Ramble On

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Pork Diaries: The Half Rack

It was with much trepidation last weekend that I reached into the freezer and pulled out my first half rack of ribs.  There is so much lore about cooking this particular cut of meat - so many approaches to the task and so many recipes - that I was very worried about my effort living up to all the hype.

Adding to the pressure is our local BBQ place, Rocklands, where Mary and I have been enjoying meals of ribs for more than 15 years.  As a matter of fact, when I decided I would use a sauce on the ribs, theirs is the one I chose.

In the end, just as with the pulled pork effort, there really wasn't much that could go wrong.  If you're careful about the heat and you live by the "low and slow" rule - they'll probably come out fine.

After the ribs were thawed, there were two key prep steps that I took.  The first was to prepare the ribs by cutting the skirt off (we cooked this on the grill with simple seasonings and had it a couple of days later, after the ribs were gone), and stripping off the shiny membrane that covers the "inside" of the rack.  The second step was putting together a rub for the meat, which I did based on what we have in the spice rack and on some refinement to what we had enjoyed on the pulled pork.  I let the meat sit with the rub on it for three hours this time - I like to think that added to the flavor.

Next I stoked the Big Unit.  I have been using hickory exclusively for smoking the meats out there, and this was no exception.  At first, the heat in the Big Unit gets up to around 300 degrees, but since I am using indirect heat I figure this is just searing whatever cut I am cooking that day.  I start with the smoke immediately and continue that for the first hour to hour and a half as the heat adjusts downward to around 225.  So far that approach has paid off with a fine red layer that permeates the meat when it is finally done.

I cooked the ribs for about 2.5 hours,  They weren't at a "fall off the bone" state, which was fine by me, but they were definitely done, and besides, my charcoal had burned out.  I haven't quite mastered the charcoal recharging process - I'll have to keep practicing that.

With about 15 minutes to go, I slathered on the sauce and moved the half rack over to the gas side.  There I lit the left and right burners, turning them to medium, and kept the center burner off.  The ribs rested there between the two heated burners while they soaked in the Rocklands sauce.

In the end, Mary and I were very happy with the results of this recipe.  We paired them with another go at the curried summer squash soup I had made before and some fresh cucumbers, all from the truck patch. (Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are all coming soon, by the way, but not ready yet.)

There is a photo above of the final product.  They were - tasty.  I can't wait to try this one again.

FYI, here's a link to Rocklands, our local BBQ place in Alexandria:  http://www.rocklands.com/

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