Dizzy Tips: Art of Cooking Tender Pork Ribs

Dizzy Tips: Art of Cooking Tender Pork RibsIt is hard to think about barbecue without thinking about delicious smokey pork ribs!

Whether it is spare ribs or babyback ribs, it is tough to beat a perfectly cooked slab of meat on a convenient “stick” to eat it from.

However, ribs may be one of the more misunderstood meats when it comes to cooking them.

The Dizzy Pig Competition Team has cooked over 1,000 slabs of ribs in competitions alone, and won a bunch of awards over the years.

One thing we have learned is that there are many roads to great ribs!

In fact, there are so many different cooking methods that yield a great product that we won’t go into detail on any one particular method.


The #1 most important piece of knowledge to the perfect rib

Is knowing when to pull the ribs off the cooker.


Other than that, there’s really no wrong way to cook them. We won’t tell you to boil them and put them in the oven with bbq sauce on them, but I am sure some decent ribs have been made with this method!


So, how do you cook the perfect slab of ribs?

Number 1It Starts with Good Flavoring

First, get good flavoring on them. Marinating is a great way to add some of your own personality to the flavor profile. Lots of stuff goes good on pork so the possibilities are endless.

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Worcestershire
  • Fruits
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Even soda are all used in different concoctions.

Marinating is not going to tenderize the meat like you may have heard, but it will add a layer of flavor into the final product.

We don’t marinade our competition ribs, we just use one of our rubs.

A light dusting of salt before the rubs won’t hurt either (unless you have a lot of salt in your marinade). After the salt, we apply a generous coating of rub, as evenly as possible. A little more where the ribs are thicker, a little less where they are thinner.


Number 2Cooking Options

Your options are wide open for cooking as well. A charcoal or wood fire will give you the best flavor, but any heat will cook the ribs.

Your goal is to get good color and caramelization on the outside of the ribs, but also to cook them long enough that the tough collagen breaks down and the meat becomes tender.

Generally, the ribs will be browned before the meat is done, which is where the balancing act comes in.

  • Undercooked ribs will be tough and dry
  • Overcooked ribs will be tender, but mushy.

So how do you get the right balance of browning and doneness? A whole bunch of different ways! Here is a list of ways we have cooked (and won awards with ribs).

  • 4-8 hours indirect, never flipping. Just low and slow at 240°F. It is a great way to cook them in 4-5 hours, if you have the time and a moist cooking environment.
    Advantages… great layering of flavors, and no need to wrap in foil. Just ride it out!
    Drawbacks… it is hard to time when they will be done without practice.
  • 3-3.5 hours indirect at higher cooking temps. For a while, we were cooking our spare ribs indirect at 275-300°F. We won some awards with this method, and it yielded a delicious rib.
    Advantages… again, great layers of flavor and a really nice, almost crunchy bark that plays off of the plump moist meat underneath.
    Drawbacks… bark can get tough and if cooker is too hot, they can get over browned and dry.
  • 3 hours indirect, then 1.5 hours wrapped in foil, 30 minutes back on the grill unwrapped. All at 240-250°F. You may have seen this as the classic 3-2-1 method, but it is a great way to cook ribs. You can go hotter and shorter, or longer and slower, but the principle is the same… get some browning and smoke on the meat, wrap to quickly render the ribs without losing moisture, then back on the cooker to set the bark.
    Advantages… easier to get good results consistently, creates a very moist rib.
    Drawbacks… can be overcooked in the foil if not watched closely, and the flavor profile has fewer layers than the above methods.

Our competition team uses a version of the above method… except that once they are wrapped in foil, and cooked tender, we do not put them back on the cooker. It’s more like a 4-2 method.

As you can see, each method is quite different, but they all make good ribs as long as you take them off as soon as they are tender. If they are stiff when you lift them, they need more time. If they bend easily and want to break, that’s a good indication they are done.


Make it Your Own!

Because there are so many options for cooking methods, the door is open for adding your own style and finding the perfect method. One that not only yields a moist and flavorful rib, but all within your comfort level…and all your own!


Want more details on our latest competition technique? See our Recipe!

Chris's Competition Style Spare Ribs

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