When people go to the grocery store (or as my lady likes to call it, the market, but extending the “a”, so it sounds like it’s being spoken by a 1930’s New York socialite on her third cigarette on one of those long smoker-thingies – oh daahling, would you be so kind as to fetch me a vodka soda, I can’t possibly enjoy my Virginia Slims without a drink…ummm…where was I…oh yeah, right), they go into the meat section and breeze right past the baby back ribs.
Ask a shopper why they pass by them, and they’ll probably give you any number of answers:
- Waah, they’re too expensive!
- Ewww, they’re so fatty!
- Ugh, they’re such a pain to cook!
- Yuck, they’re so messy!
- Whatevs, I’m Taylor Swift and I have a personal shopper so I wouldn’t even be in your stupid market, and if I was I’d just be finding a guy to break up with so I can write a song about it! Ohh, I could tell by the way you were looking at those mangoes, that you were going to cheat on me with some girl named Lila, so I smacked you on the face with a rack of ribs just so I could claim my man, and every time he goes to buy produce he’ll think twice before his eyes start straying!!!
- I just sang that to myself, this isn’t the worst song I’ve heard this year. Just sayin’, Nashville!
Some of those answers are true, some are bullshit, and some involve Taylor Swift. But together, we’re going to debunk the bullshit, and ease your concerns about the truth.
BULLSHIT #1: RIBS ARE REALLY BAD FOR YOU
No one will ever confuse baby back ribs with health food. They’re not healthy, they’re fatty. But no one said you have to eat 20 bones at every meal (though I would quickly become friends with anyone that did).
Here’s a picture of one cut rib:
That’s a pretty good sized rib! Put a few sides together, and you really don’t need more than three ribs to be satisfied. Which helps keep the portions down and still gives you the satisfaction of cheating a little and crushing Dr. Oz’s dreams of eliminating fatty waste consumption.
Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Adam, I eat the dino deluxe rack every time I go to a rib joint, how can I possibly eat just three ribs?” Well,
- a) do it
- b) only eat ginormous racks of ribs when you’re on a business trip, because the calories don’t count, and neither do the hookers you pay for while you’re there (Bonus if you can find a way to roll the two together into a single line on your expense report!)
BULLSHIT #2: RIBS ARE REALLY EXPENSIVE
Yep, if you go to a BBQ restaurant (or if you’re in Cincinnati, Montgomery Inn because you have no concept of what actual BBQ is), a rack of ribs is going to set you back $25-30. If you buy a rack at the market, you’ll usually pay $2-2.50 a pound. A 3.5-4 pound rack should easily feed a family of four (again, you’re only eating three ribs, not the Monday night super city slicker rib plate challenge at the restaurant down the road).
BULLSHITS #3-5: EVERYTHING THAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN’T COOK RIBS AT HOME
Ok, so here’s where I have to be straight with you: you are going to have to make some compromises to make these easily at home. And they will be very good, but they will not come out perfectly smoky like the ones you get at a true BBQ restaurant.
To walk through the various bullshits, I had to turn to resident BBQ expert Melvin “Little Mo Big Tex Smoke Daddy” Thomas Jr., owner of Bunkhouse Buck’s Big Boss BBQ, which has appeared a record 16 times on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-In’s, and Dives. Let’s hear what he has to say:
Melvin Thomas Jr. : Every true BBQ pit boss knows that the only way you truly make yourself a slab of ribs is by smoking them over a hickory fire (or mesquite if you want to go it Northwest Memphis style) using the 3-2-1-2-3-4-1 method for 16 hours, until you get a pink smoke ring but not too deep or you’ve ruined them and have to start over.
Adam: If you’re in a planned community like us, forget about being able to smoke anything. And even if you’re in a normal house, do you really have 16 hours to spend with your life smoking ribs (it’s really more like 6, but go with me on this)? Sure, they’ll come out great, but unless your life’s goal is to compete in weekly BBQ contests all across the country, baking them is perfectly fine.
MTJ: And no self-respecting BBQ master would ever par boil his ribs.
Adam: Yeah, ok, but again, we have lives so we have to simmer them for a little bit to move the cooking process along.
MTJ: Now, the mark of a true BBQ champion is their spice rub, and if I do say so, mine is the best. The blend is a secret, but you can buy my rub for just $14.99, on my website, Amazon, or Etsy. And you never, ever, ever sauce your ribs.
Adam: Most likely, the secret blend is just a lot of salt and brown sugar. For these ribs, we’re going to use some of both, but the majority of the seasoning is going to come from the glaze (not a sauce, because sauces are added towards the very end because the sugar would burn if it’s left on too long).
BULLSHIT #6: REMOVE THE MEMBRANE
Unless you’re seriously bugged by it, just leave it alone. Yes, the glaze won’t penetrate the bottom of the ribs, but it is a complete pain in the ass to remove and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way…we’re going to give them flavor in two stages. The first is through the par boiling, which we’ll use a lot of vinegar, garlic, and salt to let them simmer in for a while. The second is through the glaze, which is this fantastic combination of sweet (maple syrup and brown sugar), spicy (chipotle peppers and Tabasco), and sour (adobo sauce).
I made cornbread and green beans to go with this, but honestly, serve them with whatever you like; they’re going to taste great, and your family with judge you no matter what you serve them with.
Chipotle Glazed Ribs
Makes 4 servings
10 1/2 cups water
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 head of garlic, halved
2 tablespoons salt
1 rack baby back ribs (about 3-4 pounds)
1 7-ounce can of chipotle chills in adobo sauce, diced small
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon salt
In a large stockpot, pour in the water, vinegar, onion, garlic, and salt, and bring to a boil. Add the ribs, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the ribs start to pull away from the ends of the bones.
While the ribs are cooking, mix the glaze ingredients in a medium bowl. If you want a smoother glaze, puree them in a blender or with an immersion stick.
When the ribs are tender, remove them from the pot and place them in a large sheet pan. Pour some of the glaze evenly over the ribs to coat them. Cover the ribs with loose plastic wrap, put them in the refrigerator, and let cool for at least 30 minutes (you can leave them overnight if needed).
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place a cooling rack over the paper. Lay the ribs on the rack, and place the sheet in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes, brushing them with the glaze every 5 minutes.
Remove from the oven, place the ribs on a plate, and eat.