Winter has just barely started to loosen its grip in my neck of the woods. I did spot one poor, puffed up robin this morning, so maybe there is hope for spring after all.
Between visits from the Polar Vortex, I managed to cook a batch of ribs. For winter grilling, I like cooking foods that require plenty of time, but little attention – ribs and roasts; or foods that take some attention, but little time – steaks and seafood. The idea is to minimize the total amount of time I spend freezing my butt off. These ribs are a great example of this – no misting, mopping, or foiling – just a straight 5-hour cook with little intervention on my part.
3 racks of baby-back ribs
Fresh-ground sea or kosher salt
Fresh-ground back pepper
Barbecue rub and sauce of your choice
Get a fire going in the fireplace. Assemble winter gear. Get the hot cocoa started.
Boots, parka, and winter gloves on – go outside and shovel path then set up the grill before the warmth from shoveling wears off.
Set up grill up for a direct cook over low (250°F) heat. On the Big Green Egg, I didn’t use a plate setter to diffuse the heat, but did use a Woo2 extender to raise the cooking grid up about 4 inches further from the charcoal. Add a fresh load of charcoal, toss in a Lightning Nuggets Firestarter, hit it with the MAPP torch for 30 seconds or so, then run back inside until the grill gets going.
While the grill is getting up to temp, season both sides of the ribs with the salt, pepper, and rub. Warm hands in front of fire, sip some cocoa, and clear enough frost off the window to peek at the temperature gauge every so often.
When the grill is up to temp, make a quick dash outside to toss in your smoking wood (apple this time), put your cooking grate in place, and make any adjustments to keep the temp at 250°F. If you’ve got a remote thermometer to watch the grill temp, now is the time to set it up.
Dash back in and keep an eye out for the smoke to change over from white (bad and bitter) to blue (good and sweet).
Boots, parka, grill gloves, ribs – back outside and arrange the ribs on the grate bone side up. Close lid and stand around stamping your feet until it looks like the temperature has settled. Make any adjustments to keep the temp steady.
Back inside – add some Bailey’s to the cocoa and settle in front of the fire. Let ribs cook for an hour, peeking at temperature every so often.
Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs bone side down.
Back inside – toss another log on the fire and arrange couch for napping. Add blanket and cats and/or dogs as needed for ideal warmth. Let ribs cook for two hours, peeking in between snoozes.
Boots, grill gloves – back outside and flip the ribs end to end (still bone side down).
Back inside to start prepping side dishes. Let ribs cook for another hour.
Boots, parka, grill gloves – go out to start checking for doneness. Ribs are generally done when the meat has pulled back from the bones and a full slab will almost fold in half and start to crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs. If ribs aren’t ready yet, get back inside and get the barbecue sauce and basting brush ready.
Let the ribs cook for another 30 minutes.
Boots, parka, grill gloves, sauce, and basting brush – check ribs again for doneness. By now these ribs were getting very close to being done, so gave them a coating of sauce on each side and went back inside and let them cook for another 30 minutes. I made one last foray outside to sauce the ribs again and bring them in.
I love ribs, and while these weren’t the best I’ve ever made, it was still damn fine to be eating ribs in the middle of winter.