If you like moist and tender ribs, this method of making ribs is a guarantee for the most luscious ribs you'll ever eat. Watch out though because they may just fall off the bone while you're flippin'em on the grill.
Grandma Doogie makes these wonder ribs without a recipe, so I had to watch carefully and take notes last time we were in Chelan (when my youngest boy rolled their golf cart and broke it in many places). I didn't even like ribs...until I took one bite of these. I think it had something to do with the ones I've had being kind of dry, a little tough, and somewhat fatty (blech!), and also because I realized that tough rib meat doesn't make very good floss. In fact, it really got stuck between my teeth and hurt. I don't like that so much. For THESE ribs, the secret is in the brining. If you've never had brined ribs, maybe you've been like me suffering with too much tough meat stuck between my teeth making me feel like I'm back in junior high sporting braces again.
My husband says these ribs are the best he's had either homemade or in a restaurant. He's a pretty good food critic, and let me tell ya, he knows meat. He even once ate the Big Texan 72 oz. steak meal (including shrimp cocktail, baked potato, roll...) in less than an hour--so he'd get the meal for free. First of all, I wouldn't have come close to eating a 4-1/2 pound slab of meat in one sitting, let alone one hour. Secondly, I would have been bothered by having to eat the meal on the challenge stage. When he was finished, the waitress jokingly asked, "Can I getcha anything else?" Joe said, "Yeah, I'll have a beer."
Er, scratch that. Let's try to forget that story. I don't want you to lose your appetite. I must share with you how to make these amazing ribs.
First, if you read through this recipe and get overwhelmed at the number of places you have to put the ribs, please don't be troubled. The ribs just either sit in a cooler or are baking in the oven for the majority of the time not even asking for you to check on them, or change their diaper, or wipe their noses, or get them a snack--or anything. They're pretty low-maintenance and quite independent. They like to be left alone. I appreciate this more than many wonderful things in life.
Get a cooler and cut your ribs--if you have to--so they fit inside. (A lot of ribs fit into a small-medium cooler!) In a large saucepan, heat water to dissolve sea salt. Allow the water to cool...or be impatient like me and throw a bunch of ice cubes into the brine to cool it off faster. Pour the salt water over ribs in the cooler. Add ice to the cooler to keep the meat happy and you at peace. If some ribs are exposed, sprinkle them with a bit more salt. Let the ribs sit in the brine while you hike up the butte, eat lunch, tour the area, and come back home. That's what we did in Chelan while our ribs were soaking.
After brining, rinse ribs, rub on some spices, add a little water, cover and bake. I just used a plain ol' off-the-shelf pork rub.
In the oven is where they get tender and wonderful and succulent and... (Don't forget to dump out the pretty pink brining liquid and wash out your cooler while the ribs bake.)
After baking, carefully remove the ribs from roasting pan (these suckers just want to fall apart after they're done baking), and throw 'em on the grill to get a nice barbecue crust on top. While grilling, brush on your favorite barbecue sauce and turn as needed so the ribs get lightly crisp on the outside but so that the sauce doesn’t burn.
Remove from grill, eat...and prepare for your guests to move in and never leave your home. That’s what I wanted to do when I first tasted these delectable ribs. My Dad wouldn't let me stay.
I first served them to my live-in guests, my family, on Christmas Eve. It just may be a new tradition!
Note A: Brining, baking and finishing ribs on the grill is a good solution if you've tried to fully grill ribs with a gas grill and end up with dry meat. The key is low heat, and some gas grills can be a little too hot to cook ribs fully.
Note B: Don't remove the membrane on the back of the ribs (non-meat side) using this brining/baking method. Since the brining and slow cooking makes the meat fall-off-the-bone tender, the membrane will help keep the ribs in tact. Besides, it's not very satisfying when you get excited about eating tender and flavorful ribs...and they fall apart when you pick them up to take a bite. Hmph.
2-3 racks pork back ribs
1 cup+ sea salt
3-4 TBSP pork rub
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce or 1/3-1/2 bottle barbecue sauce, I use Stubbs
In large saucepan, put 1 cup of sea salt and fill at least 3/4 of the pot with water. Heat until salt is dissolved. Cool in pan, or add ice cubes to cool faster. Place ribs in a small-to-medium sized cooler. Pour cooled brining liquid over the ribs, add ice cubes on top to keep meat cool while brining. Most of the meat should be submerged in the liquid. Sprinkle salt over any meat sticking out of brining solution. Allow meat to soak for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the brining liquid from ribs under water. Place ribs in roasting pan meat side up. Sprinkle and rub the rubbing spices over the meaty side of the ribs. Add 3/4 cup water. Cover roasting pan with tight-fitting lid or with tightly-sealed foil. Bake for 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Carefully remove ribs from roasting pan to a medium heat grill, meat side up. Brush on your favorite barbecue sauce over the meat. Turn ribs to heat barbecue sauce, turn back again after 3-5 minutes. Repeat with barbecue sauce and turning meat again to end up with a nice barbecue crust. Be careful not to burn the sauce on the meat. (If your BBQ sauce crust is burning, add water to the sauce before brushing on more. This will reduce the proportion of sugar, which causes burning, in the sauce.) Remove from grill onto a serving plate or cutting board. Cut into serving-sized pieces (2-3 ribs). You may serve the ribs with additional barbecue sauce, but it's really not necessary!