My early childhood is peppered with memories of spending time with my grandpa Bernie, who we lovingly called Papa.
He was insufferably funny, and did goofy things with me like painting my nails each a different color, letting me try all of my grandma’s perfume, and making ridiculous jokes that my four-year-old brain thought were HILARIOUS. Telling me my green pants were gorgeous when they were CLEARLY red? Best. joke. ever.
Notice the painted nails. And I assume I smelled like a mixture of Chanel No. 5 and Jean Naté.
He passed away when I was 5, and his legend remains in many things, but a few foodstuffs in particular. Back in the early days of the blog, I attempted to recreate his BBQ sauce upon instruction from my mom. Oh how I wish I knew then what I know now. Duh, I should’ve strained the BBQ sauce for a more traditional texture. Oh well, live and learn. Besides BBQ sauce, I remember my Papa making ribs; great slabs of ribs on a smoking grill in the patio behind his and my grandma’s house. And of course, he’d use his BBQ sauce.
For Memorial day, I enlisted the help of my mom to help me make ribs the way she does, which is the way Papa did. A series of text messages and a trip to the grocery store later, and I was ready to go.
There was a dry rub for the ribs, a simmering pot of sauce on the stove, an hour in the oven and then an hour over indirect heat on a smoky grill before the ribs were ready, but my oh my was the wait worth it.
There’s really something to trying to replicate something that only lives in my memories. It made me smile when I saw smoke billowing out of the holes of my Weber grill, because that’s what I remembered from my childhood. When I cut into the racks of ribs to separate them into manageable portions, the smell brought me back to endless summer BBQs at my mom’s house, celebrating one holiday or another.
I’d never done BBQ like this before. Sure, I’ve grilled chicken, and thrown things on the grill before, but this had the feel of “real” barbecue. It was slow, painstaking, and nerve-wracking because I honestly didn’t know if it would work. The meat had the incomparable “smoke ring” from the slow cooking, the ever saught-after “bark” and the flavors were beyond what I’d expected. An ear of grilled corn and our meal was complete, with a side of nostalgia.
Best BBQ Ribs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours, give or take
Keywords: barbecue grill entree pork ribs American summer
Ingredients (2 slabs ribs)
- 2 slabs pork back ribs
for the rub
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
for the sauce
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 5 slices bacon, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large green pepper, chopped
- 12 ounces tomato paste
- 1 cup ketchup
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/4 cup whiskey (I used Gentleman’s Jack)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon tabasco (or more to taste)
- 1/4 cup brown mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet
- 2 Tablespoons molasses
- salt and pepper to taste
prepare the ribs
Trim off any excess fat.
Pre-heat oven to 350*F.
Mix together all ingredients for the rub, and spread it liberally on both sides of the racks of ribs.
Place the ribs on a large cookie sheet and cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for at least an hour.
In the last 15 minutes, prepare the grill. Stack the coals on one side of the grill and light, allowing the coals to become grey.
Remove the ribs from the oven.
Carefully set the ribs, meatier side down, on the side of the grill opposite the coals.
Cook, covered, for at least an hour, turning the racks every 10-15 minutes.
In the last 15 minutes of cooking, baste with good BBQ sauce (recipe follows) and turn once more.
Cut into manageable portions and serve.
Cook the chopped bacon in a large heavy-bottomed pot until a good amount of fat is rendered.
Add the garlic, onions, and green peppers and sautee until softened and nearly caramelized.
Stir in the remaining ingredients, then mostly cover the pot.
Simmer over low heat for at least an hour.
Using an immersion blender, puree the mixture.
Pass the sauce through a sieve for a smooth texture.
Return the sauce to the pot, and keep warm over low heat until ready to use.