Barbecued Baby Back Pork Ribs

It’s easy to tell the difference between good barbecued ribs and bad ones. But there’s a fine line between the good ones and the great ones. What it really gets down to is appearance, taste and texture. One thing that goes a long ways toward accomplishing this goal is a good rub.

And there wasn’t any shortage of ribs with rubs at today’s Sioux Tailgate Cook-off Challenge in the Alerus Center parking lot. More than a dozen restaurants and food vendors competed in a burger and rib competition, which had judges raving when all was said and done.

I helped judge the ribs, sitting at a table with Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown, UND athletic director Brian Faison and former UND and Minnesota Vikings star running back Dave Osborn. Along with four others, including Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty and sports editor Wayne Nelson, we were asked to pick the best ribs from 10 rib entries, all of which stood out in one way or another.

Appearance-wise, all of the ribs looked pretty good, so what it got down to was taste and texture. Osborn, who was to be one of the guest coaches for the annual UND spring football game that followed the cook-off challenge and huge parking lot party, said he was pretty impressed with all five entries but that two did stand out for taste and texture. He did qualify that by saying ribs were his favorite food.

I sampled the same ribs as the former gridder and agreed. And to me, it appeared the better ones had been prepared with a dry rub.

I was so impressed with the contest that upon returning home had to go through my rib recipes to find one that was made with a dry rub so we might have a meal of some nice barbecued baby backs in the next week or so.

Here’s the one I found most interesting, which a friend gave me years ago.

Barbecued Baby Back Pork Ribs
DRY RUB:
¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
MOP SAUCE:
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup tomato sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
RIBS:
3 racks of baby back ribs (4 to 4½ pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Soak 2 to 3 handfuls of hickory chips in a pan of water for 45 minutes. Arrange a thick layer of charcoal briquets over the bottom of an outdoor grill, ignite, and when the coals turn gray, sprinkle the soaked chips evenly over the coals.
Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the dry rub in a bowl and mix until well-blended. In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the mop sauce and whisk briskly till well-blended. Cut and pull off the membrane from the back of each rack of ribs. Season the ribs with salt and pepper, then rub each with about 2 tablespoons of the dry-rub mixture.
When ready to barbecue, position the grate of the grill 4 to 5 inches from the heat, brush the grate with oil, place the ribs on the grate bone side down, and grill for about 15 minutes. Turn the ribs over with tongs and grill for 15 minutes longer. Brush with some mop sauce, turn the ribs over, and grill for 15 minutes more. Brush again with the sauce, turn, and grill for 15 minutes longer or till very tender and glossy. Add more coals and chips if necessary.
Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, brush them with more sauce, and then sprinkle enough dry rub over the surfaces to form a crust. Serve as whole racks or cut into sections, with extra dry rub on the side.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Barbecued Pork Ribs

If there’s anything better than some lip-smacking, mouth-watering, finger-licking good barbecued ribs, you couldn’t prove it by me. And with a Dutch oven full of some country-style pork ribs awaiting me for supper, I can’t think of a better way to show my approval.

I decided to fix the ribs as a prelude to Johnny Bravoz’s Second Annual Rib Fest and Barbecue Cook-Off on Saturday in Oslo, Minn. I figured it would be a good way to get my palate tuned up, since Johnny Bravoz owner John Kirkeby once again asked for my help in judging the contest, which is offering prizes up to $500 for the best pork ribs. (For information on entering, call 218-695-5000.)

As far as I know, John is expecting up to 25 entry in the contest, which starts at 5 p.m. Some of the ribs will be grilled, while others will be prepared in smokers. The public is invited and will be allowed to sample the ribs for a nominal fee, which will help determine the People’s Choice.

I can’t give any suggestions that most experienced rib meisters don’t already know, but here’s what one of the masters, author Steven Raichlen, has to say about what makes the perfect rib:

“It should be handsome and dark, like polished mahogany, with a rough surface, like centennial tree bark.”

Here are a couple of barbecued pork rib recipes that I found while doing some research for a Herald column. Both look mighty tasty.

Spicy Baby Back Ribs with Orange Glaze
MARINADE AND GLAZE:
1½ cups orange or tangerine juice
½ cup Asian-style sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon chipotle chili flakes
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
RIBS:
2 slabs (2 pounds each) baby back ribs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
In a glass measure, combine all the marinade ingredients. Remove half of the marinade and set it aside in the refrigerator. Place the ribs in a sealable plastic bag. You can fold them or cut them in half to fit better. Pour the marinade over the ribs. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat or prepare the grill for indirect heat over low to low-medium heat. The heat should be at a constant 250 to 275 degrees with the heat source at one side of the grill.
Remove the ribs from the marinade (discard the marinade) and let the ribs sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before grilling.
Brush the cooking grates clean and oil them. Place the ribs, meaty side up, on the grill away from the heat source. Close the lid and grill for about 2 hours (for whole racks). Check periodically that the heat is not getting too high.
Meanwhile, place the reserved marinade in a small saucepan. Whisk in the Dijon and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until it’s slightly reduced and has a glaze consistency.
Check the ribs for doneness. The bones should start pulling away from the meat and the meat should be tender, but still hold together.
Brush the ribs with the glaze and close the lid. Continue cooking another 10 minutes or until the glaze sets in. Glaze the ribs several times this way. Remove from the grill and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Serve with additional glaze if desired.
Yield: Serves 4 (generously).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving (6.5 ounces of rib meat): 529 calories, 63 percent of calories from fat, 37 grams fat (13 grams saturated), 18 grams carbohydrates, 27 grams protein, 1,217 milligrams sodium, 132 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.

Tamarind-Glazed Country-Style Ribs
MARINADE:
1 cup tamarind juice
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
RIBS:
12 country-style pork ribs with bone, about 4 pounds total
In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Set aside ½ cup of the marinade in the refrigerator for brushing on the ribs during grilling. Put the ribs in a sealable plastic bag and pour the remaining marinade over them. Marinate 4 hours and up to overnight.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling over medium heat, about 325 degrees. (The heat will be on one side of the grill and the ribs off to another side.)
Remove the ribs from the marinade (discard the marinade) and let the ribs sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.
Brush the cooking grates clean and oil them. Place the ribs on the grill over indirect medium heat with the lid closed for 20 minutes. Turn the ribs over, brush with some of the reserved marinade and continue to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove the ribs from the grill, tightly wrap with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Yield: Serves 6 (generously).
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 551 calories, 51 percent of calories from fat, 31 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 13 grams carbohydrates, 52 grams protein, 328 milligrams sodium, 179 milligrams cholesterol, no fiber.

Barbecued Ribs and UND Football

I love a good barbecue, especially if pork ribs are on the menu. (See www.grandforksherald.com/event/tag/group/Life/tag/food/.) That’s why I was excited when Josh Kotelnicki called me this morning and asked for my help with UND football’s 1st Annual Spring Cook-Off on April 16.

Josh, who was a starting linebacker on UND’s 2001 Division II national championship team and returned to his alma mater in 2008 as the team’s special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach, wanted to know if I would like to be one of the judges in the ribs and burgers competition that’s going to be held before UND’s annual spring football game at the Alerus Center. Of course, I was glad to oblige.

Besides the ribs and burger competition, at least a dozen area food vendors and restaurants will be providing food samples for a People’s Choice Competition for fans. The food events will be addition to a free kids athletic clinic. Also, while the Green and White are getting ready for the Spring Game and the cooking teams are prepping their delicious foods, fans will be able to enjoy live music, interactive games and bounce houses for kids throughout the tailgating area in the Alerus parking lot.

Registration forms and full event details for both the Cook-off Challenge and the People’s Choice Competition are available on-line at www.FightingSioux.com. Deadline to register is April 8.

It was just a coincidence that I found the following barbecued ribs recipe in “The Best of The Farmer’s Wife Cookbook” that came to me in the mail this morning. (The cookbook is one in a series that can be ordered at www.voyageurpress.com.)

Barbecued Ribs
4 pounds spareribs
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons fat or butter
¼ cup vinegar
Dash cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon celery salt
½ tablespoon ground mustard
1 cup ketchup
1 cup water
Trim spareribs free of excess fat. Put in roaster in oven preheated to 350 degrees. Cover and bake while fixing sauce by cooking onion in butter until soft and then adding remaining ingredients. Before pouring sauce over ribs, drain off excess fat from ribs. Bake meat uncovered, basting with sauce frequently, for 1½ hours or until meat is very tender.

Cajun Ribs

I’m hitting the road today. Along with an old friend and co-worker, Ryan Bakken, I’m going to help judge Johnny Bravoz’s Rib Fest in Oslo, Minn. I’m really looking forward to the experience.

If it hadn’t been for the invitation to help judge from John Kirkeby, one of the event’s organizers, I might be in Walker, Minn., attending the Cajun Fest at the casino. A couple of my friends said they stopped by the casino last night, and the place was jam-packed. Along with the music and other festivities, the event features a lot of food.

Jambalaya and gumbo usually come to mind when most people think about Cajun food. But  barbecued ribs wouldn’t be out of place. In fact, my friends said barbecued spareribs were on the menu in Walker.

For those of you who won’t get a chance to attend either the Oslo or Walker events, here’s a recipe for ribs with a Cajun twist you can try on the grill at home. It employs a rub that’s made up of several herbs and spices and looks mighty tasty.

Cajun Dry-Rubbed Barbecue Spare Ribs
3 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 to 8 pounds spareribs, cut into smaller racks
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. In a gallon-size plastic food bag, combine all the spices and shake until blended. Drop the ribs into the bag and shake until well coated. Remove ribs to a cutting board and rub the mixture thoroughly over them, pressing it with your fingers. Arrange the ribs in a large, shallow roasting pan and roast, uncovered, til very tender, about 2 hours, basting occasionally with fat from the pan. Cut into serving portions.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 613 calories, 76 percent of calories from fat, 51.2 grams fat (16.4 grams saturated, 18.5 grams monounsaturated), 173 milligrams cholesterol, 34.2 grams protein, 2.8 grams carbohydrates, 1.8 grams fiber, 564.4 milligrams sodium.

Country-Style Ribs

I’ve never been to Johnny Bravoz in Oslo, Minn., but my first trip there is sure to be a memorable one.

John Kirbeby recently asked me to help judge a rib fest Aug. 21 at Johnny Bravoz, formerly known as the Bottom’s Up Bar. So far, a dozen or so teams have entered, and Kirkeby expects the total to top 20, with $500 going to the first-place winner, $250 for second, $100 for third and $100 for people’s choice. Registration begins at 8 a.m., and the judging begins at 5 p.m.

I’m not sure how many judges there are going to be, but my old friend and co-worker, Ryan Bakken, is one of them. It’s the second time we’ve judged a food event together. The first, a homemade bologna contest, was in Minto, N.D., a year or so ago, and we had a blast.

I’m really looking forward to the rib fest. I just love ribs, especially barbecued ones. And I’m always on the lookout for new rib recipes.

The following is one I recently came across. I’m thinking about trying it this weekend to get my taste buds in shape for the contest.

Tamarind-Glazed Country-Style Ribs
MARINADE
1 cup tamarind juice
1/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
RIBS
12 country-style pork ribs with bone, about 4 pounds total
In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Set aside ½ cup of the marinade in the refrigerator for brushing on the ribs during grilling. Put the ribs in a sealable plastic bag and pour the remaining marinade over them. Marinate 4 hours and up to overnight.
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling over medium heat, about 325 degrees. (The heat will be on one side of the grill and the ribs off to another side.)
Remove the ribs from the marinade (discard the marinade) and let the ribs sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling.
Brush the cooking grates clean and oil them. Place the ribs on the grill over indirect medium heat with the lid closed for 20 minutes. Turn the ribs over, brush with some of the reserved marinade and continue to cook for another 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove the ribs from the grill, tightly wrap with foil and let rest for 30 minutes. Serve warm.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 551 calories, 51 percent of calories from fat, 31 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 13 grams carbohydrates , 52 grams protein , 328 milligrams sodium , 179 milligrams cholesterol , no fiber.

Honey Barbecued Ribs

Summer is officially here, which means that the Fourth of July is just around the corner. If a cookout is on your agenda, do you have an idea what to fix on the grill?

I’m thinking about cooking some barbecued ribs. Nothing says summer like melt-in-your-mouth ribs.

Here’s a barbecued ribs recipe from the Campbell’s, the soup people, that’s easy to make. The ribs are coated with a five-ingredient barbecue sauce that includes ketchup, condensed French onion soup and honey. It sounds finger-licking good.

Honey Barbecued Ribs
1 rack pork spareribs (about 4 pounds)
1 10½-ounce can Campbell’s Condensed French Onion Soup
¾ cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Place the ribs into an 8-quart saucepot and add water to cover. Heat over medium-high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Drain the ribs well in a colander.
Heat the soup, ketchup, honey, garlic powder and black pepper in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 5 minutes.
Lightly oil the grill rack and heat the grill to medium. Grill the ribs for 20 minutes or until well glazed, turning and brushing often with the soup mixture. Cut the ribs into serving-sized pieces.
Note: Serve the ribs with grilled corn-on-the-cob and a tossed green salad. For dessert serve sliced cantaloupe.