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Once upon a time when Rob was out of town, I decided to try my hand at the charcoal grill. I fondly refer to this incident as the time I burned off my hair. A big gust of wind + lighter fluid = a terrible smell and instant bangs. (Once I trimmed off all the burned bits, that is.) I’m lucky I still have a face. But ladies! The grill doesn’t have to be a source of fear! (I would recommend a ponytail holder, though.) I got back on that horse and love that my husband isn’t the only one who knows how to operate the grill. While he was gone this past week, I served up a grilled meal for my parents with Farmland “All Natural” Ribs and my own homemade BBQ sauce. Here are a few grilling tips and a nice basic recipe for BBQ sauce!
Baby Back Ribs are one of those foods that get your hands dirty, from the making to the eating. I snagged my ribs at Walmart—and you can even get a coupon for $1 off Farmland/Smithfield Baby Back or St. Louis style ribs! (If you haven’t used Coupons.com before, it’s simple. Use the food category to narrow it down and you can find and print the Farmland/Smithfield coupon. Get yours while supplies last!) I like getting a good deal on quality meat and know that Farmland “All Natural” pork is raised in the USA with no preservatives or artificial ingredients and is minimally processed. Farmland also has an “All Natural” pork tenderloin that I’m itching to try next.
The first thing you want to do with Baby Back Ribs is get a good rub on the meat. For both rubs and marinades, you want to go heavy on the spice. This gives great flavor and doesn’t overpower since it’s likely to sear or cook off for the most part. I mixed brown sugar, paprika, coriander, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and salt in a bowl, then used my fingers to rub it all along both sides of the meat. (Remember I said your hands will get dirty?) I then wrapped it back up with foil in a large pan and set it in the fridge for about six hours. For the rub to really set in, you’ll want to give it somewhere between two and twelve hours.
Then you’ll want to start on your sauce. A lot of homemade sauces use ketchup as a base, but that already has a ton of ingredients and I wanted to stick with something that better complemented the Farmland’s “All Natural” ribs. Crushed tomatoes are a great base because they are thicker than tomato sauce, but not chunky like diced tomatoes. My recipe changes a little bit each time and I’m not a fan of measuring, but I did measure (just for YOU!) and will share a basic recipe you can start with, then tweak for your family’s particular taste. BBQ sauce is a nice catch-all for so many things you probably already have in your fridge!
Once everything was added to my BBQ sauce, I brought it up to a bubbly boil and then turned it down to a very low simmer uncovered for about four hours, stirring once an hour. It thickens up over time and leaves you with a rich and flavorful sauce that you can brag is homemade. This batch made enough to use for the next month, and you can find a fancy jar for it at a restaurant supply or in the kitchen section of Walmart. You could also put it in mason jars and give it away as gifts. Use this recipe as is, OR play around with different ingredients to get your perfect sauce. This one is a little sweet and a little spicy, but not too much of either. I personally like more of a kick, but not when I’m making food for my parents.
- 2 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
- 1 yellow onion, grated
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 T minced garlic
- 1/2 cup alcohol (I used white wine, but a dark beer would be better!)
- 1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
- 3 T Worcestershire
- 2 T Tamari Soy Sauce
- 1 T honey
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
- 1 T Sriracha (or any hot sauce of your choosing)
- 2 T chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- Add olive oil to a large pot and turn heat to medium high. Grate one small onion and stir until the onions are softening. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and alcohol, stirring well to combine. Add other ingredients and keep on medium high until it begins to bubble and almost boil. Then turn down to low and let simmer for 2-4 hours, stirring once or twice an hour. After it's been cooking an hour or so, take a taste to see if you need to adjust seasonings.
- -Feel free to make this sauce your own! For more of a kick, up the cayenne or Sriracha.
- -A few tablespoons of dry mustard or a cube or two of beef bouillon add a hearty flavor.
- -You may want a bit of salt, but the soy and Worcestershire both have salt, so I would wait until you taste it before adding any more.
- -This is the kind of recipe with a lot of room for give and take. You can experiment and add as much as you like, but if you like sticking straight to a recipe, this will do you well.
While I’ve never grilled ribs before, I stuck with what I learned from Rob: start with a good, fast sear on both sides, then remove from direct heat and cook slowly on the upper rack. I put the ribs directly on the high flame for about two minutes a side until they got a little crisp. This helps seal in the juices and the flavor. You aren’t really burning the meat so much as the spices on the outside from the rub. Then I turned the heat down to medium and put the ribs on the high rack for about an hour. (I think that they could actually have cooked a little less, but were still very tender with a crispy outside.)
For the last hurrah, I slathered the rack in my BBQ sauce and let it caramelize and darken on the outside. I read online that a nice rack of smoked ribs will have a tiny pink ring just inside the seared outer crust. Though my method isn’t true smoking, I did end up with a ring! I’m a first-timer, though, so for more professional advice from the BBQ Pitmasters, check out the Ready, Set, Ribs where you can find recipes and fabulous grilling tips. I always like to check out a few recipes to get the general method of cooking before I try my hand at any meat on the grill.
The last and best part of this is eating with your family. Make sure you have plenty of napkins or wet wipes handy for this meal! And you might want to keep on your apron or get a bib. We served the ribs with my mom’s grilled veggie recipe (summer veggies grilled in foil with butter, brown sugar, beef bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper). Delicious! I think when you start with a great cut of meat like Farmland’s “All Natural” Pork Baby Back ribs and pair it with a homemade sauce, you’re going to have a better quality and better tasting meal.
Even with my husband out of town and a baby bump that’s 37 weeks along, I love knowing that I can master the grill. You can too! Never fear the grill, but just remember to stay away from the lighter fluid on a windy day!