The Secret to Perfect BBQ Ribs

BBQ Ribs on the Grill

For those who subscribe to the “Hail to the Pig!” philosophy, there is nothing more fabulous than perfectly cooked ribs. Many people shy away from cooking them at home, instead preferring to trek to their favorite local BBQ joint, knowing the ribs there will be perfectly seasoned and fall-off-the-bone tender. After all, cooking ribs is a science that can’t be mastered at home. Home-cooked ribs are typically tough and lack flavor, right? Wrong! Read on to learn the secret to cooking perfect BBQ ribs at home.

STEP ONE: THE RIBS

There are a number of different cuts, but if you’re cooking at home, your best options will be spareribs, St. Louis cut ribs or babyback ribs. Babyback ribs are smaller, leaner and include delicate loin meat, which makes them a little pricier. Spareribs are cut from the ends of babybacks down to the breast bone. The flavor of the meat is typically richer because of increased marbling, but the texture is less delicate. St. Louis cut is simply spareribs with the rib tibs cut off, which can be a little more manageable for both cooking and eating.

STEP TWO: THE RUB

Lay aluminum foil on a baking sheet — at least double the length of the rib rack — and place your ribs meat-side down for rubbing. There’s no one recipe for a good dry rub. In fact, feel free to buy a prepared rub or experiment with different flavor profiles. The key is to use only dry seasonings and use way more than you think you’ll need. Liberally coat both sides of the ribs and pat it in. For a basic foolproof homemade rub, try sprinkling salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and coriander on your ribs. You CAN overdo it with the salt and cayenne pepper, but be generous with the others. For best results, sprinkle all seasonings on the underside, pat everything in at once, then flip and repeat. Remember…use lots of rub!

STEP THREE: THE WRAP

Completely wrap your ribs in the foil. Now do it again. Now a third time. Why so much foil? Simple — you want to tenderize the meat by allowing it to steam in its own juices, so a tight wrap is important to the process.

STEP FOUR: THE BAKE

Nope, that’s not a typo. You will finish the ribs on the grill to get that smokey flavor, but first you want to cook them low and slow in the oven. Bake them at 325 degrees. The time will vary depending on the type and quantity of ribs. Babybacks will cook more quickly, and a single rack will usually be ready for the grill in about 1.5 hours. For two racks, you might want to add about 10-15 minutes. Spareribs or St. Louis ribs will need to cook for about 1.75 hours for a single rack, adding 10-15 minutes for a second rack. To test the ribs, unwrap a section and test the meat with a fork. You don’t want it falling off the bone yet, but it should be fully cooked. The meat should be firmly attached to the bone, but tender.

STEP FIVE: THE SEAR

Unwrap your tenderized ribs and transfer them to a hot grill for about 10 minutes on each side. Whether you’re using charcoal or gas, you’ll want to add wood smoke, if possible. Cherry or pecan, in particular, will add an excellent flavor. Sear both sides of the ribs until you create a nice brown outer layer on each side. If you like wet ribs, coat with your favorite BBQ sauce before the last five minutes of cooking time. Otherwise, leave them dry and serve the sauce on the side for those who like to dip.

STEP SIX: THE MEAL

Remove your ribs, slice and serve with your favorite fixins. You’ll never go back to that BBQ joint again.

Preplanning for Future Improvements

Bluprints

Sometimes it’s just unrealistic to build everything you want at one time. However, you can still save yourself a lot of money and headaches by planning ahead. If you have an overall vision for your backyard that you plan to build out in phases, below are some questions you’ll want to consider before beginning the process.

SHOULD I HIRE A PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER?

If you’re talking about a large scale makeover, it’s often a good idea to enlist a landscape designer to design your completed makeover, even if you don’t plan on doing everything at once. For example, if you plan to install a pool now and an outdoor kitchen down the line, you’ll need to know where the gas and electric lines will need to go, as well as footings for any heavy items, such as a porch post or a fireplace. The added cost of a professional design can save you from having to rip up and replace sections of a patio or pool deck later.

WHAT FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND?

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Installing junction boxes or live outlets where you may need electricity later will make a huge difference. Just remember that everything will be out in the elements and needs to be outdoor-rated with safety in mind.

DOES BELGARD OFFER DESIGN SERVICES?

Yes, working with a Belgard Authorized Contractor gives you access to the Belgard Design Studio, which offers over 50 free 3-D design templates and can also create custom designs with fly-through animation. However, your contractor may need to consult with a professional plumber or electrician, as needed, to plan for immediate or future utilities.

Future PhasesThe multi-faceted design above (created by the Belgard Design Studio) represents the perfect opportunity to plan a phased project. Phase I could include the patios, walkways, and fire pit. Phase II could include the outdoor kitchen’s grill station and brick oven. Phase III could include the outdoor fireplace and bar. Phase IV could include embellishments like the arbor, seat wall, TV stand, pillars, and hardscape lighting. In order to phase this out properly, before installing the patios, all future utilities would need to be run, and placement of future heavy elements would need to be fortified with the proper footings.

Dimensional Design with Container Gardens

Catalog photography for national hardscape manufacture in Arizona for Oldcastle plant Superlite.

Pavers: Lafitt™ Rustic Slab

While driving past meticulously landscaped yards, you might wonder how to get a look like that without spending every weekend pulling weeds. Container gardens are a great way to soften the look of hardscaped areas and add character to your outdoor living spaces without all the work. Particularly if you don’t have a green bone in your body, container gardening is a low-maintenance way to add pops of color all over.

Pavers: Catalina Slate™

Pavers: Catalina Slate™

Most likely, you have a couple of planters or even random containers that you can repurpose as vessels for this project. Think of each container as a piece of art that will display your garden. Instead of scattering single containers around the area, consider grouping together multiple containers of varying heights. The initial planting stage starts out with smaller plants that will become fuller as they grow. By grouping them, you will give the illusion that they are more substantial than they are, creating a finished garden look immediately.

One of the key elements in container gardening is drainage. Make sure your containers have holes in the bottom where water can easily flow. Aeration is probably the most important part of container gardening. Creating a mixture of topsoil and peat moss is a fine recipe to grow a healthy garden. Peat moss is less dense than soil alone, which allows the water and air to move through rather than collecting in a puddle at the top of your planter. Fill the bottom of your container with a couple of handfuls of rocks before adding the soil mixture, which will keep the roots from staying too moist and rotting.

Consider using a large Rubbermaid container to create your soil mixture. Pour both the peat moss and the soil into the container and mix them well. Go ahead and dig in; this is your chance to connect with the earth without getting too dirty. Make sure the soil you are using doesn’t have sand in it unless you are growing strawberries.

Recycled Window

Pavers: Mega-Arbel®  Wall: Weston Stone®

Mixing multiple plant varieties in a single pot is a way to add a little texture and interest. Choose plants that bloom all year for the outer rim of your container. Pathos, English ivy, or even spider plants can surround a couple of annuals. Your local garden center will have plenty of flowers and other plants to choose from, as well as containers of all shapes and sizes. You may also want to visit your local antique mall, consignment shop, or reclaimed building materials store for interesting items that you can repurpose as garden containers — like barrels, vintage pots or antique milk cans.

Bringing container gardens into your outdoor living area will bring color and serve many other functions as well. Choosing plants that attract butterflies, like Buddleia, is a great way to add an ethereal quality to your seating and kitchen spaces. Also, hummingbirds are attracted to Bee Balm, Larkspur, and Hibiscus, to name a few. The farmer’s almanac is a great resource for types of plants for your area, as well as time to plant.

Container gardening around your outdoor space can also be functional. Start out with some simple easy-to-grow vegetables such as kale, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. One idea is to use metal wash tubs to create an herb garden. Herbs like basil, rosemary, and chives will add so much to just about any dish. Instead of the farm-to-table movement, be a part of the container-to-table movement!

Unplug and Unwind in Your Outdoor Space

Turn off the TV, leave the phones inside, and have some make-your-own pizza family time.

Turn off the TV, leave the phones inside, and have some make-your-own pizza family time in your outdoor kitchen.

Magazines and websites are full of articles that talk about unplugging for a day or a weekend. Making it a reality, however, is a different story. Find a date and mark it down on a calendar. That is a sure fire way to make it happen.

The outdoor kitchen space is a great way to move the family out of the house. Not only is it a place to enjoy fresh air and soak in some Vitamin D, it is the ultimate floor plan. Choosing recipes to utilize amenities like a brick oven are always a big hit and do not require endless prep time. For example, kids love to create fun designs with pizza ingredients — like swirls, flower designs or smiley faces — which makes the prep time a fun family activity. And if you don’t have a brick oven, you can actually cook pizza on the grill.

Mix fruit moctails drink - vintage filter Let the kids mix and match various fresh fruits and juices for creative "mocktails".

Let the kids mix and match various fresh fruits and juices for creative “mocktails”.

Stocking the outdoor refrigerator and kitchen ahead of time is a great way to make your outdoor space self-sufficient. Having everything in one place also saves time and makes the preparation a lot smoother.

Vote on what kind of cuisine to prepare and shop for ingredients during the week, which will save time later. Or, visit the local farmers’ market for fresh produce and make the outing part of the day’s “unplugged” experience.

Think about fun recipes everyone can enjoy. Instead of having cocktails, enjoy some “mocktails” with fresh citrus, berries, and carbonated water or sprite. Serve them in some fancy plastic glasses designed to create the same look as glass without the potential of shattering.

Horse Shoes

Find or make old-fashioned backyard games for some great “unplugged” memories.

Look around and see what kinds of items are available to make fun outdoor games the whole family can enjoy. For example, cut a couple of 2×4’s and make them in to an oversized Jenga game. Pinterest has numerous ideas for outdoor games and old-fashioned family fun. And believe it or not, old standards like horse shoes and badminton will keep your family entertained for hours.

So, corral and turn off all electronics and technology, with the possible exception of  a little music. Making memories in your outdoor living space is a fabulous way of enjoying life’s simplicity and creating the life you love with the people that mean the most: family.

Rosemary Skewered Scallops

scallops-cl-1012604-xSea scallops are a succulent treat that many people are afraid to cook at home, and for a good reason. If they’re not prepared properly, scallops can have a rubbery consistency or taste a bit fishy. However, with this simply grill recipe, the scallops will melt in your mouth and leave you wishing you had more! If you’re not a scallop fan, this dish also works well with unpeeled shrimp. For a little extra flavor, use garlic infused olive oil.

Ingredients

12 large sea scallops
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
8 (12-inch) fresh rosemary sprigs
Hot cooked basmati rice
Garnish: lemon slices

 

Preparation

  1. Combine scallops and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; cover and chill 30 minutes.
  2. Pick leaves off 6 inches of one end of each rosemary sprig, leaving the other end intact. Soak rosemary sprigs in water in a shallow dish 20 minutes.
  3. Place 2 rosemary skewers side by side, leaving a small space between. Thread 3 scallops onto bare part of rosemary skewers. Repeat with remaining rosemary and scallops.
  4. Grill over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve on a bed of basmati rice with lemon slices, if desired.

Recipe courtesy Coastal Living. Photo: Howard L. Puckett.

Rise of the Outdoor Chef

Remember the days when outdoor cooking basically referred to your father grilling up a few burgers? Perhaps he went the fancier route and threw some steaks on the grill, or even a tuna steak if he wanted to get really fancy. The rest of the family prepared the sides inside or just waited patiently for the ole’ man to finish. Well it’s 2016 now, and while some traditionalists choose to keep their sacred bygone grilling rituals intact, the rest of us are moving forward into a new generation of gourmet outdoor cooking. With outdoor kitchens gaining in popularity, it’s no longer just dad out there by himself. Meal preparation has become a community event with a team of chefs prepping, grilling, or just hanging out to enjoy a glass of wine and camaraderie. Yes, outdoor cooking has become a team sport, and why shouldn’t it be? Everyone likes a good party, and this year, you can be the envy of the neighborhood with some exciting cooking techniques you can use in 2016.

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Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl (Courtesy Time, Inc.)

YOU WOOD NOT BELIEVE

Puns aside, if you have never grilled with a wood plank, you’re missing out. Paul Bunyon should have been a chef. He would have been a great addition to your All-Star grilling team. At your next gathering, enhance the flavor of your favorite meats by grilling them on top of a wood plank made of hickory or maple. If you truly want an unforgettable experience, try grilling a fillet of redfish or salmon on top of a cedar plank. It may become your favorite meal. However, feel free to experiment with different seasonings and wood planks to find your next signature dish. Make it your own, or check out this recipe for Cedar Plank Salmon with Mango Kiwi Salsa to get you started.

HIMALAYAN VACATION

While it may be impractical to pop over to Tibet, you can bring the taste of Himalayan minerals to your next party by purchasing yourself a Himalayan salt block. This is another easy tool you can use to show off to that neighbor who always wants to one-up you. All you do is place the salt block on your grill, let it heat up to the desired temperature, and throw your food on top. Your meal will come out with a hint of salt that goes well with so many different foods. Let’s see Susan top that.

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Photo: SOS Shells

CHARGRILLIN’ TIME

While raw oysters may not be everyone’s cup of tea, chargrilled oysters are amazing. Made famous in New Orleans, it can be a real pain to chargrill your own oysters on the half shell. Luckily, thanks to SOS Shells, you and your new team of outdoor chefs can channel your inner Cajun. These reusable, stainless steel shells are perfect for chargrilling oysters, shrimp, scallops, vegetables or more. They are extremely easy to use and are great gadget to break out at your next grill party. For more information on chargrilling, check out our chargrilling blog.

GADGETS GALORE

While we’re on the gadget subject, in order to truly become a gourmet outdoor chef, you’re going to need to invest in some additional tools of the trade. It’s hard to make smoked almond and honey brie without a cast iron brie baker. And if you’re going to make bacon-wrapped goat cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers, it’s a whole lot easier with a chili pepper grill rack and pepper corer. You can certainly use foil to cook both of those gourmet appetizers, but it gets a little messy. Luckily, there are no shortage of companies that offer great gadgets for the outdoor chef. For a plethora of gourmet outdoor cooking gadgets, check out Sur La Table or Crate & Barrel.