Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Country-Style Ribs Experiment

Country-style ribs are a meaty treat, and were a staple in our house growing up. My definition of barbecue was anything that had barbecue sauce on it. These were made in the crock pot, all day, by my mother. With a side of Velveeta Shells & Cheese, you had one of my all-time favorites growing up. But I've graduated now from BBQ School, and I know that a Crock Pot has no place in the BBQ vernacular. Here's my breakdown of how things went on my first try at smoking country-style ribs.

Cut fron the sirloin, or rib end of a pork loin, country-style ribs are big and meaty. They could almost be confused to look like a sliced pork shoulder/butt roast. Since this was my first try at smoking this cut, I was a little nervous about just how long these would take, and if I'd dry them out. I was banking on at least 4 hours of cooking time at 225 degrees. After that, I was guessing.

The fiasco of the day was preparing the dry rub. I had been sitting on some rub and spice packets from Traeger, which came with the smoker when I bought it last May. Looking at their rib rub, it looked to be nothing but some sugar, a little salt and some caramel coloring, or smoke flavor. Bizzare. of course, like the idiot I am, I didn't bother to actually taste it. I also saw a cajun rub packet, so I thought since the rib rub looked so "weak" in my mind, I'd just combine the two. Oh wait....what's this one? Sweet rub? Perfect, I thought. The sweet rub would balance the Cajun rub, and since the rib rub already has to be perfectly balanced, this will be the rub to end all rubs! (New game: take a drink every time I say the word "rub"). Right??

Wrong. Since Genius here didn't do any tasting of any of the three before combining them, OR before heaping it on the meat, he pretty much set himself for failure in the flavor category. The rub was entirely too salty, which just made the spicy Cajun part of the mix even that much more potent. By the time I knew I needed to balance it out with some sugar, it was too late. I was committed to it now. S0 my only hope in balancing out the savory rub was to hit the ribs during the smoking process with a spritz of 4 parts Apple Juice, one part Jim Beam Bourbon, and one part REAL maple syrup. Then, just pray for the best. This picture above shows the ribs after about an hour of cooking.

So with the temperature locked in where I wanted it, and the light, sweet cherrywood smoke rolling, it was simply a game of wait and see. i gave them a spray of the apple jucie-whiskey glaze every hour. After 4 hours of smoke time, I could tell they weren't at the doneness I was looking for (seen here to the right). I decided that I was going to stick with keeping them on the smoker as is, without doing any foil wrapping or steaming, and keeping the temperature where it was, as well. The ribs looked as if they had enough fat and marbling that they wouldn't be dry. After letting them go for another hour and a half, it looked and felt like the meat was tender. The ribs themselves looked incredible, with an amazing, rich burgundy red color to them. Still, I knew that the rub was going to make or break these things. I figured with some sweet BBQ sauce to accompany them, they would still be good.

But, alas, the dry rub mess-up was simply too much to overcome. The ribs were simply too salty to really enjoy. Even with a good quality BBQ sauce, the saltiness was too much to overcome. I'm also suspecting that the salt aided in the ribs being a bit dry, too, drawing out more moisture than normal. As far as texture and tenderness, they were also a little bit dried out on average, especially the ones that didn't have the bone in. There were some really good textured parts, though, as seen in the picture below. But Holy Hell, they look good, don't they?? Damn shame....

So, lessons learned: 1) Make your own dry rub. I shuld've known better, but I was in a hurry, so I tried to improvise with what I had on hand. I should know by now to never tkae shortcuts when it comes to making a dry rub. 2) Don't guess on your dry rub, or go by looks. Taste the damn thing. How stupid could you be to NOT taste it before you coat your pig parts?? This particular savory rib rub concoction would have possibly been edible with a light shake coating, not the full-on liberal rub I gave them. 3) Probably should foil wrap these for the last hour or so, or think about beginning to experiment with some sort of steam set-up in the pellet smoker. I think because of the cut of these country-style ribs, and so much cooking area on them, they naturally would have a tendency to dry out, regardless of the fat content.

Always a learning experience. I'll definitely be trying these again, with far better results. That's BBQ, though. Tons of trial & error. Don't be scurred to mess up.


Michael said...

Once I was at a friends and found some really nice pork chops in their freezer that we decided to cook up. This person did not cook so didn't have much in the way of ingredients of any sort. We came up with a container of Lawry's Seasoning Salt. I give the chops a light shake but then the friend said it didn't look like much seasoning, so I went back and hit them with a much much thicker coat. Of course they were ruined. The couple areas that got a light coating of seasoning were delicious but the rest were like turning the salt shaker over into your mouth. Lesson learning...a little can go a long way with the right seasoning.

Yoshi said...

JB I'm really disapointed in you. I thought you had some of my rub? Shaking my head.