Memorial Day BBQ Baby Back Ribs

I’ve had my Viking Charcoal Capsule for a year now, and it has instantly become my favorite cooking tool, hands down. Because of the ceramic liner and finely tuned vents, I can load up with natural charcoal, easily get the temperature as low as 250 degrees, and keep it there long enough to roast a pork shoulder –that’s a good six or seven hours! This kind of barbecuing is favored by the masters of the art in Texas and other points south; there’s no better way to get tender meat and sweet, smoky flavor.

One of the best things in the world to cook this way is baby back pork ribs; the slow approach allows the smoke to permeate the meat, giving it a lovely, pinkish-red color. And by the way, while some people seem to find ribs intimidating, they’re among the easiest foods in the world to cook. The longer you leave them on, the more tender they get.

Happy Memorial-Day BBQing!

Memorial Day BBQ Baby Back Ribs

  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 2 racks baby back pork ribs
  • 1 bottle high-quality barbecue sauce, such as The Silver Palate, preferably a brand that is sweetened with honey or real brown sugar (not high-fructose corn syrup), or your favorite homemade barbecue sauce
  • Natural charcoal
  • Hickory chunks or chips

Mix all the spices for the dry rub. If you’re using hickory chips, place a cup of them in water to soak.

Prep the ribs: rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. On the back side of the ribs, there is a tough membrane that must be removed; starting at one end, loosen the membrane from one of the bones, and, using a paper towel to get a good grip on the slippery membrane, peel the membrane off and discard. Repeat for second rack.

Sprinkle the dry rub liberally over both sides of the ribs; rub and pat into the meat. You can do this a day ahead for maximum flavor; even a couple of hours will give the meat a really nice marinade.

Prepare the charcoal capsule: Open top and bottom vents all the way. Remove the rack, wad up five full broadsheet pieces of newspaper, and place in the bottom of the cooker. Pile natural charcoal on top of the newspaper and light from beneath. Close lid.

Now is an important time to keep an eye on your temperature; within 10 or 15 minutes, you can easily heat the capsule past 700 degrees, and if you get it too hot, it will take too long to cool it down. At the same time, you need to make sure to get all the coals well-lit. I like to let the grill go up to about 500; I then close both the top and bottom vents almost all the way, working to bring the temperature down to 250 or 275, adjusting the vents slightly as needed. This is a great temperature range for classic, slow and low cooking.

If you’re using hickory chips, drain them and throw on top of the coals. Put the rack back in place, place the ribs in a disposable foil pan, put on rack, and close the lid. Roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, monitoring the temperature closely, until the meat pulls back on the bones and is fall-off-the-bone tender.

When the meat is tender, brush ribs with barbecue sauce and cook only for an additional 10 minutes. Cut racks in half or into individual ribs, and serve, passing additional barbecue sauce.