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Got Baby Backs? Rib Tips from a BBQ Pro

Alessandra Bulow

Got Baby Backs? Rib Tips from a BBQ Pro

For a showstopping main course, there’s nothing like a smoky, juicy rack of ribs.

"Ribs are awesome for a backyard barbecue because they smell and taste like summer," says Tim Love, co-host of CNBC’s new show Restaurant Startup and the chef/owner of Lonesome Dove, Queenie’s Steakhouse, Woodshed Smokehouse, Love Shack, and White Elephant Saloon in Texas. 

Love is a true barbecue expert and thinks that anyone can learn to make ribs that have the ultimate combination of a crispy crust and succulent meat. Here, the BBQ guru shares his rules for smoking perfect baby back ribs, and his favorite foolproof recipe.

1. Don’t forget to remove the underbelly membrane. ”You need to do this before anything else,” says Love. ”If you don’t remove it, the smoke won’t penetrate the meat properly on the bottom side of the ribs. Also, the membrane will get caught in your teeth.”

2. Use rub, not sauce. ”My ribs don’t see any sauce! All you need is a good, savory rub with plenty of flavor. If you want your rub to be sweet, use granulated white sugar. It caramelizes better than brown sugar and produces a great crust.” 

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3. Shut the smoker and do NOT open it until time is up. ”Calculate how long the ribs should take before you place your ribs on the rack. The average baby back ribs should take about three hours and 15 minutes. Your ribs will be exponentially better if you maintain the internal temperature at an even 225 degrees and you keep the door closed at all times.”

4. Never boil ribs. Ever. ”We are making ribs, not corned beef. Boiling the ribs would make them tender but dry. Simmering the ribs would make them juicy and tender, but wouldn’t give them that delicious smoky flavor.”

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5. If you’re short on time, use an oven bag. ”There is no ‘quick’ way to make ribs properly. If you have to, season the heck out of them, put them in an oven bag, and then bake them. They will be ready in less than an hour and super flavorful.”

6. If you need sauce with your ribs, start over. ”Sauce is great but should not be required!”

CHEF TIM LOVE’S BABY BACK RIBS

Ingredients:

1/2 rack baby back pork ribs

For the rub: 
1 cup guajillo chile powder
1 cup kosher salt
3/4 cup black pepper, cracked
1/2 cup ground cumin
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup garlic powder
1 cup white sugar

Special equipment: hardwood chips or chunks, preferably whole pecan wood

Directions

Prepare the grill for indirect heat: If you don’t have a smoker with an offset box, you can build a fire on one side of your grill and then put a piece of foil on the opposite side of the grill. This will create indirect heat.

Prepare the ribs: Remove the thin, papery membrane skin from the back of each rack of ribs by pulling it off in a sheet with your fingers, using the corner of a kitchen towel to gain a secure grip, or with pliers.

Prepare the rub: In a bowl, whisk together chile powder, salt, pepper, cumin, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, and sugar.

Generously season ribs with the mixture, rubbing onto both sides of the rack.

Place the ribs, bone-side down, on foil to cook with lid closed. Cover the grill and keep the temperature of the grill at a constant 225-degrees. Cook the ribs for about 3 to 4 hours or until tender.

(This recipe has not been tested by the Epicurious Test Kitchen.)

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