A guide to making unforgettable ribs!

There is something very primal about a nice, sloppy rack of ribs. Maybe it’s because you’re forced to eat with your hands, tearing apart the meaty morsels. Maybe it’s the cooking method- cooking ribs is a process that usually involves fire. Perhaps it’s simply because you can’t eat a plate of ribs without getting sauce everywhere, inspiring a child-like whimsy that most of our day to day meals lack. Whatever the case may be, ribs are a deliciously versatile summertime favourite.
The basic rules to making unforgettable ribs
Whether you choose to use beef ribs or pork ribs, and regardless of the flavours you incorporate, there are some key steps to making perfect, fall off the bone ribs. The first step is to create a dry rub for the meat. A dry rub is a blend of spices that is literally rubbed directly onto the naked meat. This step is extremely important, as it is your first opportunity to season the meat. Choose your flavouring elements, whichever dry spices you would like to use, and rub them into the ribs.
The next step is to hit the ribs with some heat! This can be done in the oven, at a nice hot temperature of 475F, or on the BBQ. The key is to sear the meat slightly, so that it can begin to absorb the flavours while maintaining some structural integrity. Don`t leave the meat in the high heat for very long, it really only takes about ten to fifteen minutes to properly sear.
After searing the ribs, I strongly recommend braising them in a large, oven-proof container filled with liquid. Again, this can be done in the oven or on the BBQ, as long as you are able to fit the container comfortably. The nice thing about braising ribs is that the ribs have an opportunity to soak in flavour and become very tender; after they are cooked, reduce the cooking liquid to make your very own sauce to finish the ribs! I guarantee that your friends and family will love the personal touch of a homemade BBQ sauce.

Sauces and seasoning elements
There are a few basic ingredients that work well with meat in general. When I’m making a dry rub for my ribs, regardless of which direction I take the sauce in later, I usually tend to use spices that I know will compliment the flavour of the ribs. Cumin works well with both pork and beef, and is a beautifully scented spice that works well as a base flavour. Cayenne pepper brings a little heat into the equation, but use with caution in the dry rub, as there is plenty of time to incorporate more heat into the sauce later on. Another spice I use frequently in my dry rubs is cinnamon. Although this is an unexpected addition, it adds a depth of flavour and gives the meat a lot of character. Don`t worry, your ribs will not come out tasting like cookies!
When braising ribs, there is one secret ingredient that is sure to create fall-off-the bone ribs every time: soda! Although this may seem like a very unlikely addition, the carbonation in soda creates a chemical reaction in the meat that loosens it as it cooks, and the sugar adds a sweetness that we`ve come to expect in a good BBQ sauce. Any soda will do, but the standards are root beer and Coke. For my curry citrus ribs (recipe below), I actually used ginger ale, as the tangy sweetness of ginger is a common ingredient in curry anyway.
Of course, there is more than just soda in a good braising liquid. Beef stock or chicken stock add to the rich meaty flavour of the sauce and the meat. I also like to add beer- the carbonation of beer does the same job as the soda, while adding a distinct flavour to the mix. Sliced onions, cloves of garlic, and bay leaves are also key ingredients in the braising liquid, and can be strained out before reducing the sauce. If you love heat as much as I do, feel free to throw in one or two habanera peppers into the liquid as well.
Put the liquid-covered ribs into the same hot oven it was seared in, but then immediately reduce the heat to 375F. This will allow the ribs to cook slowly and really take time to soak in the flavourful bath. Cook the ribs for a minimum of two hours, although they can easily be left for three hours. This is not a meal to make if you`re in a rush to eat!
Putting it all together
Once the meat is cooked, remove from the liquid and set aside. At this point, use a large strainer and a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan to strain the liquid and begin making the sauce. Although the liquid is already extremely flavourful, it needs a few more additions before it can be an amazing, original signature BBQ sauce. In any BBQ sauce, the balance of acid (usually some kind of vinegar) and sweetness is key. I always add ketchup to my sauce while it is reducing over a low heat; ketchup adds sweetness and character while helping the consistency of the sauce. Dijon mustard is also an excellent ingredient, it helps with the acidic balance and will also help the consistency.
Reduce the sauce over a very low heat until it is thick and viscous. Every now and then, taste the sauce to check the flavouring. You will most likely want to add another form of sweetness; brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup all work well. If the sauce is in need of a bit more heat (for those of you who like it spicy!), feel free to add a splash of Tabasco. Just keep in mind that, as the sauce continues to reduce, the flavours will get stronger. A splash of soy sauce is an excellent way to add salt to the sauce, although regular table salt works well also. Be sparing with the salt until the very end- it is much easier to add salt than to remove it, and the flavours will become very strong once the sauce is fully reduced.
After about an hour, the sauce should be the consistency of a loose ketchup. Slather it on the ribs, and return them to the BBQ to reheat and finish the meat. This should only take about fifteen minutes. Before service, pour the remaining sauce into bowls with spoons or squeeze bottles, so that your guests can add additional sauce as they please.
Once you have gained some experience with braising ribs and creating sauces, you will find it is easy to get creative and use any of your favourite ingredients! Be experimental and fearless, and you will be a grilling expert in no time!

Traditional BBQ Beef Ribs
You will need:
1 rack of beef ribs
For spice rub:
¼ cup chilli powder
¼ cup cumin
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp salt
For braising liquid:
2 cans Coke or root beer
1 bottle beer
2 cups beef or chicken stock
1 onion, roughly sliced
4 cloves of garlic
For sauce:
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup maple syrup
½ tbsp apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar
½ tbsp soy sauce
Method:
1. Combine spices for the rub, and rub directly onto both sides of the ribs.
2. In a very hot oven or BBQ (475F), sear the ribs for ten to fifteen minutes. Immediately remove from heat, and place into a large, oven proof container.
3. Place the onions, garlic, and braising liquids into the container, covering the ribs as much as possible with the liquid.
4. Return to the oven or BBQ (make sure the lid is closed if using the BBQ), and cook at 375F for two hours, until ribs are soft and tender. Remove the ribs from the liquid, and set aside.
5. Place a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan on the stove top or BBQ grill. Place a strainer over the top of the sauce pan, and very carefully strain the braising liquid into the sauce pan. Bring liquid to a boil, and add ketchup, Dijon, maple syrup, soy sauce and the vinegar. Immediately reduce the heat to low, and whisk continuously so not to burn the sauce.
6. Keep an eye on the sauce for about an hour as it reduces, whisking occasionally and tasting for flavour. Adjust the seasoning as needed, with salt, pepper, or sugar.
7. Brush the finished sauce onto the ribs, and return ribs to oven or BBQ to reheat. Finish with a bit more sauce just before service.

Curry Citrus Pork Ribs
You will need:
1 rack pork ribs
For the spice rub:
¼ cup curry powder
¼ cup turmeric
2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
½ tbsp ginger powder
For the braising liquid:
1 orange, zest and juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 grapefruit, zest and juice
1 can coconut milk
½ cup mango juice or pineapple juice
2 cans Gingerale
1 cup chicken stock
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
For the sauce:
½ cup ketchup
1 tbsp honey
½ tbsp soy sauce
Method:
1. Combine spices for the rub, and rub directly onto both sides of the ribs.
2. In a very hot oven or BBQ (475F), sear the ribs for ten to fifteen minutes. Immediately remove from heat, and place into a large, oven proof container.
3. Place the onions, garlic, and braising liquids into the container, covering the ribs as much as possible with the liquid.
4. Return to the oven or BBQ (make sure the lid is closed if using the BBQ), and cook at 375F for two hours, until ribs are soft and tender. Remove the ribs from the liquid, and set aside.
5. Place a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan on the stove top or BBQ grill. Place a strainer over the top of the sauce pan, and very carefully strain the braising liquid into the sauce pan. Bring liquid to a boil, and add soy sauce, ketchup and honey. Immediately reduce heat, whisking well so the sauce does not burn.
6. Keep an eye on the sauce for about an hour as it reduces, whisking occasionally and tasting for flavour. Adjust the seasoning as needed, with salt, pepper, or sugar.
7. Brush the finished sauce onto the ribs, and return ribs to oven or BBQ to reheat. Finish with a bit more sauce just before service.

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