Tom's World Famous BBQ Ribs

First things first... go to the grocery store and get some fresh Baby Back Ribs. Remember, you aint gonna eat the bones and a lot of what you are buying is going to cook away, so be sure to buy at least a slab for each person you plan on feeding. More if you think they might be hungry! I recommend 2-3 lbs. per person. If you find Danish ribs, it will be will worth the effort. Something about they way they treat pigs in Denmark, shore makes for good eating. But always buy at least one rack extra... there is a special reason for that and I will reveal that later.

While you are there you might as well get the rest of the stuff you will need. Really it is a simple list, refined over years of successful cooking and eating and ... oh yeah, getting over being shy about just how good these ribs are. I used to blush quite a bit until I understood that my ribs are about as good as eating gets. Now, I aint bragging, just simply stating the facts.

BBQ Rib Shopping List

3 LBS Baby Back Ribs per person to be fed

One Bottle Dale's Steak Sauce

One Bottle Hinzes or KC Masterpiece BBQ Sauce

One Bottle White Vinegar

One Bottle of Smucker's Sweet Orange Marmalade

A disposable Roasting Pan, like you'd cook a turkey in

A large roll of tin foil

Lets start cooking. First ... wash your hands. It's always good to have a starting point and this makes a fine one. If you use soap... be sure to wash all the soap off your hands. Now, wash the ribs. Sometimes a little sliver of bone will be left on the skin of the bone and you'll be happy to find it with your hands than with your mouth. Now, all better? Cool!

Remember, if you must go to the bathroom during the process, wash your hands again. Even if no one else is looking. Not washing your hands won't add anything good to the taste of the ribs. And, might make someone sick. But, if you don't plan on sharing your ribs with anyone else, hell... have at it.


Empty Pan

Find a large pan you can stick in the oven. You'll need a big one. A Turkey baster will work wonderfully if you've got one, and if yours has a lid, you won't even need the tin foil later. While you are at it, pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees. Yep, that two hundred and seventy five degrees... not three hundred, not 375... just 275 degrees.

Now you can start layering your washed ribs in the pan, as shone above. I have found that spacing the ribs out as best you can and laying each course in an alternating direction will be easier to handle later when they are hot. Last thing you want to do is have your ribs fall apart in the pan... but if they do, you'll still love the. Be sure to salt them lightly as you go and liberally season with ground black pepper.

Now pour one cup of water over the ribs and then add one cup of vinegar, pour it over the ribs too. The mixture should cover the ribs up to about the mid point of the pan. If your are one of the luck ones and have a huge pan and lots of ribs, adjust the mixture and add more. Keep about the same ratio's but, this aint rocket science.

It will be just fine to stack the ribs high if you have a smaller pan. The ribs don't care. And if you can fit the finished product into your oven, that is all that matters. I have done it this way many times in the past, just be careful not to over fill the pan with water and vinegar, it could spill in the oven and you'll have a mess to clean up.

Once you have done the above, cover the ribs. Either with the lid of your turkey baster, or with a liberal amount of tin foil. Don't be coy with it, use all you want. You want the foil to be as tight around the pan as possible and to prevent the vinegar and water from escaping from the pan as the mixture begins to cook. Once you are done with this, you can slide the pan and the ribs into the oven.

Now wait... 4 1/2 hours. Your house will begin to fill with the most wonderful smell! But what ever you do, don't mess with the ribs. You'll have plenty time to mess with them later. Once the 4 1/2 hours is up, turn off the oven, take out the ribs and set them on the stove top for the next hour. Yep, another wait! Remove the lid or cut the foil open to allow the temperature to cool down. Or, if you have room in your refrigerator, put them in there, cool them down, heck ... get them cold! Save them for a few days before proceeding to the next step.

Well, remember I suggested that you buy an extra rack of rib... here is what you do. Take the rack off the top of the stack and eat it. This is your reward for cooking them. Don't share with anyone. It is just too good to share... you've had to buy the ribs, wash the ribs, cook the ribs and now you've waited 4 1/2 hours for the first taste... you deserve it. Indulge. No sauce, no seasoning... just ribs steamed in their own juices and vinegar. WoW! But wait... there is more to come one your done.

Now... In a large bowl combine one 16 oz. large jar BBQ sauce, One 8 or 12 oz. bottle Smuckers Sweet Orange Marmalade, 1/4 cup of Dale's Steak Sauce and 1/4 cup Drippings ( that is the tangy water and vinegar that you've cooked the ribs in the oven with.) Mix it up real good and let it sit. Not a bad idea to cover the mixture, flies and bugs being what they are, you just can't be too careful.

Well your fire is your problem. If you don't know how to light your grill, you are screwed from the get go anyway. Might as well revert to eating the ribs as they are. Either way, still good eating. But let proceed with the instructions for lighting a bar b cue grill...

One of our favorite charcoal grill lighters is a guy named George Goble (really!!), a computer person in the Purdue University engineering department.

Each year, Goble and a bunch of other engineers hold a picnic in West Lafayette, Indiana, at which they cook hamburgers on a big grill. Being engineers, they began looking for practical ways to speed up the charcoal-lighting process.

"We started by blowing the charcoal with a hair dryer," Goble told me in a telephone interview. "Then we figured out that it would light faster if we used a vacuum cleaner."

If you know anything about (1) engineers and (2) guys in general, you know what happened: The purpose of the charcoal-lighting shifted from cooking hamburgers to seeing how fast they could light the charcoal.

From the vacuum cleaner, they escalated to using a propane torch, then an acetylene torch. Then Goble started using compressed pure oxygen, which caused the charcoal to burn much faster, because as you recall from chemistry class, fire is essentially the rapid combination of oxygen with a reducing agent (the charcoal). We discovered that a long time ago, somewhere in the valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (or something along those lines).

By this point, Goble was getting pretty good times. But in the world of competitive charcoal-lighting, "pretty good" does not cut the mustard.

Thus, Goble hit upon the idea of using - get ready - liquid oxygen. This is the form of oxygen used in rocket engines; it's 295 degrees below zero and 600 times as dense as regular oxygen. In terms of releasing energy, pouring liquid oxygen on charcoal is the equivalent of throwing a live squirrel into a room containing 50 million Labrador retrievers. On Gobel's World Wide Web page (the address is http://ghg.ecn.purdue.edu/), you can see actual photographs and a video of Goble using a bucket attached to a 10-foot-long wooden handle to dump 3 gallons of liquid oxygen (not sold in stores) onto a grill containing 60 pounds of charcoal and a lit cigarette for ignition.

What follows is the most impressive charcoal-lighting I have ever seen, featuring a large fireball that according to Goble, reached 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The charcoal was ready for cooking in - this has to be a world record - 3 seconds.

There's also a photo of what happened when Goble used the same technique on a flimsy $2.88 discount-store grill. All that's left is a circle of charcoal with a few shreds of metal in it. "Basically, the grill vaporized," said Goble. "We were thinking of returning it to the store for a refund."

Looking at Goble's video and photos, I became, as an American, all choked up with gratitude at the fact that I do not live anywhere near the engineers' picnic site. But also, I was proud of my country for producing guys who can be ready to barbecue in less time than it take for guys in less-advanced nations, such as France, to spit.

Will the 3-second barrier ever be broken? Will engineers come up with a new, more powerful charcoal-lighting technology? It's something for all of us to ponder this summer as we sit outside, chewing our hamburgers, every now and then glancing in the direction of West Lafayette, Indiana, looking for a mushroom cloud.

Hell Fire... back to cooking ribs.

Carefully prepare your fire. Keep the fire smoldering, but you don' t need a huge fire like George's to cook there ribs. All you are going to do is to crispen the ribs and caramelize the sauce. This only takes about thirty minutes. If your cooker is the kind with one rack right over the coals, then remove the grill and put two layers of tin foil right on top of the coals and put the grill back on the cooker. I have found ribs are better with a smoker.

Once the fire is ready, and the foil in place.... its is time to finally crispen the ribs and caramelize the sauce. Carefully remove the ribs from pan you cooked them in. Do that right next to your cooker and use a simple kitchen spatula. Lay the ribs on the grill gently; don't plan on moving them until you take them off the cooker when you are done because they will fall apart if you try that. Cover them, cook them for 15 minutes and then ladle the sauce on each one, wait five-ten minutes and do that once more.... then wait five minutes and carefully take them off the grill.

Unless you are a total Bozo, you'll have the rib best eating you've ever had. Set a little extra sauce out on the side as some folks may actually prefer the sauce to the ribs. If you've followed the instructions, you should be able to eat these ribs with a fork cause the bones will slide right out of the meat.

Have fun and enjoy!

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