Many people suffer from the inability to grill pork ribs that live up to their expectations. People have tried grilling, smoking, baking and even boiling slabs of ribs and they never get the flavor they desire. The cure for this malady is to better understand the different components of rib cookery and apply them in a stepwise fashion.

The first step in cooking ribs is to remove the membrane that is located on the bone side of the slab. This membrane will never tenderize regardless of how long you cook the ribs and will prevent any flavor from rubs or smoke from penetrating the back of the slab. This membrane is found on both baby back ribs and spare ribs. To remove the membrane you need to insert a butter knife between the membrane and the meat and gently separate the two slightly. Once an edge of the membrane has been lifted grab it with a paper towel and peel the membrane away from the entire slab.

After the membrane has been removed you will season the ribs with a dry rub to give them some extra flavor. If you are going to cook the ribs at low temperature (250 degrees) in the oven or in a smoker then you can use a rub with a lot of sugar. If you plan on grilling the ribs at high temperature (350 degrees) then you might want to stick with salt and pepper.

Regardless of whether you cook your ribs at high or low temperature (there is no "right" answer) you need to make sure that the ribs are able to tenderize and render out some of the fat they contain. If you are using high temperature grilling this is accomplished by cutting the slab in half and scoring the ribs across the meat. By increasing the surface area of the meat you are helping it render faster which will be required at this higher temperature. If you are cooking at lower temperatures all you need is plenty of time (typically three to six hours) and the ribs will render naturally.

If you are smoking your ribs then you will want to stay away from woods that produce a strong smoke flavor. Pork ribs are easily overwhelmed by too much smoke and this is one of the biggest mistakes of rookies. Avoid woods such as mesquite and hickory and try to use mild woods such as apple and maple.

You can tell when your ribs are fully cooked when the meat pulls away from the ends of the bones and a toothpick slides easily through the meat. At this point you can apply another layer of flavor. If you like your ribs dry then you can apply a light dusting of your favorite dry rub. If you like you ribs wet then this is the time to apply barbecue sauce. To get the maximum amount of flavor add a thin layer of sauce and then apply an extra coat of your dry rub.

In summary, there are multiple steps to cooking pork ribs that include removing the membrane, applying a seasoning rub that matches the cooking style, knowing when the ribs are done and re-seasoning the ribs before serving. Each of these steps is important and proper attention to each one will greatly improve your success with cooking ribs.

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