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Cook Loose Techniques/BraiseTheRibs?

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Jun 18, 2021


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Getting Around

Braise The Ribs

Placed the smoked ribs on a cooling rack on a baking sheet (one that has a lip, or edge all the way around. A flat sheet will not work unless you love a mess.) Put a 1/2 cup or so of some flavorful liquid in the pan. Fruit juice, beer, wine, what have you. I like orange or apple juice myself. Lately I've been dumping in most of a can of cola. Using a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil (or a double sheet of regular foil creased together the long way to make an extra wide sheet) seal the ribs, rack and juice in the pan by crimping the foil around all of the edges.

An alternative that I like is to enclose a slab of ribs in a package made of foil, being sure to put the crease on the top. You can then close one end, pour your liquid in the other, and seal up that end. You lose very little liquid this way, and if all holds together, it makes for a very easy cleanup. I would still use a baking sheet just in case.


Foil package holding slab

Cook in a slow oven (200, 225) for 3 hours or so. You can go with a higher temperature, 275 say, for less time. Most of the recipes that I've been looking at have a higher heat. I've even seen 350, which is a medium, not a slow oven. Doubting myself, I just did a batch of ribs at 300 for 2 1/2 hours. It was a mistake. The liquid evaporated and the meat in contact with the foil and pan got darker than I wanted. It was still good, but not exquisite. Low and slow.

The goal is to get the ribs cooked using moist heat, but not pull away the flavor. I've heard of people who boil their ribs. If you don't drink the water, then you've lost all the flavor.

You'll know the ribs are done when the meat has shrunken back from the bones and when you can grab one of the bones and twist it in the meat. That means the cartilage has gotten all soft and turned to gelatin. That's where the finger licking goodness comes from. However my wife and I disagree on "perfect" ribs. She likes them a little firmer. So, if you like to be able to cut the ribs apart individually and be able to chew the meat away...200 degrees for 3 hours. If you want them fallin' off the bone yummy (my preference...could you tell?) the 225 for 3 hours.

Another indicator is smell. They'll smell good for a long while, but if they start smelling a bit TOO done, get to them. Again, this comes from the doubting myself episode. Use all your senses in the kitchen to help you.

When you remove the pan from the oven, you will need to be very careful, because there is actually more liquid than when you started and it is very easy to pour hot liquid all over the floor and yourself. Again, I've done it. Remove the foil and carefully pour the liquid into a sauce pan. This is a great addition to your homemade barbecue sauce, but will require you tasting after cooking it down, because this is a combination of your braising liquid, your rub and the meat. Sometimes the rub is so dominant a flavor that I don't even use this liquid in the sauce, but other times, it is just the right extra to make today's meal special. You're the cook. It's your call. If you like to know exactly how everything is always going to come out, then stick to a recipe and don't mix in a wild card like this braising liquid. But the best sauce I've ever made turned out that way because of the braising liquid. It's a wild card, as I said. It can help you or not.

An alternative method for braising is to take a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil and make a pouch by folding over the edges, like an envelope or package, and completely enclosing the ribs. When you've closed in the top and one end, pour your braising liquid into the still open end, and seal it up. Put the whole package on the baking sheet and braise as above. There are two advantages: it takes less braising liquid and it is much neater. However, you'll have less liquid for your sauce so it's a trade off. I just used the method to prep ribs for the future. I did three St. Louis slabs through the smoke step, then wrapped each in heavy duty foil. One is for tomorrow. The other two are in the freezer and are two steps away from dinner when I want great ribs and the weather won't cooperate.

Back to BarbecueRibs


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