Barbecued Country-Style Ribs
From Cook's Country
Boneless country-style ribs present several cooking challenges. Each piece not only varies wildly from the next, but is also a mishmash of lean white meat and rich dark meat. Unfortunately, if the ribs are cooked to optimize the white meat, then the dark meat stays tough, and if they are cooked to optimize the dark meat, the white meat turns dry and chalky. To even out the cooking, we brined the ribs so that the white meat would stay juicy and pounded the ribs to an even ¾-inch thickness to “break down” the fattier dark meat. As for flavor, a double layer of barbecue spice and sauce and a quick smoke on the grill turned these ribs into something to sing about.
Serves 4 to 6
For easier pounding, cut any ribs that are longer than 5 inches in half crosswise.
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 pounds boneless country-style pork ribs, trimmed
- 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained
- 1. Dissolve salt in 2 cups cold water in large container. Place ribs, cut side down, between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound to ¾ inch thickness. Submerge pork in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- 2. Combine sugar, chili powder, paprika, dry mustard, onion powder, pepper, and cayenne in shallow dish. Transfer half of mixture to bowl and stir in ketchup and vinegar; set aside.
- 3. Remove pork from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Dredge pork in remaining spice mixture and transfer to plate. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked chips in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top.
- 4A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Place wood chip packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.
- 4B. For a gas grill: Place wood chip packet over primary burner. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
- 5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place pork on cool part of grill, cover (positioning lid vent over meat if using charcoal), and cook until meat registers 125 degrees, 3 to 5 minutes. Brush pork with ketchup mixture and grill, brushed side down, over hot part of grill until lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Brush second side of pork and grill until lightly charred and meat registers 145 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer pork to platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve.
Shopping for Country-Style Ribs
Country-style ribs aren’t ribs at all. They’re well-marbled pork chops cut from the blade end of the loin. We bought dozens of these chops while testing this recipe and found that they were inconsistently shaped and sized. What’s more, these “ribs” had widely varying proportions of light and dark meat. To help level the culinary playing field and ensure even cooking, we pounded each piece into an even 3/4 inch thickness.
Each "rib" contains both light and dark meat.
The white and dark meat in country-style ribs cook at different rates; the white meat cooks quickly, while the dark meat is slower to tenderize. To equalize them, we brined and pounded. Brining kept the white meat from drying out, while pounding the ribs thin let them cook faster, helpful since long cooking times accenturate differences in cooking. Think of a fast car and a slow car starting from a stoplight at the same time. Thirty seconds after the light turns green, the two cars won't be far apart. But after 10 minutes, they will be.