Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ribs: A Delicious New Hope. Part I

We all have regrets in life.  Whether it’s wishing we had done something differently or wishing we hadn’t done something all together, we all have our list of mishaps and misfortunes. 

This will be YOU if you don't qualify to win free Magic Dust! via

While I’m not about to go into the dark side of my list, there is a part that I thought would be worth sharing with you all: Ribs. 

As I mentioned in my asparagus post, I grew up as a very picky eater.  This pickiness even extended into the pork menu.  I can honestly say that I really didn’t like ham growing up and I didn’t even try pork ribs until my senior year in high school.  

I was an idiot, and my shame slapped me square in the face when I first tasted smoked ribs at a local BBQ joint known for having the best in town.

I had my first ribs up in yankee country at City Barbeque in Columbus, Ohio.  My true BBQ awakening came when I went down below the Mason-Dixon. via

Little did I know that just a few short months after trying my first rack of ribs, I would be thrown into a life that would expose me to some of the most gloriously tasting ribs on the planet.  It started when I went down south for college and things just got better after marrying an Okie from Muskogee and living in Kansas City for a year.  If there was a place within driving distance of where I lived that bragged about their ribs, you can bet I made the trip to try them out.  While I may have my favorites, it’s basically impossible for me to turn down a juicy rack of ribs, no matter what kind of rub or sauce you might toss on there.

Baby Blues BBQ in Venice, California got me through some tough times during law school in L.A.  If you go here, don't waste your time or money on anything other than the ribs.  via

Alright, let's get started on these suckers.  For Part I, you’ll need to gather at least one rack of ribs, your favorite rib rub, a sharp knife, and some saran wrap.  This is all you'll need to prep the pig.

The Selection Process:

If you have a local butcher that will let you pick out your own ribs, then by all means, go and do this.  The butcher will be a great resource for all your carnivorous endeavors.

If you don’t have a butcher, then don’t worry, the best ribs I’ve made to date were ones that I picked up from the local grocery store in cryovac packaging.  The only advice I can offer is if you’re buying more than one rack, try to get them as close to the same weight as possible.  There’s nothing worse than having 2 racks done and having to wait another hour for the third!

Prepping the Pig:

While we may be living in the age of convenience, there is still a good amount of work left to be done on the ribs before they’re ready to be cooked.  All of your work will be done on the bottom side of the ribs, so flip them over, meaty side down.

The first thing you’ll want to do is remove the skirt.  The skirt is a thin strip of meat that runs along the underside of the ribs.  You want to remove this in order to make the ribs more uniform in thickness, allowing for even cooking.

The skirt is the piece of meat running diagonal across the ribs.

To remove, take a very sharp knife and simply cut it off as close to the bone as possible.  I prefer using my paring knife for this because it’s short enough to work with the natural curve of the ribs.  Big knives just get in the way.

The next step is trimming the chine bone.  The chine bone runs perpendicular to the rib bones and can be found on the edge of the pliable section of ribs (it's located on the top left corner of the ribs in the photos above).  To remove, place your blade on the inside edge of the bone and cut about an inch beneath it.  You will be cutting through cartilage and the section of the ribs known as the “rib tips.”  If you have a sharp knife, this will be surprisingly easy.

We're gonna need a bigger cutting board...

Those bright white spots are the rib tips.  Don't take off too much of that stuff!

Optional:  You can also remove the rib tips.  To remove the rib tips, just cut closer to the bone and remove everything that is pliable above the ribs.  While most restaurants do this, I find the tips to be absolutely delicious and I think it’s a waste to cut them off.  So, I leave a good amount of the rib tips on.

Next up:  the rib membrane.  The membrane is a thin layer of white film that has the texture of parchment paper after it’s been cooked.  Some say that it prevents smoke and rubs from penetrating into the meat, while others say it’s okay to leave it on.  I find it to be unpleasant to eat and usually take it off.

Pulling the membrane can be tricky, but you get better at it over time.  Take a small knife or even a meat thermometer and separate the membrane from the bone.

Carefully, start to pull back the membrane, making sure it doesn’t split up the middle.  I use a paper towel to get a better grip.

Once you’ve got it started and have begun to pull back the membrane from top to bottom, you’re home free. 

Just grip it and rip it.  It usually comes off right where the skirt was cut off, which is all you need.

Alright, rib prep is done!  Now it’s time for the rubs. 

I decided to have a taste test between two of my favorite rubs.  The first should be familiar to you, it’s “The Squeal Hog Rub.”  The other competitor is Arthur Bryant’s Meat and Rib Rub.  

Two generations of Kansas City Rubs.  The new kid on the left, the old standard on the right.

Apply your rub generously on both sides of the ribs.  Cover them in saran wrap and let the rub penetrate for as long as possible.  Overnight is ideal.

That’s all I’ve got for part one.  Tune in tomorrow to see the finished ribs and find out who won our rib rub taste test!

Don’t forget to qualify for winning free Magic Dust by commenting on your favorite BBQ meat and by liking Jim’s Mixed Grill’s new facebook page!


  1. Hey Jim! Just thought you might want to check my blog :) Hope yall are doing well!

  2. Wow! Thanks, Janice! We are so glad we've gotten to know you two over the years. Looking forward to seeing you both again soon!