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How do I instruct a butcher how to cut pork ribs?

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    How do I instruct a butcher how to cut pork ribs?

    As I explained in my self-introduction, I live in a place where American style cuts of meat don't exist. I have searched near and far looking for pork ribs. I have ordered from all three online Taobao stores that list frozen ribs for sale, and all of them never shipped anything and refunded my money. It has been a long, wearisome quest.

    Just yesterday I went into a local grocery store I had never visited, not expecting it to be good, and sure enough it had a terrible selection of everything. Didn't even have butter. Just for the sake of completeness, I went to the small butcher's counter and asked if he had ribs. He pointed to the gigantic ribs that were sitting open with no refrigeration in the counter in front of him. These were individually cut and were all one piece, baby back + spare ribs together. No thanks. I showed him my reference photo of ribs I took the last time I was in the States (a picture is worth a thousand words) and he nodded and went into the back room. "He has ribs? Well, we'll see what comes out," I think to myself. I had been in this kind of situation before, and you never know what they'll come up with. Probably something unsuitable, like a bag of ribs chopped into bits. We'll see shortly.

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    (the reference photo I showed him of good, American ribs)

    The guy comes out from the back room and he's holding HALF A PIG. He drops it on the counter, BLAM. It is six feet long from snout to tail. He unfolds it with a big smile, and is like, "what part ya want, buddy? you name it, I'll carve it straight off this carcass." I pause for a moment and consider the difficulty of translating "St. Louis cut" into Chinese. It is always at these times when I reflect on the yawning gulf between East and West. Even if I could say St. Louis in Chinese, which I can't, he wouldn't understand it. St. Louis is something like the 55th largest US city. Who in China has ever heard of it? The 55th largest Chinese city is called Hohhot, nobody's ever heard of there either. And cut? How do you say that? Meaning the stroke of a blade? But in this case it means carving a piece of meat in a very specific way. I am at a loss.

    Like a mute, I just turn on the photo in my phone and point to it again. He nods and starts carving the pig. He has a large, extra-heavy Chinese cleaver, almost like Jason from Friday the 13th. He is going through bone like butter. When he was finished, he handed me this piece of meat which was 3.2 pounds and cost $3.66/lb.

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    So, what is this piece of meat? It's too wide and too short. Did he shave it too thin? It looked like he was leaving an awful lot of meat on the carcass when he was carving it. It's a good start, though. I bet it will cook up all the same.

    My question to the group: Having at last found a butcher who will cut the kind of meat I want, how can I teach him to cut ribs the way that I want? I am delighted to have at last found ribs. In fact, it inspired me to join this site as a paying member. But now that I've found my dream butcher, I want great ribs, not just good ones. Are there step by step instructions, or better yet a video, that I can show him on my phone? Something that shows him how to take half a pig carcass and carve out ribs just like the ones in my reference photo?
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    #2
    You've got a willing butcher. That's huge! Tell him to carve close to the bone without exposing the bones. That's my advice. Hopefully others chime in too.

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      #3
      Originally posted by Pit Boss View Post
      You've got a willing butcher. That's huge! Tell him to carve close to the bone without exposing the bones. That's my advice. Hopefully others chime in too.
      So, from the photos it does look too thin? Sorry, I'm a real novice at butchery (but am fast learning).

      Yeah, that is huge. You don't know how many butcher counters I've been to where they just shrug or say they don't have any. I really didn't expect to run into this guy. It just goes to show you you should check everywhere. He can turn into a real goldmine if I can just get him trained right.
      Last edited by Lost in China; March 8, 2015, 05:59 PM.

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        #4
        As long as you don't see bones when looking at the rack from above they aren't too thin.

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          #5
          This page has photos and illustrations that show exactly what you want. http://amazingribs.com/recipes/porkn...pork_cuts.html

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            #6
            Thanks for the link! It's kind of hard to find information on this site sometimes. I couldn't find the recipe for ordinary ribs earlier (turned out it was under "porknography"). But this is something I can show to the butcher that will hopefully get him to understand. Although he doesn't have a bandsaw.

            I just finished cooking the ribs above in the oven, and they didn't really come out well. I left them in for 90 minutes at 225, and when I checked, they didn't pass the crack test. I sawed off one of the ribs from the end and ate it, and the meat still stuck to the bone. I put them back in to cook for another 30 minutes, and when I checked again, the rub had burned. However, the meat still didn't pull cleanly off the bone. So it's either underdone or overdone...how can it be both?

            Comment


              #7
              Lost in China you'll want several hours at 225, 2hrs just wont cut it. typically 4-6hrs is a good timeframe, but I regularly have them take 6, 7 or even 8 if they're thick. Bend test will never let you down, IF you're doing the test on a full length rack. If you trim the racks in half there wont be enough weight for the bend test to work right, so keep that in mind. If a full rack doens't pass the bend test, it is either not done, or it is EXTREMELY thick and will just break in two if it's done.

              Your rub may have burnt due to being over direct heat. You want to setup an indirect environment. If you must use an indoor oven, place a water pan between the meat and the oven element, then proceed as the recipe states.

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                #8
                I don't really have butchering advice… but make friends with that butcher! Maybe drop off some American treats or samples of your cook, if you can. I've only done pork ribs a couple times but I'm taking that whole cut as is, baby backs and spares together, and throwing the whole darn thing into the smoker. Do you have a porch area or yard? Maybe you can make yourself a homemade barrel cooker.

                BTW, great meat knowledge as always from meathead on that AR link.

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                  #9
                  OK, there was no water pan. I noticed the ribs drying out towards the end, and put one in, but I'm sure that was too late. Two hours was enough, the meat was overdone I'm pretty sure. I obviously screwed up something somewhere. Oh well, at least I can try again. That's why I made this, as an experiment before I fed any people. I also screwed up the rub and made it way too salty.

                  It also seemed like there was very little meat on these bones, or maybe that was because they weren't cooked right. I really want them shaved close to the bone?

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                    #10
                    Originally posted by Lost in China View Post
                    OK, there was no water pan. I noticed the ribs drying out towards the end, and put one in, but I'm sure that was too late. Two hours was enough, the meat was overdone I'm pretty sure. I obviously screwed up something somewhere. Oh well, at least I can try again. That's why I made this, as an experiment before I fed any people. I also screwed up the rub and made it way too salty.

                    It also seemed like there was very little meat on these bones, or maybe that was because they weren't cooked right. I really want them shaved close to the bone?
                    Yeah they look overdone. Cooking with direct heat, it appears you basically sort of grilled them. The first time I ever did ribs I grilled them, but on an actual grill, and I had similar results as you.

                    Low & slow, indirect heat, water pan. You'll get there! We'll help!

                    Comment


                    • David Parrish
                      David Parrish commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I agree with Huskee. Also, those ribs look like they were cooked at a higher temp than 225F. Did you broil them? My guess is radiant heat was somehow involved. Check out Meathead's article on the thermodynamics of cooking.

                    #11
                    Originally posted by Huskee View Post
                    Low & slow, indirect heat, water pan. You'll get there! We'll help!
                    Hi-five, that's why I love this place.

                    Comment


                    • Huskee
                      Huskee commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Hi five bro!

                    #12
                    Lost in China Another point of concern- did you use your oven's thermostat to attain 225? Or did you happen to use a good digital thermometer to verify your actual temp? Many times oven t-stats are off by quite a bit, or they'll attain an "average" temp of what they're set at. Mine in my kitchen will cycle on until it gets to the set temp, then it dwindles down 10*, then back to the set temp, etc. So mine averages 5 degrees under. Other oven may do the reverse- they may heat up above your set temp, then dwindle down to the set temp. If this happens, and especially if your meat is right over that burner or that element, this could also contribute to the rapid overcooking you experienced.

                    If you do not have a good digital thermometer, check out ome of the Gold Medal winners in the searchable thermometer database on the main amazingribs.com pages. Many of us love the Maverick ET 732 or 733. They are great accurate and affordable little thermometers. They will help you lots whether you're grilling outdoors or cooking in your oven. After all, cooking w/o a reliable thermometer is like driving w/o a speedometer, or telling time by the sun. Basically, it's not good enough and will get you into trouble!

                    Comment


                      #13
                      Originally posted by Huskee View Post
                      Yeah they look overdone. Cooking with direct heat, it appears you basically sort of grilled them. The first time I ever did ribs I grilled them, but on an actual grill, and I had similar results as you.

                      Low & slow, indirect heat, water pan. You'll get there! We'll help!
                      Thanks for the encouragement! I'm not even that mad about ruining my first rack of ribs because I know I can just buy more of them now.

                      Yeah, it's probably my wonky oven. I'm lucky to even have one (see a pattern developing here?) and it's not a fixed appliance bolted into the kitchen. It's more like a large toaster oven, with top and bottom elements. It fits a 9x13 baking pan...barely.

                      I think I may have found the culprit. It seems even with the knob (bottom right) set to just below 110C (107=225F), the oven's temp is a bit above 250F. I should have tested this before I cooked. I even bought the grill thermometer on a recommendation from this site!

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                      my oversized toaster oven with top and bottom heating elements

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                        #14
                        Oh yeah. Thanks for the pics. There is really no way to set up much of an indirect cooking zone in that oven, you're doing direct all the way my friend. Does it have a second & third rack? If so you can try to sandwich it between two water pans to protect it from the top & bottom heating elements. Narrow pans like pie pans perhaps, or you could fold one up out of aluminum foil perhaps.

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                          #15
                          It came with two pans that fit into the slats, and the grill comes out. There are separate controls for the top and bottom heating elements. I can just use the bottom one, which is what I did (but without a water pan). Or is that not what you meant by indirect? Like so:

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                          Is there an article on oven cooking? Yeah, I found it. Had to use Google, though.

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