While doing “field research” on barbecue a few years back, I ended up in Hillsdale, Kansas, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. There I discovered The Bank, a place that serves beautifully smoked meats and perhaps the greatest barbecue sauce I’ve ever tasted. A conversation with the pit boss revealed that his ‘cue method was to forgo the dry rub and use hickory at a very low temperature, giving the meat more time in the smoker. Everything about these ribs told me that these were good ideas, and as soon as I got back in my rental car, I called Town Hall and told the staff to change our preparation immediately.
After you make these ribs the first time, you’ll realize the hardest thing about preparing a batch is the cooking time. By that I mean when the air starts smelling of smoke and the ribs begin taking on a gorgeous deep color, well, you’re going to want them right away. But, as I said, these ribs are the low-and-slow variety and patience is necessary. I often cook these ribs for parties, and guests inevitably ask me for the recipe. “No need to write it down,” I say. “It takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Just some salt and pepper, and after a half hour, baste them with some apple juice, and then again after 2 1/2 hours. That’s how you get that paper-thin, candylike glaze.” For your convenience, I’ve written the instructions below.
At the restaurant and in this recipe, we use St. Louis-style ribs, which are the spareribs trimmed of the tips. But you can use regular spareribs or even babyback ribs. Make sure to ask your butcher to remove the membrane from the rib racks to let more of the hickory smoke flavor in.–Mitchell Rosenthal
LC No Smoker? No Sweat. Note
How to make head-turning ribs with ease? Simple. Forgo the dry rub on ’em. Smoke ’em low and slow. And slather ’em with a boozy sauce. Although in keeping with our approach to honest entertaining, we gotta be straight with you, the must-have-ness of these ribs is due in large part to that second edict, the one about being smoked nice and sloooooowly at a looooooow temperature. No smoker? No sweat. It’s a cinch to jury-rig an outdoor smoker. Take a gander at some of our recipe testers’ tactics, which you’ll find in the comments beneath the recipe.
Special Equipment: 3 to 4 handfuls hickory chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
Ribs with Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 15 M
- 5 H
- Serves 6
- 3 racks (about 10 pounds total) St. Louis or spareribs or baby-back ribs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup apple juice
- Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
- 1. Prepare a barrel smoker or adapt your charcoal or gas grill for smoking. You want the temperature to be between 225° and 250°F (107°C and 121°C). Take the rib racks out of the refrigerator and allow them to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes while you get the fire ready.
- 2. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper. Place the racks, bone side down, in the smoker and toss in a handful of the soaked hickory chips. Smoke the ribs for 30 minutes, then baste them generously with half of the apple juice. Smoke for 2 1/2 hours longer, rotating the ribs every hour by moving the racks closest to the heat source to the farthest point and vice versa. Be sure to also add charcoal every hour or so to maintain the temperature inside the smoker at about 225°F (107°C). Add more soaked wood chips after 2 hours to keep the smoke flowing. After the additional 2 1/2 hours has passed, baste the ribs a second time with the remaining apple juice. Repeat, continuing to rotate the ribs, add charcoal, and toss more wood chips into the smoker at the previously mentioned intervals, until the ribs are tender and the meat pulls away easily from the bone, 4 to 4 1/2 hours total.
- 3. Transfer the racks of ribs to a baking sheet, take them inside, and plonk them on a platter or cutting board. Cut the ribs apart, slather them with some of the Spicy Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, and then plonk the rest of the sauce on the table for dipping and dousing.
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