One of my all time favorite trips for "Cooking Live' was to Memphis to cover the huge annual barbecue cook-off there. It is an astounding event that attracts more than 200 teams from all around the country, from funky little crews of like-minded friends to heavily financed corporate outfits. Everyone competes not just for the best ribs but also for the best booth. Some of the so-called booths are two stories high and extremely elaborate.6 pounds baby back ribs
Although most of the teams party hard for three days straight--the beer flows--everyone also stays very focused on the cooking. If I'd never understood it before, I do now: Barbecuing, done right, is clearly and art that takes years to perfect. I have never eaten such great meat anywhere.
When it was all over, we had Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue, from Decatur, Alabama--one of that year's champs--come onto the show to show us how they make their ribs. Even cooking in an oven instead of on a grill, and without the benefit of the smoking process, Chris's ribs were absolutely delicious. His secret? Slow and low. In Memphis I'd heard this time and again. Everyone has his or her secret rub and marinade and sauce, but there is one thing on which everyone agrees; slow and low.
I decided to develop my own version of oven-baked ribs. Here it is.
(A word to the wise: If you boil your ribs before you grill or roast them, don't even think about going to Memphis. That is a terrible barbecue no-no.)
1/4 cup sweet or hot paprika
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chili powder
5 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
1 recipe Rick's Barbecue Sauce (page 343) or your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce
Use your fingers to pull off and remove the thin papery skin from the back of each rib. Combine the paprika, salt, sugar, chili powder, garlic, cumin, mustard, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix well. Rub the mixture all over the ribs. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place the ribs meat side up in one layer on several sheet pans and bake, turning from time to time, until very tender, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. About 30 minutes before the ribs are done, remove them from the oven and brush liberally on all sides with the barbecue sauce. bake until very tender. Serve additional sauce on the side.
Hubby and I share one rack of ribs so he lessens this recipe to accommodate one or two racks of ribs. I must they they are the best ribs I've ever had. Fall off the bone, finger licking delicious.