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Ribs with Legs II: Braising, saucing, and finishing

The finished product

The finished product

Like I did for my pizza recipe I have decided to deal with ribs in two parts.  This recipe, while simple and straightforward, has a few independent stages that I think can be neatly divided into two posts.  Also, like the pizza recipe this one can be spread over two days/

When we left off the ribs had been rubbed, wrapped in aluminum foil and left in the fridge.  The aluminum foil will act as a perfectly-shaped pan to keep the braising liquid close to the meat, the rub will add lots of flavour and draw juices from the meat to enrich the sauce, all we need is a flavourful, slightly acidic braising liquid.  After testing several I can report  that the best combination here is the one suggested in the Alton Brown cookbook of 50:50 orange juice and limeade (or margarita mix).  Some flexibility here is totally acceptable.  I’ve used straight orange spiked with lime juice, or beer with apple cider vinegar, or white wine and wine vinegar.  All work, and you’ll need half a cup for each package of ribs.  Remove the ribs from the oven and using the funnel end of each package pour the juice, beer, or wine mixture into the funnel end and slide the pan(s) into an oven preheated to 350F.

One of AB’s recipes calls for microwaving the liquid and cooking the ribs in a 225F oven the whole time.  I have found that it’s better to start at 350F for an hour, so the liquid heats up and then drop the oven temperature down to 250F for another one and a half to two hours.  If like me you worry about scheduling, aim to have this cooking phase finished thirty minutes before you want to eat.

After three hours the ribs will definitely be cooked but some important finishing steps remain.  The braising liquid inside of the packages makes for an excellent sauce base.  It does take a bit of care though to get it out of the foil packets and into a saucepan.  With lots of trial and error I have determined that the best plan of attack is to hold each packet by one end with a pair of tongues and position it over a medium to large saucepan.  Use a pair of scissors to make a few strategic cuts in the bottom corners of the packet’s other end and the cooking juices should obediently flow into the pan. 

At this point what you have in the pan will probably look pretty soupy and cause you to worry that it will never thicken to sauce consistency.  Don’t worry, adding the honey and ketchup will help along with the amazing, combined powers of reduction and those of the gelatin liberated from the ribs during the long braising process.  The small amount of espresso powder will help colour the sauce.  Add cayenne after the reduction is underway to correct for your desired level of spiciness.

The ribs resting in aluminum foil

The ribs resting in aluminum foil

During the first fifteen minutes after the ribs come out of the oven and keeping warm wrapped in their foil pouches reduce the sauce on the stovetop on medium-high heat.  I tend to use a common saucepan that has taller sides but obviously the wider your pan is the more of the sauce will be reduced to the air and therefore the faster it will reduce.  Use this fifteen minutes to heat your barbeque or broiler.

I have used both the broiler and bbq methods to finish the ribs but this time went the outdoor route so my description will also focus on that method.  The process is the same and easily converted to the broiler, though.  After three hours of braising the rib meat will naturally tend to want to fall off the bones so it is important to move it as little as possible on the grill and to use two sets of tongues.  Start the racks bone side up, meat side down, apply a slathering of sauce, lower the lid and leave them for three minutes.  To get as much reduction and thickening as possible I always take the sauce back inside and return it to the stovetop.  Definitely one instance when I could use a side burner on the bbq.

After three minutes turn the meat over and lower the heat to medium and cover the ribs with another dose of sauce.  Sauce every three minutes until they have been on the grill for fifteen minutes and have acquired a dark red (sometimes discribed as “mahogany”) crust.  Only move the ribs if necessary to avoid a persistent flare-up.  Remove from the heat and serve with braised cabbage, coleslaw, potato salad, and most importantly the remaining sauce.

Ribs With Legs

Adapted from Alton Brown’s No Backyard Baby Back Ribs in I’m Just Here for the Food 

Note 1: This recipe is for one packet of ribs.  Each packet can hold up two larger racks of spareribs or three smaller racks of St. Louis Style Ribs.  Quantities stay the same because the braising liquid’s most important job is to fill the space inside the aluminum foil and remain in contact with the meat.  If you’re only making a single rack you may end up with too much bbq sauce but has that ever really been a problem?

  • 1-3 rack of St. Louis Style Ribs (PC Free From worked excellently.  Spareribs or baby backs can be substituted but use the amounts in parentheses for these larger ribs.)
  • 1/4 C orange juice
  • 1/4 C limeade or margarita mix
  • 3 TB ketchup
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • dash worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
What youre shooting for

What you're shooting for

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Remove ribs from fridge and pour braising liquid (orange juice and limeade only) into the funnel ends of the packages.  Crimp these ends closed and put the ribs, wrapped in foil and still on the sheet pans or broiler pans into the preheated oven.
  2. After one hour reduce the oven temperature to 250F and continue cooking for two further hours.
  3. Remove the ribs from the oven and liberate the braising liquid from the foil packets using the above-described method into a medium saucepan.  Add the other sauce ingredients (ketchup, honey,cayenne, worcestershire, and espresso) and let reduce, on medium-high, for fifteen minutes.  Meanwhile heat the bbq.
  4. Place the ribs meat side down on the grill and cover the bone side with bbq sauce.  Lower the lid and return the sauce to the stovetop.  After three minutes flip the ribs, reduce the bbq heat to medium, and give them another covering of sauce.  Repeat the saucing process (but don’t flip them again and try not to move them) every three minutes until a delicious crust forms on the meat (usually after fifteen minutes total on the bbq).

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2 Comments

  1. [...] photo) for closing the packets and refrigerate for at least two hours or up to overnight.  See the second post for details on cooking these [...]

  2. JamesD says:

    Thanks for the useful info. It’s so interesting

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