"The actual lines of a pig (I mean a really fat pig) are among the loveliest and most luxuriant in nature; the pig has the same great curves, swift and yet heavy, which we see in rushing water or in a rolling cloud."G.K. Chesterton, British writer (1874 - 1936)
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Don't have a smoker or a grill? Live in a condo or dorm? Waiting out a blizzard? This technique makes tender, juicy ribs indoors with a flavor that might fool you into thinking it was cooked outdoors.
In the summer of 2015 our friends, the wizards at ChefSteps.com, invited Chef Ryan and me to their kitchen/lab in Seattle to to show them how we cook ribs outdoors and then for a friendly challenge to make ribs cooked indoors that taste like ribs cooked outdoors.
They started theirs sous vide, a method of gently cooking in a vacuum pack in a hot water bath and then finished them by cooking them in the oven. We baked ours inside in the oven, at first wrapped in foil, then nekkid.
The results? We agreed that our rub was better. We agreed their meat was slightly juicier. We agreed theirs was the best approach. If you have a sous vide setup, instead of using foil as we did, do as they did, cook the ribs sous vide for five hours at 165°F, and then dry roast at 225°F for two hours. We also agreed ours tasted more oudoorsy because we marinated the a bit in dilute liquid smoke. Both teams used a bit of Prague Powder #1 in their rub. PP#1 is a curing salt that giv es hot dogs, corned beef, hm, bacon and other cured meats their pink tinge. Both teams got a faux smoke ring from it. Here's a video of the results.
Now a word on liquid smoke. BBQ snobs turn up their noses at the stuff because they get smoke in their cooker. What happens is smoke comes off combusting wood and condenses on cool meat. Pretty simple. Well that's how liquid smoke is made. Wood is burned, it condenses on cool metal, and then it is bottled. Pretty much the way they make whiskey. So next time you run into a snob who starts to rant about liquid smoke, snatch that bourbon from their hand.
Now a word on Prague powder #1. It really doesn't impact flavor, so you can skip it, but if you want to to cook this recipe and pass them off as cooked outdoors, mix 1/4 teaspoon per slab in with the Meathead's Memphis Dust.
Smoky Indoor Ribs Recipe
Makes. One slab of baby back ribs
Takes. 1 hour to marinate, 4 hours to cook.
1 slab of baby back ribs
1/2 cup liquid smoke
3 tablespoons smoked Meathead's Memphis Dust
1 cup of smoky barbecue sauce
About the smoked Meathead's Memphis Dust. To amp this up to 11, we make Meathead's Memphis Dust with smoked smoked garlic, smoked onion, smoked salt, and paprika. They are available in some stores or online.
About the sauce. You can use a store-bought sauce or one of the recipes on this site such as "Kansas City Classic Sauce". If you go for a store bought, get one that calls itself "smoky" . That means it has liquid smoke added. KC Masterpiece original is a good example. If you wish, you can add about 1/4 teaspoon of liquid smoke to the barbecue sauce after you taste it.
1) Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and trim excess fat. Mix 1/2 cup water with the liquid smoke, and marinate the meat in this for an hour. I usually cut the slab in half and put each half in a 1 gallon zipper bag with half the marinade.
2) Season both sides with salt and then Meathead's Memphis Dust. Wrap the meat in foil. Put it in a pan (to catch leaks) in 225°F oven for 2 hours. This makes the meat very tender, but not mushy.
3) Now take the meat out of the foil, and put it back in the oven, meaty side up, without the foil to dry roast for another 2 hours at 225°F. This will firm the bark.
4) Read this article to see how to tell when the meat is ready. I use the bend test to make sure it is done. When it is, turn the slab meaty side down. Slather the bone side with the sauce, turn the oven on broil and put the meat under the broiler so it is aligned with the heat source. Broil for 5 minutes with the oven door partially open or until the sauce bubbles, watching closely to make sure it doesn't burn. Leave the door open so the oven cools a bit and to make sure the thermostat doesn't turn off the broiler. Repeat for the meaty side. This direct concentrated heat caramelizes the sugar and creates more deeper flavor. Serve.