On Tuesday, June 21, 2022, at 5:14 a.m. EDT summer officially begins. Or at least the astronomical start of summer in the northern half of the globe. In the Northern Hemisphere, the June solstice (aka summer solstice) occurs when the sun travels along its northernmost path in the sky, also giving us the longest day of the year. And what better way to celebrate on this and basically any day during the summer than with a delicious rack of ribs grilled to perfection in the outdoor kitchen. Since ribs take a while to cook, you also get to savor the one-of-a-kind smell of meat and smoke gently wafting out the top of your grill. It makes yard work a little more pleasant or serves as a sweet-scented backdrop as you sip on one of your favorite beverages.
Here’s a basic rib recipe with a tried-and-true dry rub. You can enjoy the ribs dry, or you can kick it up a notch with a little Asian-inspired sauce that you apply at the very end. I smoke my meats on a charcoal grill to impart the smoke flavor, but you can adapt this to fit your gas grill or whatever you use.
Prepare Your Rub
I use this basic sweet and savory rub on most of my smoked meats such as pulled pork, ribs and sometimes chicken. I also use it on brisket but cut back on the sugar since I prefer brisket to be a little on the saltier side than sweet. The following is enough to generously coat one rack of ribs with some probably left over. I prefer baby back ribs, which tend to be a little bit leaner and very tender. Hint: sprinkle the rub over the ribs without touching your hands to the rub and you can save whatever’s left in a small container to use on your next barbeque adventure.
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup salt
- ¼ cup garlic salt
- ¼ cup chili powder
- ¼ cup paprika
Rack ‘Em Up
I cut the ribs in the middle and use a rib rack on the grill that keeps the ribs held upright on their side. Halving them helps to fit better on the grill, but this is not necessary. You can remove the membrane on the less meaty side of the ribs using a butter knife to get underneath the thin layer of skin and then peel it back, or simply leave it on. Coat the ribs with the rub. You can do this and let them sit overnight or do it right before placing on the grill.
About an hour before you plan to put the ribs on the grill, soak about two handfuls of wood chips in water to add a bit more smoke flavor. Almost any wood chips will do, hickory, pecan, apple, cherry, etc. However, I tend to only use mesquite wood for brisket. Heat the grill to 225 degrees to cook them for about 4 hours or you can go with a little higher temperature to speed up the process, but don’t go much above 300. I use a heat deflector placed at the bottom of the grill between the meat and charcoal, which keeps the ribs from getting burned. If you don’t have a heat deflector, use indirect heat, which entails moving all of your charcoal to one side of the grill and then placing your meat across from it so the ribs cook, but do not burn. If not using a rib rack, place your ribs with the meaty side facing up.
Once the meat is on the grill and you have the temperature stable, walk away and don’t open the lid. Each time you open the lid to check on the ribs, you let out precious heat and delay the cooking process. The ribs will take at least 2-3 hours to cook, so check them only after this period of time. The ribs are done when you notice the meat on the back side has pulled away from the bone a bit and when you pick them up with tongs in the middle, the ribs bend a bit on each side. The more they bend, the more “done” they are. Once you feel they are close to ready, you can wrap them in foil and put them back on the hot grill for about 30 minutes to increase tenderness.
Let’s Get Sauced
Sriracha Plum Sauce
- At least a ½ bottle of plum sauce (about 5 oz). Judge how much you need by the size of your rib rack. Kikkoman makes a good plum sauce, but you can find a few brands at almost any grocer.
- A spoonful of Sriracha Sauce
- A spoonful of garlic salt
- Mix all of these up and give it a little taste. Add more Sriracha for heat and/or more garlic to balance out the sweetness. I usually add a two spoonfuls, but it’s up to you!
Unwrap the ribs from foil and place them meatier side down on the grill. Liberally brush the bone side with sauce making sure to get the top and bottom tips, too. Close the grill and let them sit for about 5 minutes. Flip them over to the meatier side and coat with sauce. Placing the bone side down first keeps you from losing some of your sauce on the grill. Let this side sit for another five minutes and serve. Traditional sides such as baked beans, potato salad, cornbread or toasted bread go great with the ribs, or serve a green vegetable or salad to make the meal a little healthier. Whatever you choose, these ribs and a few sides make a great way to kick off your summer!