How to make 'The Chew' co-host Michael Symon's signature pork ribs

The chef shared the secrets behind the ribs he serves at his BBQ joint.

ByABC News via GMA logo
April 6, 2018, 8:38 AM

"The Chew" co-host chef Michael Symon said he traveled across the country to visit the best barbecue joints and pitmasters ahead of opening his own BBQ restaurant in his hometown of Cleveland.

Symon shared some of his favorite recipes that he discovered during his cross-country culinary expedition in his latest cookbook, "Michael Symon's Playing With Fire," which focuses solely on cooking BBQ and meat.

He appeared live on "Good Morning America" today to demo how to create his famous Mabel's pork ribs, which he serves at his Cleveland restaurant, Mabel's BBQ.

Chef Michael Symon is photographed here in a shot from his new cookbook, "Michael Symon's Playing With Fire."
Ed Anderson

While traveling, Symon met Mike Mills, a pork ribs barbecue competition champ who is nicknamed "the Legend," the former "Iron Chef America" star wrote in his new book.

Symon said that one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to cooking ribs is that "they should be 'fall off the bone' tender, but ask Mike and he'll tell you that 'fall off the bone' is shorthand for 'overcooked!'"

Chef Michael Symon shares his recipe for "Mabel's Pork Ribs," photographed here, in his new book, "Michale Symon's Playing With Fire."
Ed Anderson

"Perfectly tender" is key when it comes to pork ribs, Symon said. Another "secret weapon" the chef credits for the deliciousness of his famous Mabel's ribs is his rub, which features flavorful celery seed. He also hits his ribs with a pickle juice glaze when they come out of the smoker.

Finally, Symon shared his "Cleveland-style" barbecue sauce recipe, which features local culinary favorites including Bertman Ball Park Mustard.

Michael Symon's new cookbook, "Michael Symon's Playing With Fire," is photographed here.
Ed Anderson

Mabel's pork ribs recipe

Serves 4

2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup strained dill pickle juice or sweet/hot pickle juice
2 (3- to 4-pound) slabs pork spareribs
1 cup pork rub (see recipe below)
2 cups Cleveland BBQ sauce (see recipe below)

1. Prepare and preheat your smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar and pickle juice. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat to cool.
3. Slide a butter knife under a corner of the thin white membrane on the bone side of the spare ribs to free it from the meat. Using a dry towel for grip, peel off the entire membrane and discard it. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and season on both sides with the pork rub.
4. When the temperature in the smoker reaches 300°F and the smoke is running clear, add the ribs bone-side down. After 1 and 1/2 hours, test the ribs for doneness by flipping a rack and pressing the meat between the bones. If the meat pulls away from the bones, it’s done. If not, continue smoking until it does, about 30 minutes more.
5. When the ribs are done, gently brush them with the glaze, being careful not to remove the beautiful bark that forms on the exterior of the meat. Cut between the bones and serve with a side of sauce.

Basic rub recipe
2 parts kosher salt
2 parts freshly ground black pepper
1/2 part celery seed
1/2 part ground coriander

Pork rub recipe5 parts Basic Rub (see recipe above)
1 part sweet paprika

Cleveland BBQ sauce recipe

Makes 3 cups

2 cups cider vinegar
1 small red onion, quartered
1 large garlic clove, smashed
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon of sauce from the can
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup Bertman Ball Park Mustard or other brown stadium-style mustard
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, onion, garlic, chipotle in adobo, bourbon, coriander, and paprika. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the flavors come together, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the chipotle purée, brown and yellow mustards, maple syrup, soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Strain the vinegar mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the mustard mixture (discard the solids) and whisk until smooth and combined.
3. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Recipes courtesy "Michael Symon’s Playing With Fire." Copyright © 2018 by Michael Symon. Reprinted with permission.