Before you put your smoker away for the year, give yourself one more shot at making fall-off-the-bone ribs, the kind that make championship judges drool and master barbecuers dream.
Your shopping list is simple: rub, ribs, charcoal and hickory chunks.
Mike Phillips and his wife, Lachone, owners of Highway 58 BBQ and 58 BBQ Too in Ooltewah, have some of the best ribs around, according to their customers.
"As far as I'm concerned, they do," said Don Miller, who frequents the Ooltewah location. "They've got a good flavor, and (the Phillipses) don't drown them in barbecue sauce. Plus, the meat's tender, and it falls off the bone. I'm a pork man, and ribs are my favorite."
Mr. Phillips, who's been barbecuing for 25 years, says he uses three-down ribs (a reference to their 3-pound weight).
"They're a little bit bigger than baby back," he said.
Carolyn Wells, co-founder and executive director of the Kansas City Barbecue Society, said of all pork products that can be cooked on the grill, ribs are a hands-down favorite.
"Pulled pork seems to be the staple, but ribs are the extra-special treat," she said.
Good ribs, Mr. Phillips said, are all in the seasoning. Without giving away his trade secrets, he offers these five tips.
1. Trim the fat from the ribs, then spread them with a liquid butter product and sprinkle generously with your favorite rub mixture. Allow the ribs to marinate in the rub for four to five hours. Meanwhile, prepare the smoker or grill. Soak hickory or other wood chunks, if desired.
2. When the smoker is ready, add ribs, cover and smoke for three to four hours. If using a grill, place ribs over indirect heat.
3. Remove ribs from grill, add sauce, if desired, and wrap in foil. Return ribs to smoker or grill, over indirect heat, and continue cooking for another hour or two.
4. Check ribs by pulling gently on the bones. When they are ready, the meat should come off the bone with little or no effort.
5. Cut ribs into serving-size pieces and serve with additional sauce, if desired.
Your ribs may not turn out as good as the Phillipses' on first try, but if at first you don't succeed, keep on trying.
THREE RUBS FOR RIBS
Here are recipes from bbq.about.com that will rub your ribs the right way.
Classic Carolina Rub
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup paprika
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well; use as a dry rub on beef, chicken, lamb or pork.
Memphis-Style Rib Rub
4 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoons cayenne
Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container. Spread evenly on prepared ribs that have been patted dry, and let sit until the rub appears moist.
Kansas City Rub
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne
Combine all ingredients together and transfer to an airtight container. Use as a rub for chicken or pork.