Parboiled BBQ Pork Ribs

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…

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.

Ready to parboil some ribs

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.

Parboiling ribs

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.

Someone needs a rub down

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.

Hot, wet, rubbed down… I’m getting excited!

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.)

Nice rack

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.

Hey, these are awesome!

The kids like it with corn and watermelon.

Part of a balanced dinner

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.

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15 thoughts on “Parboiled BBQ Pork Ribs

  1. I actually compete in bbq competitions says:

    Really? You boil the taste of the meat out of fairly expensive baby backs, then dump a ton of sugar on them and burn the sugar on the grill? OK…. If you say so. Try this at a real competition, please! First, can’t boil them. That’s a disqualification, but it doesn’t matter. These would be destroyed (in points) and could be a contender for D.A.L. (dead *** last).

  2. simpsonbbq says:

    Kind of, though I don’t make them this way very often. The ribs are still flavorful, just not in the way you think of traditional BBQed/smoked ribs.

    I truly appreciate your hyper-condescending comment. Your character and class really come through.

  3. Ezra says:

    I have been parboiling my ribs for years…put em in some vinegar with some bay leaves for about 30 minutes then cover them with goya, garlic powder, salt and pepper and grill….everybody loves them. I even sold them on the side of the road with many repeat customers about ten years ago. I only use spare ribs. I hear what u guys are saying about slow cooking and not to parboil but im a poor white boy with no smoker just a little cheap grill and this is the way to go.

  4. PLW says:

    Found you from Popehat by googling “parboiled ribs”. The internet is a wonderful place. On topic: Cook your ribs however you want. I hate it when people thing that their way of doing things is somehow the only right wayl. And the idea that some particular prep method is both ineffective and against the rules is an odd contradiction. If it’s so ineffective, why does it need to be against the rules?

  5. TheClaud says:

    Thanks. I was going to make ribs this weekend for someone and I think my grill is broken. I remember parboiling them before (I think I had a recipe out of the Silver Palate cookbook) and oven baking so I searched “parboiling ribs” and found this page. I really like how you presented this recipe, your insights and your writing style. I hate to think of boiling meat but I know this can be done with good results, okay not as good as low and slow over a smoker. Thanks again for your insight. Will check back for other recipes or posts. :)

  6. Sammy G says:

    I know I’ll be tied to a bed of fire ants for saying this, BUT: since when is it a dreadful thing to cook a “certain” way? It’s the results that matter, don’cha know! The purists who think their way is the ONLY way are a tad out-of-touch with reality. Personally I love reading about folks who bravely try lots of techniques. I’ve parboiled ribs for years and finished them up in the oven. Not one eater has complained!!! ………(isn’t that the final test)?

  7. Deborah says:

    I THINK THAT PARBOILING THEM IS A WONDERFUL WAY TO BRING OUT THE FLAVOR AND MAKE THEM PLEASING TO THE PALETTE! I BOIL MINE IN 7 CLOVES OF CUT UP GARLIC, RED PEPPER, 1/2 ONION CHOPPED, BAY LEAVES ITALIAN SEASONING, BLACK PEPPER, CHICKEN BROTH, AND ALOT OF LOVE. THEY ALWAYS TURN OUT SUCCULENT. IN MY OPINION PAR BOILING ADDS ZEST AND JUICYNESS TO THE DISH! AFTER PARBOILING THEM I LET THEM COOL OFF AND ADD MY RUB TO THEM WHICH IS: BROWN SUGAR, HONEY, PAPRIKA, AND WHATEVER ELSE THAT YOU CHOOSE! I ALSO ADD A LITTLE BARBQUE SAUCE TOO! MY BARBQUE SAUCE CHOICE IS FROM PORTILLO’S WE BUY IT BY THE JAR. THEN I REFRIGERATE THEM AND WHEN READY WE GRILL THEM ADDING MORE BARBQUE SAUCE NEAR THE END. WALLAH THEY ARE THE BEST TASTING MOST SUCCULENT RIBS EVER. WE LIKE THEM AND WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL TOO! ENJOY! BONEPETIT!!!

  8. It’s nice that babies like it, I guess.

    The thing that’s really destroyed with parboiling (in addition to the taste) is the texture. There should still be a little resistance to the tooth — it’s _meat_ fer chirs’sakes. It MUST NOT fall flaccid, mushy, and grainy off the bone.

    It’s so hard to screw up baby back ribs. If you want simple, just look up a decent rub, buy a $40 little vertical smoker from Walmart, get some apple or cherry wood ready, prepare hardwood charcoal in a chimney, put it in the smoker, let the heat settle down a bit, throw some pieces of fruit wood in there, put the prepared ribs on the top rack, and give it a couple hours or so.

    Sorry — I just ate something similar tonight to what you described, and it angered me, greatly. Terrible. Just awful.

  9. simpsonbbq says:

    Christopher: I generally don’t make them anymore, and over parboiling is a danger for sure. The “par” is for partial. I use a vertical 55 gallon UDS now for most ribs and with practice I’ve managed to get improved tenderness that my kids enjoy.

  10. Got a little behind the eight ball [ran short of time] and had to get a patio feed thrown together. Followed your parboil directions and came out a hero. Thank you…..not only for the recipe, but also for risking the trolls. Please continue sharing your experience. I’ll pick and choose what works for me. I “experiment” with food, and look to people like you to stimulate thought. It would be a loss to me if you became discouraged by the rigid bigots and stopped sharing your discoveries.

  11. william soroka says:

    Enjoyed reading the above posts and thanks for the recipe. Instead of par boiling the ribs, I have at times, par baked them. This way you save a lot of charcoal without boiling flavor away and even nutrients. Place them in a pan with a little vinegar and cover with foil. bake 20 min or so at 350. Remove. rub. smoke or grill….many ways to skin a cat (or a rib).

  12. Mark in Seattle says:

    I found this while online looking for a new way to do baby backs. I was considering parboiling, something I’ve never tried, but from what I see in many places on the internet, parboiling is frowned upon. It seems to me (and others) that parboiling destroys flavor and I tend to believe that. If you prefer the taste of barbecue sauce and heavy spicing over the taste of good baby back meat then you can stop reading this now! Another thing that bugs me about some folk’s methods of “barbecue” is the use of those pressed briquets made with anthracite coal. Yuk! And started with lighter fluid — double yuk! Try using natural hardwood charcoal — you can start it with a couple pages of newspaper waded up and placed underneath the charcoal. It provides higher heat and doesn’t taste like gasoline and you can add it while cooking because you don’t have to wait for all the nasty anthracite and lighter fluid tastes to burn off (and not all of it does).

    I think I will stick with my technique. Wanna hear it? I’m telling you anyway! Here goes…

    I usually do three full racks of baby backs. Strip off the silver skin membrane. Cut the racks in half so they fit in the smoker. Make a rub using Kosher salt (use Kosher because it has no nasty-tasting iodine in it) and spices. I like to use sage or rosemary (not both), dried garlic, fennel seed, thyme and dried habanero pepper. Sometimes I toss in some tarragon. I stopped using black pepper because it is toxic and tastes terrible. Black pepper isn’t any kind of “pepper” at all — just a hot seed that was pushed into popularity by the Dutch spice traders. The only reason people like black pepper is because they’ve been conditioned from childhood to think it has to go on everything. Look how many recipes call for it! Why? It’s a convention — no other reason. Also, no sugar on my ribs please! It just isn’t necessary and causes cancer.

    I have no idea how much of these spices I use — I just kind of eyeball it. Experimenting gave me a feel for it. I grind the salt and spices together in a coffee grinder (that I reserve for spices ONLY) to make the rub. Rub the ribs with the rub and don’t overdo it! The worst thing you can do to anything you cook is to overspice it — I’m talking to the men here, because they’re the ones most prone to using to much spice — like I used to do — because I’m a man — and I used to be more stupid — I guess. I apologize to all the food I’ve ruined in the past! I use a very light coat of the rub so as to not cover the great taste of the meat.

    I cook the ribs using rib racks that hold the ribs vertically in an electric water smoker using hickory wood chips in a covered, slotted chip pan set on the electric burner. This is low temperature cooking — air temperature about 200 to 225ºF or around 100ºC. I cook them for about 6 to 8 hours and I don’t open the smoker to check progress until at least 6 hours has passed. I consider them done when the bone pulls easily from the meat — almost “falling off” tender.

    They are best eaten while still hot. You could let them sit for a few minutes after taking them out of the smoker, but it’s hard not to try them immediately. They are also best served WITHOUT barbecue sauce — the sauce destroys/hides the incredible flavor of the smoked ribs. The light rub is plenty enough spice.

    May you all have good ribs!
    Goodnight.

  13. simpsonbbq says:

    Thanks (I think), Mark in Seattle, for that manic comment. True that black peppercorns are not “peppers” in the veggie sense; they are fruits from a vine indigenous to India. I don’t think, though, that it’s actually “toxic”. Iodine is a necessary nutrient, and studies vary on how its taste (if any) negatively impacts food. I’m happy that you enjoy your ribs. Thanks for the visit.

  14. Meat_Sweats says:

    OMG People I have one thing to say. STOP HATING!!! Thank you to SimpsonBBQ for posting this. I’ve grilled for years and I’ve never tried parboiling but I will this weekend for the first time and guess what? The BBQ dieties that seem to exist in some of your sophomoric worlds will not rain on my proverbial parade! It’s great that Simpson is sharing his experience and he’s crazy humble and patient. You all need to give him props! I know this post will get 100 negative posts but please people there’s enough hate in the world…but RIBS? C’mon…puhleaze.

    I will let you know how they come out Monday!

  15. Vance Morris says:

    Been to a lot of BBQ contests, (Memphis in MAy, one the best) and tried a lot o ribs.

    I have Smoked them, baked them, grilled them and boiled them. All have their positive an negative points. I love using a good dry rub and skipping the sauce. I tried SimpsonBBQ recipe a few weeks and they rocked. Good stuff!

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