Barbecue Spare Ribs

This was meant to be an entry about baby back ribs. I ordered two racks of baby backs from my butcher, but they either misheard me or the person that butchered the ribs for me doesn’t know what baby backs are. I’d hope it wasn’t the latter. I’d only ordered baby backs because my old kettle grill is small and spare ribs might be a bit big for it, so no great harm done. Here’s the trimmed rack:

And here they are after a night marinating in Meathead’s Memphis Dust:

The two bits of rib were butchered pretty roughly. I neither had the whole spare rib nor a properly trimmed rack. I tidied them up and kinda squared them off to give a rough approximation of a St Louis cut. Once again I set the grill up for indirect cooking, coals on one side, water pans on the other, meat placed on the grill over the water pans. If you read the entry on pulled pork I said that I thought the fantastic pork it yielded may have been a bit of a fluke. I don’t think it was a fluke exactly, but it was definitely a result of that big hunk of pork being a very forgiving cut of meat. It seems that ribs are much less forgiving. There’s obviously less meat so there’s a very real risk of overcooking them if you fail to control the heat in the grill. I also mentioned before that I don’t have a lid thermometer on my kettle, and I cooked the pulled pork by the temperature of the meat alone. This just won’t do with ribs. I clocked the internal temperature of the grill at around 330F at one point, far too high for low and slow cooking. So…how did they turn out? Have a look:

They look good. And the individual ribs:

These pictures are a little misleading. They’re actually a little overcooked and a little oversmoked. Oversmoking leads to a slightly bitter aftertaste. The meat content of the ribs was also a little disappointing. They tasted ok though, especially with the addition of Meathead’s KC Classic Kansas City BBQ sauce. The texture was the disappointing thing. The point here is to achieve meat that is moist and comes clean off the bone when eaten. That didn’t happen with this rack. Having tasted the first attempt I figured I’d smoke and cook the second rack for less time. These turned out much better:

The colour is lighter and the smoke is just right. The meat is still quite moist, but again the texture isn’t as tender as I’d hoped for.


I didn’t have high expectations this time. I did think that the limitations of my old kettle would make this difficult to get right, and so it proved. I won’t be trying ribs again until I get the ProQ Frontier that I have my eye on. The best part of this was definitely the sauce. I made Meathead’s KC Classic Kansas City BBQ sauce; a rich, sweet, tangy sauce with a little bit of heat. The recipe calls for a couple of things that you might not have in your cupboard. American style mustard is available in most supermarkets though, and treacle is a reasonable substitute for molasses. If your supermarket doesn’t have molasses you should try a health food shop like Holland & Barrett. That’s where I found some in Glasgow. I eased up on the amount of vinegar. One important point if you’re following this recipe, or any American recipe that involves chilli powder. American chilli powder is a blend of ground chillis and other spices. Chilli powder in the UK tends to be pure ground chillis, so cut back on the amount you use. Meathead’s recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of chilli powder. I halved the quantities, but used only 1 teaspoon of chilli powder and the sauce still has a nice kick. Experiment to get it right.  If you halve the quantities in the recipe you’ll make enough to fill a regular sized ketchup bottle perfectly.


2 thoughts on “Barbecue Spare Ribs

  1. badboyzofbbq says:

    Put rub on overnight i would say is to long on ribs, 3/4 hours is enough

    • I think I’d tend to agree. I was following Meathead’s instructions and he suggests overnight marinating, but I found that the rub liquefied and pooled in the foil. Will probably give it an hour tops next time.

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