Mike Mills' Apple City Barbecue Grand World Champion Ribs
World Champion Ribs Anyone Can Make!
People are mystified about how to cook ribs properly. I'm going to walk you through every step of the way as though you're using a basic charcoal grill. Obviously if you have different or more high-tech equipment, you'll need to modify these procedures. If you're setting up your backyard charcoal grill for indirect cooking, you'll want to use a disposable aluminum pan to capture the grease as the fat renders while cooking. Some people add water to this pan to add moisture to the cooking environment.
Let me caution you right up front to mop the ribs with sauce no more than 10 minutes before you take them off the grill. Saucing the meat too early is a mistake many people make when smoking or grilling. Virtually all barbecue sauce contains sugar, and your meat will have a burned crust around the outside if you use sauce too soon in the process.
Ribs are readily available in most grocery stores. When selecting ribs, try not to buy ones that weigh less than 2 pounds. A true baby back rib weighs about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds; they are very fragile and dry out quickly. This recipe calls for a meatier rib. A loin back rib is preferable; they're easier to cook, less fragile, and have more meat.
Once you start smoking ribs, you can't leave the smoker unattended for any more than about 20 minutes. You'll need to continually check that the temperature in the grill remains between 200 and 210 degrees at all times. If it gets too hot, open the lid and allow some of the heat to escape. Coals that appear to be glowing red will cause a hot spot. Don't cook the ribs directly over the hot spot; move the ribs to a different, cooler part of the grill. If the temperature dips below 200 degrees, move the ribs to a hot spot for a while. If the temperature gets too low, add some more coals.
You'll need about 4 cups of apple wood chips to be authentic; you can use hickory, pecan, sweet maple, or cherry, but the ribs won't taste as sweet. You'll also need a chimney starter or another small covered grill or bucket to keep extra hot coals.
© Mike Mills, Amy Mills and 17th Street Bar & Grill. Adapted from "Peace, Love, And Barbecue."
Trim any excess fat and remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.
Sprinkle the ribs liberally with magic dust, coating both sides. Put them in a shallow pan or on a cookie sheet and cover them with clear plastic wrap or a lid. Refrigerate them until you're ready to use them. I recommend letting them marinate for at least an hour. At the restaurant, we dust the ribs up to a day in advance.
Start your fire using royal oak charcoal.
Soak the apple wood chips in water for half an hour. Drain.
Remove the grate and arrange the medium-hot coals in a grill or smoker. If you are using a grill, it must have a lid. Set an aluminum pan next to the coals as a drip pan. Spread out the wet wood chips on the coals. Replace the rack, close the grill, and check the temperature. It should be between 200 and 210 degrees. If the temperature is too high, open the lid to allow some heat to escape.
Notice that the meat on a rack of ribs is on the top. The bottom, where you removed the membrane, is called the "bone side." Once the temperature is steady, place the ribs on the rack, bone side down. You want to cook them bone side down as much as possible. Turning them dries out the meat. If necessary, you can cut the racks of ribs in half to comfortably fit your grill.
Cover and smoke the ribs for about 4-6 hours or until the ribs are done and tender. This is not an exact science; we're not baking a cake.
You'll want to check the ribs every 20 minutes or so. Examine them to see if the surface of the meat looks dry or moist. Ribs "sweat" about three times during the smoking process. The pores of the meat open, and this allows moisture to escape. This is when the seasoning from the dry rub and the smoke itself are reabsorbed into the meat. When they're sweating, mop or mist them with some apple juice and sprinkle them with a little more magic dust. Opening the lid will lower the temperature; add more coals and wood chips as needed to maintain the temperature.
About 10 minutes before you remove the ribs from the pit, mop them with the sauce. When you take them off the pit, mop again with sauce and sprinkle some more magic dust on them. Serve immediately.
Serves 4, or you can cut the racks in half to serve 8.