The most popular ribjoint in the world has to be Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous in Memphis where they can seat 700 and almost everyone orders baby backs. On an average day, they move 2,100 pounds of ribs.
At the Vous, BBQ baby backs are cooked about 2 to 3 feet above charcoal at a relatively hot 425°F for only about 60 minutes. The secret is, while they are cooking they are frequently mopped with a thin vinegary mop that steams and softens the meat. No wood is used so there is not much smoke taste. The meat is flavored with the mop and fat dripping on the coals and vaporizing. Then it is covered in their seasoning. In true Memphis fashion, there is no sauce on these dry rubbed ribs.
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Almost everything on this site, everything I know, everything I teach, tells you to take your time cooking ribs. Low and slow produces the most tender, juicy meat. That means three hours or more for baby backs, and five or more hours for spares and St. Louis cut.
But sometimes you just can’t wait. Like when you have every tourist in Memphis waiting to be served. Here’s how to have baby backs ready in 90 minutes, by imitating the way they do it at the Vous where they churn them out like nobody else can. They are a little chewier than low and slow smoked ribs, but darn tasty. If you are among the many who love the Vous, this will get you as close as an airline ticket to Memphis and a cab to that alley near Beale Street.
- 1 slab baby back ribs (about 2 pounds per slab)
- ½ teaspoon Morton coarse kosher salt (¼ teaspoon per pound of meat)
- Skin 'n trim. Remove the membrane from the slab of ribs (read more on removing the membrane here).
- Salt ahead if you can. Season the slab of ribs with kosher salt. If you can, give the salt 1 to 2 hours to be absorbed. The process of salting in advance is called dry brining. The rule of thumb is 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound of meat, but ribs consist of only about 50% meat, so use about 1/4 teaspoon per pound. You can simply eyeball it by sprinkling on the same amount of salt you would sprinkle on the ribs if they were served to you unseasoned.
- Prep. Set 2 tablespoons of the Rendezvous Seasoning aside for later. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon with the vinegar, water, and barbecue sauce in a bowl. This makes the Rendezvous Mop.
- Fire up. Get the coals started in a chimney. When they are coated with white ash, push most of them to one side of your grill and scatter a few on the other side so you have a two zone grill. Stabilize the temp at about 350°F in the indirect zone. At the Vous, they cook directly over the coals and the dripping fat vaporizes and flavors the meat. But they get the meat 2 to 3 feet above the heat so there is no problem with flareups burning the meat. On most grills you cannot get the meat this high, although it is possible on some bullet smokers if you remove the water pan.
- Cook. Place the ribs on the cooler side of the grill meat side up. Paint the meat liberally on all sides with Rendezvous Mop when it goes on the grill, then put the lid down. Every 15 minutes open it and quickly paint the meat again and flip it over. If you can, keep the mop warm so it doesn't cool off the meat too much and slow the cooking.
- Cooking indoors? Because there is no smoke needed, you can make this recipe easily indoors. Put the meat on a broiler rack or in a pan, meat side up. Put the oven on bake at 400°F and you might get them done in an hour. Just remember to mop every 10-15 minutes.
- Serve. After 60 minutes, test to see if the meat is ready with the bend test. When it is ready, put it on the dinner plate, give it a final mopping, allowing some to pool on the plate, and sprinkle with the remaining Rendezvous Seasoning.