YIELD: 4 servings
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup sugar, divided
6 Tbsp. cider vinegar
6 Tbsp. olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 racks baby-back ribs (about 4-1/2 pounds)
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Dash cayenne pepper
Barbecue sauce, optional
PREP THE MEAT
Most store-bought ribs have what’s known as silverskin, a membrane over the underside of the ribs. Sometimes if you’re lucky, your butcher will remove it for you. Otherwise, you need to remove it before you cook. Don’t panic, it’s simple to do.
Insert a knife between the membrane and the meat at one end of the ribs. Be careful not to pierce the membrane. Work your fingers under the skin to loosen it. Now you’re going to tug it off. Wrap a paper towel around your hand so you can get a good grip. Gently but firmly, pull off the silverskin. It should peel off quite cleanly.
MAKE THE MARINADE
Pork is tasty as is, but marinating before cooking ribs on a charcoal grill enhances the flavor. It adds a deep savoriness that makes the meat more satisfying and delicious.
Making a marinade is easy. It’s really just stirring together a variety of liquids and spices and letting the meat soak in them overnight. For this recipe, combine the broth, soy sauce, ½ cup sugar, vinegar, olive oil and garlic in a bowl or measuring cup with a pour spout. Place the ribs in a shallow baking dish, like a 13X9. Pour two-thirds of the marinade over the meat. Turn to coat both sides, then refrigerate overnight. Turn the meat occasionally, to ensure that the meat is marinading evenly. (No need to get out of bed to do this. Just turn at night just before bedtime and turn again in the morning.) Don’t toss that remaining marinade! Cover and refrigerate it. You’ll use it while you’re grilling.
TREAT THE MEAT TO A SPICE RUB
Take the ribs out of the fridge. Drain and discard the marinade from the 13X9 baking dish. Pat the ribs dry (this helps the spice rub stick). Rub the spice mixture over all sides of the ribs, patting with your fingertips to encourage it to adhere.
Here’s the real secret to how to cook ribs: Cook them over indirect flames, and give them time. This lets the connective tissue melt away, leaving you with perfectly tender, toothsome ribs. If you cook them too quickly, over high heat, the meat can turn out chewy and tough.
Preheat a clean grill to medium heat (about 200°F), then oil the grill.
Place the ribs right on the grill, using tongs to maneuver them into place. Grill, covered, over indirect medium heat for 30 minutes on each side.
After the first hour, move the ribs to direct medium heat and cook 20-40 minutes longer, or until the pork is tender (more on this in a minute).
Occasionally, turn and baste with the reserved marinade (or barbecue sauce, if you prefer).
Once you start to baste with the sauce, keep a watchful eye on it in case the sugars start to caramelize (brown) quickly. You’d hate to burn the ribs now after all your preparations up to this point. This is why we wait to baste until the end of the cooking time.
TEST FOR DONENESS
Start testing for doneness once the meat begins to pull away from the ends of the bones. This visual cue means it’s time to test. Pierce the meat with a fork and the tines should glide through easily. You also can twist a rib bone a little bit; you should feel it move easily but not fall apart from the meat. If the meat falls off the bone, your ribs are overcooked. Remove from heat right away and make sure to have sauce at the table in case they’re a bit dry. Don’t beat yourself up! Next time, remember to check earlier.
Overall, your ribs should be cooked to a temperature of about 190°F. This high temperature melts the tough collagen in muscle fiber, resulting in a tender rib. To take the temperature of your ribs, insert a meat thermometer into the meat, being sure not to pierce through the meat or touch the bone.
LET REST AND ENJOY
After letting your ribs rest for 10-15 minutes, you’ll want to split them up into manageable portions. Using a sharp chef’s knife, carefully cut them into two-bone sections. Make the cuts as close to the bone as possible so there’s a lot of meat on each one.