Updated May 24, 2012: Hello, BBQ Bretheren visitors. Click here for your more formal welcome.
PLEASE READ THIS FIRST:
A little background on parboiling ribs… I was just learning to BBQ. I knew nothing of indirect cooking, smoking, etc. I used to put a bag of coals in a Weber, added lighter fluid, and cooked all meat until it was dry. Slowly, through a lot of research and trial-and-error, I figured a few things out. Then our parish announced a rib cook off and I really had no idea how to cook ribs. I read up on parboiling ribs, so I gave it a shot. They came out okay and my kids really, really liked them. So I made them in the competition and the judges, who were all drunk parishioners with no experience judging BBQ competitions, gave me first place. This really pissed off the guys who showed up at 7am to smoke their ribs and it emboldened me to keep making them this way. I do know how to smoke them and make them the “correct” way, by the way, but that lesson came with time. So then I did this blog post on the parboiled ribs. Nothing happened for a few months until someone found it and posted a few pictures on a BBQ message board called bbq bretheren and I was excoriated. They destroyed me on that board, but I didn’t take down the original post. I simply responded on the blog via the link above and moved on. This blog is all about the journey from being a know-nothing to figuring out how to make this stuff. I do still make them from time to time, but only because my children straight up DEMAND them. Read on to the original post…
I’ve entered a handful of BBQ competitions, but I have only won once. I parboiled some St. Louis style ribs, coated them with a brown sugar plaster rub, then BBQed them indirectly. True, the judges were common parishioners with amateur palates who had been drinking beer all day, and maybe I only beat 8 other competitors, but I still won. (Yes, I know… shake your head in shame.) Here is the recipe.
In a stock pot, put about 3/4 of a gallon of apple juice, 3/4 of a gallon of water, one quartered onion, one quartered apple, and a handful of whole peppercorns.
Get this concoction to a rolling boil. You can do it on the grill, as I did in the competition, but it makes a big mess of the stock pot and you use a ton of coals. I am cheating by doing the parboil inside today.
I am using two slabs of baby back ribs, each cut in half to give me four large rib portions. They will cook for about a half of an hour. After adding the ribs, the boil will die down. Once it gets rolling again, turn the heat down to medium. A parboil is partially cooking something through a boil, though a half hour in this boil will cook the ribs sufficiently.
The rub is essentially a plaster. The ribs are going to get exceptionally tender during the boil. The bones will basically fall off and out of the slab. What the rub does is form a massive sugary, peppery coating that holds the slab together while it sits on the BBQ and absorbs some smokey flavors. Each slab of ribs gets a very generous coating of rub. (By the way, if you are a diabetic these ribs will cause you some serious problems. I’m not joking. This is based on real feedback that I received from a diabetic person.)
Rub: 1 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup paprika, “a few” tablespoons each of onion powder & garlic powder, a tablespoon of cayenne pepper
Pull the ribs and lay them on a cookie sheet in preparation for the rub.
Generously cover the ribs in the rub on both sides. By the way, this recipe makes a massive mess in the grill. The loose sugary mixture will fall into the bottom of the grill kettle and turn into sticky burnt plaster. Good luck with that.
Two tips here: First, get the ribs out with long tongs such that you can get the whole half rack supported. If you try to pick up the rack by the end, it will fall apart. Second, put on the rub right after taking the ribs out. Hot, wet ribs + sugary dry rub = instant plaster.
I use a nifty rib rack contraption that I found at Lowe’s a couple years ago. After putting the rubbed ribs into the rack, I sprinkled some additional rub over the top. (Cleaning the rib rack sucks, by the way.)
I put the rack on the Weber 22.5″ over semi-indirect heat and covered. After about 30-45 minutes, the rub will have melted onto the ribs and the smoke will have added significant extra flavor. Be sure to use a sharp knife.
The kids like it with corn and watermelon.
If you like competition quality ribs, or ribs with bite, then these aren’t for you. They fall off the bone and then some.
They’re super-tender, and fairly sweet. Kids devour them.