Good barbecued spareribs—the kind with a lacquered crust and moist strands of meat hanging off the bone—take time.But they don’t have to take all day. You can make serious ribs and still find a few hours for a round of golf (or at least nine holes). The challenge lies in breaking down an extremely tough cut of meat, one layered with fat and collagen—two ingredients that will ultimately contribute to supreme flavor and texture. Barbecue purists smoke their ribs at low heat for five to six hours, imbuing them with an inimitable smoky quality. The rest of us can rely on an oven and generous seasoning. If you smother them with a dry rub (see recipe) and bake them covered for about three hours at 325 degrees, they emerge impossibly tender, fully cooked, and redolent of spices. What you need to do next is finish them off. Place them on a grill over smoldering orange coals, baste them with a sweet barbecue sauce (which helps offset the spiciness of the rub), then flip them a few times, and after about fifteen minutes you’re ready to eat. You might not win any ribbons, but if that’s the only reason you’re making ribs, you’ve got problems.
Serves four to six
2 racks pork spareribs
6 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon celery salt
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 bottles sweet barbecue sauce
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the ribs on a cutting board and cover liberally with the dry rub on both sides. (Pat, don’t rub, the mixture onto the meat.) Put both racks on a cookie tray with raised sides; it’s okay if the racks overlap. Add water to the base of the tray so it reaches halfway up the sides. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for at least three hours, until the ribs are extremely tender. You should be able to easily pull the meat from the bone.
Remove the racks of ribs from the tray and wrap in aluminum foil. You can keep them on the counter for several hours or refrigerate overnight.
When you’re ready to eat, fire up the grill, preferably a charcoal one. When the flames have died down and the coals are orange and dusty, place the ribs on the grill, bone-side down. With a brush, baste the tops with sauce. After a few minutes, flip the ribs and baste the bone side with sauce. If flare-ups occur, you may have to move the ribs away from the flames with a pair of tongs. Continue to flip and re-baste every few minutes, until the ribs are crispy but not blackened, about fifteen minutes.
Place ribs on a cutting board and hack them up. Serve with extra barbecue sauce and lots of cole slaw.