs works best, so do not stuff the bag. Completely cover the ribs with the dry rub (get the recipe) rubbing it into the meat and bones. Load the ribs into the plastic bags and move them to the refrigerator for 24 hours (give or take a few hours).
Set up your sous vide cooker setting the temperature at 150 F. Add the bags of ribs leaving room in the water bath for proper circulation of the hot water. Check on it from time to time to be sure that the water level has not dropped much due to evaporation. You can cover you vessel with plastic wrap to keep the water vapor from escaping and this will too make it easier for the cooker to maintain the proper temperature. Otherwise, leave it alone for 24 hours.
When 24 hours (a few more hours won’t hurt a thing) have elapsed you are ready to finish your ribs or chill them in the bag and refrigerate until you are ready to finish the ribs.
You can finish the ribs in an oven but the grill is the best. If going to the grill decide if you want a little grill flavor or if you would like to smoke the ribs.
Regardless of your style of grill, heat the ribs through using the indirect heat method. In other words, have your hot coals to one side of the grill and place the ribs on the cooler side. If you are smoking the ribs this will take 60 to 90 minutes. If you simply want to finish them on the grill it will take about 30 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of grill time brush the ribs with the Red Wine Barbecue Sauce (get the recipe) – or your sauce of choice – three times giving a few minutes between applications for the sauce to sink in and dry a bit. Pull the ribs from the grill to a large dish and cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Eat.
What to drink with your ribs: If you are going for beer I suggest a Märzen or Vienna lager and you can’t go wrong with a classic Porter. If wine is your drink of choice I suggest: California Zinfandel, Aussie Shiraz, Côtes du Rhône, or a Valpolicella Ripasso.