As much as I love to grill, barbecue has not always been a strong point for me. Notice that barbecue and grilled are used in two separate contexts, as they are NOT the same thing (if you tell a barbecue person they are the same, prepare to be punched). Barbecue is more about the low and slow, something I have had a hard time getting my head around due to my lack of patience. This is especially true when it comes to ribs. I have made ribs three times in my life. The first, I was 14 or 15 and had no business being near a rack of pork. The second was a few summers ago, when I made them in the oven using an Alton Brown recipe. They were ok, but the whole house smelled for days and they were a bit sweet for anyone's taste. This is my third attempt. I often turn to Cook's Illustrated for some inspiration of cooking methods and flavor bases. We do not always see eye to eye on the simplicity of applications, but for the most part they can guide me in the right direction with all of their research and testing. Being a scientist myself, I truly respect what they do. In fact, I would work for them in a heartbeat, something of a dream job for me by combining the two things I love the most. But I am getting off topic, this is about ribs. If you want to make truly good ribs, you need to give yourself an afternoon to make them. Again, low and slow. The directions that follow mainly detail a gas grill. If you have a charcoal or wood grill, I put a little blurb at the end to cover it.
Barbecued Ribs (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
2 full racks pork ribs (spare or baby back), about 2-3 pounds each
1/4 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups wood chips
Barbecue sauce (I cheated and used bottled from a rib festival)
Combine chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a small bowl. Rub a copious amount onto the ribs on all sides. Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least one hour or up to overnight. Let come to room temperature before placing on grill.
Soak woodchips in water for 30-45 minutes. Drain and place in a disposable aluminum pan (like a cake pan). Remove one of your grill grates and place the pan directly on the bottom of the grill, placed on top of the primary burner (a lot of grills have those V shaped bars above the burners, that's what I'm talking about, on top of those). Turn all burners to high and cover grill. Heat until the chips are smoking, 10-15 minutes. Turn all burners off except the primary burner, and adjust that to medium. Place ribs on the non-heated end of the grill and cover. The goal is to maintain an internal grill temperature of 275-300°F while keeping the ribs off of direct heat. Cook ribs, flipping and rotating about every 30 minutes, until the meat starts to pull away from the bone, about 3-4 hours. If desired, brush with sauce on both sides the last 15 minutes of cooking. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and let rest for 30 minutes- 1 hour. Enjoy.
Note- For a charcoal grill, apply the same principal of a two side fire. Pile coals on one side of the grill and heat until ashed over. Place wood chips directly on the coals. Place ribs on the other (cooler) side of the grill and cover when grilling. Every hour add a few more briquettes to maintain heat.