Few dishes are more universally satisfying than pork ribs. With a good barbeque sauce, the right cooking techniques and some patience, any cook can achieve excellent results and many complements from their favorite pork ribs recipe. Before heading to the market, understanding a few basics about the types of available products and how they should be prepared will prevent disappointments in the kitchen. Here are a few tips for the chef:
Different Types of Pork Ribs
Pork ribs are normally sold packaged in three varieties and vary depending on the thickness, fat content and flavor. Some recipes are interchangeable, for example baby back ribs and spareribs, but others specifically require the use of a certain type such as the country style, thicker ribs.
Country style ribs: These ribs are boneless and meaty and normally require a slow cooking method with low heat. The meat on this type of rib is flavorful and if cooked in a liquid base at low temperatures, adapts well to a variety of sauces. Country style ribs are usually eaten with a fork and knife and can be served at a casual dinner or dressed up for a company meal.
Baby back ribs: A tender and flavorful cut; these ribs contain less fat than other types and adapt well to oven cooking or barbequing. They are popular choices for a casual party and are often eaten with the fingers.
Spare ribs: The least expensive variety of pork ribs, this choice may contain more fat but responds with lots of flavor. Spare ribs are often used in Chinese cooking and served as an appetizer or featured as a finger food.
Indoor Cooking Methods for Pork Ribs
Oven cooking: This is the easiest way to cook pork ribs but requires several hours for good results. The ribs should be basted periodically during the process.
1. Preparation: A roasting pan works well with a small amount of liquid in the bottom and sealed with foil.
2. Temperature: Selecting a low temperature such as 250o will protect the meat from drying and toughening.
3. Cooking Time: Ribs normally take 2 -3 hours to cook in the oven.
Crock Pot cooking: This method is ideal for country style pork ribs that require slow cooking to tenderize. A variety of ingredients such as fresh carrots, tomatoes and seasonings may be added to the pot with the ribs.
1. Preparation: The ribs should be cooked with liquid such as broth, beer or wine and vegetables and seasonings.
2. Cooking Time: On a “high” setting, the ribs will be done in about 4 hours; a “low” setting takes 6 – 8 hours to cook.
Outdoor Cooking Methods for Pork Ribs
Barbeque Ribs: This method of cooking pork ribs is a fun approach that is popular for picnics and outdoor gatherings. Ribs should be well coated with sauce and basted throughout the cooking process to prevent dryness. A good guide to follow for barbequing includes:
1. Preparation: If country style pork ribs are used, precooking the meat will make the ribs tender and take less time on the barbeque. Baby back ribs may also be finished on the barbeque after oven cooking for an hour in a barbeque sauce.
2. Temperature and cooking time: Precooked ribs require a high temperature on the grill for about ten minutes. Uncooked ribs require a low temperature, an hour minimum and covered grill.
Smokers: Using an outdoor smoker is another popular rib cooking method. Specific directions and recipes should be included with the equipment and may vary according to the size of the smoker, the power and the manufacturer’s requirements.