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Memphis Style Ribs in the Great Northwest

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    Memphis Style Ribs in the Great Northwest

    How I cook my ribs .... no saucing, no glazing, no spritzing ..... just ribs, smoke, heat and a great rub :-)


    First things, first. To many BBQ type folks, especially ones that like the Kansas City style, I am a heathen. I never put sauce on my ribs while cooking. You are welcome to, of course, because BBQ is uniquely creative cooking with as many different styles, variations, and methods as there are people cooking it.

    Second thing to be clear about. I cook ribs very straightforward and not complex. My goal is not to win a competition, it is to put great ribs on the plate of me, my family, and my friends. I don’t do things you may have heard of like 3-2-1 or Texas Crutch. I don’t glaze with maple syrup. I do want good bark on the ribs and great flavor, including smoke flavor.

    Ingredients

    1 slab of pork loin back ribs, pork spare ribs, or Saint Louis Cut spare ribs
    1/2 tsp kosher salt per pound of ribs
    3-4 tablespoons of Memphis Dust, a dry rub

    Memphis Dust
    3/4 cup dark brown sugar
    3/4 cup white table sugar
    1/2 cup paprika (Hungarian sweet, not Spanish)
    1/4 cup garlic powder
    2 TBSP ginger powder
    2 TBSP onion powder
    2 TBSP coarse ground black pepper
    2 TSP rosemary powder
    1 TSP chili powder (or cayenne or chipotle)

    This is “stolen” from Amazing Ribs, but slightly modified with sweet paprika and a chili powder to fit my flavor profile.

    Tips and Tricks
    Dry Brining is a great way to add flavor and tenderness to your meat. See down in the method about dry brining. This particular trick greatly improves flavor and tenderness both.

    Smoke flavor - two things will really make a difference to how much smoke will end up on the meat. Smoke is very fine particles of matter coming from the burning fuel mixed into an aerosol of water vapor and gases from the burning fuel. The smoke sticks to your meat and creates that smoked flavor. Smoke is captured better when the surface of the meat is rough and when it is cold and wet. The rub helps to break up the smooth surface of the meat. I always bring the meat from the fridge to the counter, wet it with water and apply my rub, and then straight to the cooker ... this gets that wet, cold meat in play, also. And this helps create the smoke ring, the visual appearance of smoked food.

    Smoke Ring - this is a beautiful pink color in your meat running from the surface inwards. The smoke ring comes from the gases in the smoke, specifically the nitric oxide. The smoke ring does not change the flavor of the meat at all, but it sure does look pretty. The other thing, though, is that you are not producing the right sorts of gases in your smoke to get a smoke ring if your fire isn't burning around 700F. So, fire management is crucial. There's tons of long write ups on fire management and you can learn a lot from them. I won't do that here, just note that you want your smoke to thin and have a bluish tint to it rather than white to grey and heavy.

    Method

    24 hours prior to cooking the ribs, dry brine them with the kosher salt. You are going to liberally salt the ribs with 1/2 tsp of kosher salt per pound. Then place on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge uncovered.

    1 hour prior to cooking, get your grill, smoker, BBQ set up for smoking. Set it up for 2 zone cooking, with an indirect zone around 250F and with smoke from wood chunks, wood chips, or a wood fire depending on your cooker type. You want the cooker ready to go right on time, about 5-6 hours prior to serving.

    Timing depends on the ribs you will cook. Here’s some guidelines
    • Grocery store back ribs are about 2.5 lbs and will take about 3 hours to cook
    • Costco back ribs are about 3 lbs and will take about 4 hours to cook
    • Spare ribs run about 4 lbs and will take about 5 hours to cook
    • Saint Louis Cut spare ribs run about 4 lbs and will take about 5 hours to cook


    Bearing that in mind, add 1 hour for holding the ribs at 170F in the oven or a faux cambro (very important) and 20 minutes to prep, slice, serve and that is your timing. Add up the estimated cooking time, the hold time, the prep time and the time to start your grill, bbq, smoker, etc. Figure the time you want to serve dinner, and work backwards from there to when you need to start your cooker. Now add an extra 30 minutes in case those ribs are ornery. If you don't need it, that's okay, just hold them an extra 30 minutes.

    I do not spritz or mop or any of those things. I do keep the cooker humid and moist with a water pan in the cooker. Best option is right under the ribs. If you are using something like a Weber Smokey Mountain then you are all set since it uses a water pan. On a Weber Kettle, or similar, put the water pan under the ribs, with the charcoal piled on the other side to give you direct/indirect zones. On a gas grill, you can put the water pan on the grill above the burners that are turned on. And so forth.

    When your cooker is at a stable temp, get the ribs on, close the lid and leave it ALONE. About 1 hour before they should be done, you can start checking on the ribs for doneness. There are multiple approaches to done. I like to use two of them: the bend test and the probe test. The bend test is pretty easy, you pick up the slab of ribs with your tongs about 1/3 of the way down the slab and let them “bend”. If they bend well and get a crack in the bark they are done. The probe test uses a thin probe such as a toothpick or the probe of your handheld digital thermometer (like a thermapen). You probe into the meat between the bones and when your probe goes in as easily as a knife into warm butter, the ribs are done.

    If you have set up your wood and cooker correctly, you won’t need to add any more wood during the cook. Most grills/bbq’s can be set up to hold 250 at the grate for 3-5 hours very easily, so you shouldn’t have to add more fuel either.

    When the ribs are “done” on the smoker, you need to wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and keep them in the oven at 170F or in a faux cambro. A faux cambro is easy to create. Take your beer cooler, fill it with hot water and close the lid. When you are ready to hold the ribs, get them wrapped. Then dump the water out, line the bottom of the cooler with towels, add the ribs on a cookie sheet or similar, then add more towels and close the lid. It will hold the ribs, above 170, for 2-3 hours.

    Now prep all your sides ... I like corn on the cob, coleslaw, and maybe beans. When that’s all ready, pull the ribs out and slice into individual bones with a sharp knife.

    Slice the ribs into individual bones, serve and enjoy!

    Ribs .... about to dry brine plus mixing up the rub
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    Ribs nicely salted for brining
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    Getting the rub on right before going to the smoker
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    Doing the bend test
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    Uwrapped and ready to slice
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    All ready to serve .... that dog agrees!
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    #2
    The only thing wrong with this is you're in Maple Valley and I'm north of Seattle. And some silly quarantine thing.

    Comment


    • ecowper
      ecowper commented
      Editing a comment
      Cause we could be having a backyard feast! Damn quarantine ;-)

    #3
    Exactly my kinda ribs! (Every now and then I have make the sticky kind for SWMBO🙄🤣!) Thanks for sharing.

    Comment


      #4
      Looks awesome. And I love simplicity for ribs. Just cook them until they are done and eat them. No wrapping while cooking or anything like that.

      Comment


      • ecowper
        ecowper commented
        Editing a comment
        That's how I do it ..... I've tried all the complicated, fancy things and the ribs weren't any better. Sometimes they were worse. I've been doing them this way for about 10 years now.

      #5
      My kind of ribs. Pure meat no sauce.

      Comment


        #6
        Thanks for the great detail in your write-up. Ribs look awesome.

        Comment


          #7
          You didn't say whether you peel the membrane from the back before dry brining? Do you?

          Comment


          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            Jim White not a fan of Costco? Or just a preference for someone else’s ribs?

          • Jim White
            Jim White commented
            Editing a comment
            ecowper We don't have one nearby. My local Publix has quite a few pork cuts that are quite good. They don't peel membranes, though.

          • ecowper
            ecowper commented
            Editing a comment
            Jim White got it. A good friend of mine is a meat buyer for Costco. He’s also a meathead and smoker like us. He was the guy that got their ribs (SLC and back both) to come with the membrane already peeled.

          #8
          Great write up. Pretty much the way i cook too. I prefer no sauce or spritz. But i usually skip the faux cambro as the crowd wants to eat when they come off the smoker.

          Comment


            #9
            Thanks! I'm also a no sauce guy (on wibs that is) glad to see you have some help!

            Comment


              #10
              Exactly the way I like them too! Very well done sir!

              Comment


                #11
                Almost like I do them--no sauce just delicious rub. I don't cambro--just pull 'em off the smoker and serve 'em up.

                Thanks for the writeup, ecowper .

                You already knocked it out of the park for me today with your Drunken Beans recipe. And now this one. It's been a good day thanks to you.

                Kathryn

                Comment


                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I do cambro .... I think it makes a difference to my family's enjoyment of the ribs :-) .... and it gives me 45 minutes, or so, to prepare everything else for dinner

                #12
                I don’t do a lot of sauce either. I do sometimes do a glaze at the end but I don’t add sugars to my seasoning so it amounts to the same thing I would think. My family actually prefers salt, pepper, garlic and fire aka Texas style. I usually do two ways as a result.

                Great writeup and walk through one of my favorite cooks ecowper

                Comment


                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I’ve always meant to cook pork ribs a la Aaron Franklin, just haven’t done it yet.

                • Troutman
                  Troutman commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I hadn’t either until mama asked me to try it. Gotta admit it’s a really good change of pace, just grilled pork. Give it a try. Again great writeup 👍 but you violated the 300 word rule 🤣😄

                #13
                That's about how I do ribs as well (N.W.style)? I don't dry brine just do my rub before hand,(over night)sauce on the side for those who want it.
                Great write up.

                Comment


                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  We ought to start a movement to make this Northwest style :-)

                #14
                Not to be contrarian, but I DO sauce my ribs. I love them that way. When they are done on the smoker, I pull them off and sauce them on the gas grill and caramelize the sauce. Then slice and serve, no hold generally. Other than that, I do them the way you wrote. Memphis Dust, no spritz or wrap.

                Comment


                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  that's the great thing about BBQ .... we can all do it our own way and love it :-)

                #15
                Really nice write-up, brother!

                Comment

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