Barbecued Spareribs or Baby Back Ribs
MICHAEL ROMANO AND KENNY CALLAGHAN
2 to 3 whole racks of pork spareribs (about 3 to 31/2 pounds each), or 3 to 4 baby back ribs
6 to 7 tablespoons Blue Smoke Magic Dust (available at Blue Smoke)
1/2 cup Blue Smoke barbecue sauce (as above)
4 cups fruitwood or hickory chips
Notes: A rib rack for the grill is highly recommended for this recipe; also, a grill rack with side flaps that fold up is helpful, so you can add coals during cooking.
Trim the racks of ribs (or ask your butcher to), removing the 1 and 1/2-inch-wide skirt flap and any excess fat. Peel off the silverskin, using the flat of a knife blade. Rub 1 and 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Magic Dust on each side of the rack of ribs (for baby back ribs, rub in about 2 to 3 teaspoons on each side). Cover the ribs, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before cooking. Soak wood chips in water for at least 1 hour.
If using a charcoal grill:
Light about 6 large handfuls of natural charcoal with a chimney or electric starter. When they're burning well, separate them into two piles at the sides of the grill, placing a foil pan between them to catch drippings. Open the bottom air vents. When the coals are gray with ash, set an oven thermometer in the middle of the rack, away from the coals, and cover grill with the lid. (Or poke an instant-read thermometer through a vent in the lid.)
When the temperature reaches about 225 degrees, place the rib rack down the center of the grill rack, away from the coals. Then put ribs into the slots of the rack, or lay them bone-side-down on the rack, keeping them away from the piles of coals. Sprinkle a handful of wet chips over the coals on each side. Return the lid to the grill, and half-close the top vents. Do not remove the lid for the first 30 minutes, as the meat smokes. The temperature should range between 185 and 225 degrees. In order to maintain a constant temperature, you may need to replenish the fire with prelit coals. Light about two handfuls of charcoal in a bucket or on a concrete slab about 10 to 15 minutes before you need to refuel.
Check the fire after 30 minutes, adding prelit coals as necessary, along with a few more wet wood chips. Replace the lid, open the top vents fully, and continue cooking. If the grill gets too hot, close the vents to reduce the temperature; reopen them if you need to raise it again. Check temperature every 20 minutes, and refuel as needed. The total cooking time, depending on the temperature, should be 2 to 3 hours. The ribs are cooked when a fork in the fleshy part of the meat twists easily and pulls the meat away, or if two bones can be torn apart easily. A pinkish tinge from the smoke is correct and does not mean the meat is undercooked. Coat the meaty side of the ribs with the barbecue sauce, painting generously, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes.
If using a gas grill:
Preheat the grill to 500 degrees for about 20 minutes. Put a handful of soaked chips in a foil pan, under the rack on the back burner on the left side. (To get the chips to smoke, all burners should be operating on high.) As soon as the chips are smoking well, turn the front and back burners to low and the middle burner off, and open the lid. When the temperature falls to 275 to 300 degrees, place the ribs lengthwise in the middle of the grill (in a rib rack, if you're using one). Cook for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, keeping the lid closed for the first 30 minutes while the chips are smoking. (Note that the chips are harder to keep smoking in a gas grill, and that a charcoal grill will provide much more smoky flavor.)
Follow instructions above for testing doneness and finishing off with the barbecue sauce.
Romano and Callaghan's "Pit" Beans, Potato Salad and Cole Slaw.