Anyhow, I thought I might enter this year and talked to Scott about it - he made me decide that I’d better give my test batches a run, sooner than later. If you want to know more about the competition, click on the link above, but I assume you would rather learn how to make the best ribs ever, so I urge you to continue reading.
Let’s admit it, I am fanatical about food and grilling; so much so that I am lucky enough to own a smoker. I am also lucky enough to get a steady supply of dried oak (a light smoking wood) from my dad, so I am able to smoke using only one chimney of briquettes to start and wood for the rest of the session. If you do not have a smoker, do a bit of research on indirect grilling; if you have a grill you can still smoke some meat, just be sure you make these ribs before the summer is up. You will feel like a pro.
I picked up 4 racks of baby back ribs from the Asian grocery store on 2nd and Oregon (they have a great butcher and fresh meat) and prepped them the night before. First remove the membrane from the bottom of the rack. It’s the thin, clear Saran-wrap looking coating that runs the length of the back of the rib rack. Use a butter knife to get it started. I like to start on the thicker side and work down and across. Once you get the hang of it you might be able to get it all in one fell swoop (but don't bank on it, because it can be a fickle process). This is very important because it lets the dry rub and the smoke work themselves into the meat. After the membrane was removed, I gave them a rub of secret herbs and spices (and brown sugar), wrapped them up tight in Saran wrap and put them in the fridge for the night.
The next day, I cranked up the smoker, let it get to the right temperature range (around 225F), and threw the dry-marinated ribs on the grate (after I let them come to room temperature, of course). I then began the 3-2-1 method of rib enlightenment. Truth be told, I am not an ‘exact’ guy. I hated math and science in school. I generally don’t measure my rub mixtures or ingredients (except when baking, which is rare), and even with this 3-2-1, I kind of just went with my instinct. SO here’s the 3-2-1 method: 3 hours on the grill, then 2 hours in an aluminum wrapper on the grill, and 1 hour to firm the meat back up. It was probably more like 2.5-1.5-1 in my case and those are loose estimates.
During the first 2-3 hours, whatever you decide to do, make sure to use a mop on the meat. I threw together some apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, water, and herbs & spices and mopped the racks every 30-45 minutes. This helps keep the meat tender during the slow cooking process.
After the ribs had been laid down to begin their smoking, I prepped the potatoes. I poked a fork into some baking potatoes about 5 times each, and then rubbed the entire outside with butter and threw them on the smoker. Smoke-roasted baked potatoes. Easy as that. They sat on the upper rack in the smoker, mainly untouched, for the 3-2-1 duration.
Time for the 2: the racks got doubled up (2 sets in one wrapper of foil) and filled with the remainder of mop liquid and a half-can of PBR for each set of 2 racks. Then they went back on the smoker and cooked for another 2 hours. This makes the meat oh-so-tender. After the (approximately) 2 hours, pull them out of the foil, apply the BBQ sauce(s) of your choice, and throw them back on for an hour, I like to flip them about halfway through this final hour to make sure both sides get a healthy slathering of sauce. Thanks to your earlier work - removing the membrane - you can really get twice the flavor out of the basting/dry rub seasonings you choose to apply.
Now remember – you need to be careful as you’re basting with your sauce in this final stage, as the meat is VERY tender at this point. After the first 20 minutes or so, flip it, give them their final saucing, and have a beer. You are basically just waiting for the sauce to thicken. It really doesn't take that long. The potatoes should be pulled at this juncture in order to allow them to cool a bit before cutting them open. I served them with diced chive flowers and dollops of sour cream. The potato has a smoky, soft interior and is a great side with the ribs, plus they take little to no effort.
For my sauces, I used my Coca-Cola base homemade barbeque sauce, an Asian sauce mixture (Hoisin, ginger, garlic, and some other secret ingredients), and a mustard and vinegar sauce that I threw together. The ribs were spectacular. Succulent, moist and just barely sticking to the bone with a crisp, barky crust. Some of the best I have ever had. The only problem with my three sauce experimentation is that everyone liked a different sauce “the best” and now I don't know which to use for the rib cook-off. I have never entered any cooking contests, and I just plan to go have fun (and eat as many kinds of ribs/drink as much Stoudt's beer as possible). My advice to you: smoke some ribs before summer is over, use the 3-2-1 (or 2-1-1) and impress your friends with your grilling prowess.