Servings: six to eight.
The smoky-sweet-spicy flavor of this rub and sauce is a classic complement for pork ribs. You can use either spareribs or baby back ribs for this recipe; baby backs will require about an hour less cooking time. If you don’t have a charcoal grill, see our gas grill version of this recipe.
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Soak the wood chips in water for about 1 hour.
Slide the blade of a dinner knife under the thin, translucent silverskin that covers the bone side of each rack (note that some racks are sold with the silverskin already removed). Lift and loosen the membrane until you can grab it with a paper towel; pull it off and discard.
In a small bowl mix the spice rub ingredients. Sprinkle the rub all over the ribs, seasoning the meaty sides a little more than the bone sides and working the rub into the meat. Stand the ribs upright in a rib rack so that the meaty sides face the same direction. Leave as much room as possible between the racks; they shouldn’t touch. Let the racks sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes while you prepare the grill.
Open the vents on the bottom and top of the grill. Using a chimney starter or other method, light about 50 charcoal briquettes and let them burn until they are completely ashed over. Push the briquettes to one side and then spread them evenly to cover about one-third of the charcoal grate. Carefully set a large disposable drip pan on the opposite side of the charcoal grate and fill it about three-quarters full with warm water. Put the cooking grate in place, positioning a hinged section over the coals. Leave the lid off and let the briquettes burn until they are three-quarters of their original size and then close the lid. Let the fire burn down until a thermometer in the grill’s lid registers 300° to 325°F.
Drain about half the wood chips and scatter them over the burning coals. (If your grill doesn’t have a hinged section, carefully lift the cooking grate off the grill, scatter the chips, and then replace the cooking grate.)
Set the rib rack on the cooking grate over the drip pan, with the bone sides of the ribs facing the coals. (The bones will protect the meat from cooking too quickly.) Let the ribs smoke for 45 minutes. Check every 10 minutes or so, and if the temperature rises above 325ºF, close the top vents halfway; otherwise, leave the vents completely open. If the temperature drops below 250ºF, add 5 to 10 unlit briquettes to the fire. After the ribs have cooked for 45 minutes, drain the remaining wood chips and gently spread them over the coals (don’t stir up any ashes). Close the lid. Let the ribs smoke 15 minutes more for baby backs, 1 hour 15 minutes more for spareribs. During this initial cooking, prepare the mop and sauce.
You don’t need to make the barbecue sauce until the ribs start their initial cooking.
These ribs are fabulous! I had printed out the gas grill version, but my husband decided that he wanted to make them on our charcoal grill, so he printed out the charcoal version. I was worried that these might be too sweet, but they weren't at all. I did decide to use 1 1/2 tsp. of ancho chile powder, and 1/2 tsp. chipotle chile powder in the rub, rather than using all ancho chile powder, and 1/4 tsp. ancho chile powder, and 1/4 tsp. chipotle chile powder in the barbecue sauce. The ribs had a beautiful balance of slightly sweet and slightly spicy, and, of course they were deliciously smoky due to the use of hickory chunks. We will definitely be making these many times over.
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