PLEASE READ THIS FIRST:
Parboiling ribs isn’t really recommended. The meat loses flavor and texture, but sometimes you get desperate and have very little time or experience.
I entered a BBQ rib contest on a lark and had never really cooked pork ribs successfully, but somewhere heard about parboiling ribs. So that’s what I did. Only a few people entered, and it was not judged professionally. I wound up winning and thought I was hot shit. This was a mistake based on ignorance, and a website called BBQ Bretheren somehow found the original post below and obliterated me. I’ve learned since that low and slow smoking is the best way to cook ribs.
I keep this post up because deleting it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and because lots of people come here looking for parboiling information.
Some people really like ribs like this, many don’t. Proceed at your own peril.
BBQ Bretheren visitors: Click here for your more formal welcome.
I once entered a local parish BBQ competition, having never cooked ribs competitively. This was “competitive” in that other people were there, but certainly not a KCBS event. I parboiled some St. Louis style ribs, coated them with a brown sugar 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 using two slabs of baby back ribs, each cut in half to give me four large rib portions. They will cook for maybe 15-20 minutes. 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, being sugary, clumps on like plaster. The ribs are going to get pretty tender during the boil. If overdone, they will basically fall off and out of the slab. Be careful not to overlook them.
What the rub does is form a 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 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.
Thinly coat 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 could 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.
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. Again… not typical and not particularly recommended.