It's summertime in the South, and that means we're grilling AT LEAST twice a week!  There is nothing more comforting to me than smoking something on the grill all Sunday afternoon to end a good weekend.  And RIBS are one of my favorites.

A couple of summers ago, I really got into smoking Baby Back Ribs.  So much so that I thought I was going to get a Big Green Egg for Mother's Day.  You read it right - a grill for Mother's Day ... Because in THIS house, the mama is the GrillMaster (if you can consider 2 pups for children, I would be the "mama")!   But, alas, no Green Egg here.  What I have learned is that, while some of my favorite Grillin' Dudes think this piece of culinary toolset is a must for your backyard, I can do exactly what I need to on my charcoal grill that they can do in their expensive Egg.  Would I like one?  Certainly, if someone was to purchase it, deliver it, build a snazzy table-stand for it and set it up.  Do I need one?   Not necessarily so.

For me, the science of it all is best explained in the Summer 2010 issue of Cook's Illustrated - A very good cooking pub, by the way.  If you haven't had the chance to glance at one on the news stand, I recommend it.  Always chock full of recipes, equipment reviews, techniques and not a single advertisement, this magazine is a treasure.  The key to a perfect smoking environment is building a well measured charcoal fire - in this case, a "modified two-level" fire, where you pile about 75 lit coals on one side of the grill and leave the other side empty - open the bottom vents, and then open the vent where your piggy pieces will be placed to draw the smoke through the grill.  Cooking times and procedures will be described in the following recipe instructions.


2 racks of 2 lb baby back ribs

1/2c table salt
1/2c sugar

Wood chunks / chips

1Tbsp & 1tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground white pepper
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp table salt
2 Tbsp chipotle powder
1 Tbsp fine ground coffee


Dissolve the salt and sugar in about 4 qts of cold water.  Add the ribs.  Make sure your container lets you submerge the ribs in the brine.  Let the ribs sit in the brine, in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Soak the wood chips for about 15m, while you mix the spice rub.

Remove the ribs from the brine and dry completely with a paper towel.  Rub the spice mixture all over the ribs and let stand in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Once you have heated your coals (I use a chimney starter), and put them on your grill in the "modified 2 level" design as described above, place your wood chips on the coals, open your grates and place your cooking grill on top of the coals.  Let it heat up for about 5 minutes and scrape it clean with a grill brush.

Dip a paper towel in canola oil and rub the hot grates.  Place the ribs on the cooler side of the grill and pull the cover down.  Your grill temp should be about 350 to start, but it will drop down to about 250.  This is good because "low and slow" is the name of the game for super melt-in-your-mouth, tender ribs!  Cook for about 2 hours, flipping the ribs and changing their position on the grill to be sure they are cooked on all sides, every 30 minutes.  Check them for doneness.  If your grill has dropped in temperature, they should cook a little longer.  Continue to cook the ribs in this manner another hour and a half - or until you can easily pull meat away from the bone.  One way to test the doneness, besides taking "samples for the chef", is to check the ends of the ribs.  If you can see the bone tips, they should be getting close to done.

Once they are done, pull them off the grill and transfer to a cutting board.  Let rest a few minutes, then cut between the ribs and serve them to your special friends (only "special friends" - this is too much work for just the "ordinary friends"!).

Spicy Black Bean Salad
Cole Slaw
Potatoes au Gratin (with cheese)
Mac & Cheese
Pinto Beans

Wine Accompaniment: Chase Cellars' 2008 Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel - $45 - This wine has an amazingly concentrated fruit flavor because it came from the smallest crop ever noted at Chase.  The zinfandel vines at Chase are "old vines" (read: great flavor depth), whcih have been growing on the property since 1903!  This great fruit-forward wine has a creamy balance that makes it an excellent pair to these spicy ribs.


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