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"Best Ever Barbecued Ribs Recipe"

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Bon Appetit’s Photo of its “Best Ever Ribs Recipe”.
Would that the recipe was as good as their photo.
         One of my very favorite things to eat are ribs. Pork ribs and to get even more specific, St. Louis cut Pork Ribs which I buy in quantity at Costco.  I long since gave up on supermarket spare ribs, which are priced in the bargain basement (where they belong).  Inevitably, you open the package of ribs only to discover a piece of leftover tails that is virtually inedible.  But once I discovered the joys of Costco ribs, I’ve never bought anything else.         
Adam Rapoport at the Grill

So you can imagine how pleased I was, when planning a birthday dinner for a dear friend and quite a few of his friends, when into my email box came a recipe from Bon Appetit entitled “Best-Ever Barbecued Ribs”.  Not only was there a recipe, but there was a video of them being made by none other than Adam Rapoport, editor of the magazine. Adam took over from Barbara Fairchild when the latter declined to move to New York City as requested by Bon Appetit’s publisher, Conde Nast.  This was just after the demise of Gourmet magazine and I thoroughly applaud Adam for lifting Bon Appetit up and including articles that could have appeared in Gourmet but most certainly did not appear in Bon Appetit in Ms. Fairchild’s day.   So it was a bit of a shock when I discovered that Adam’s video instructions were completely at odds with the written recipe.  I mean there were so many differences that it took a complete overhaul of the recipe.  But I ended up with a spectacular version of ribs–almost accidentally– that I wanted to share with you.


I’ve talked about recipe comments for almost as long as I’ve been writing Chewing the Fat.  In brief, I find many people post complete changes to recipes and then berate the original recipe for not being any good.  But I have learned to filter comments and to learn from them.  Bon Appetit’s comments page on the recipe for Best-Ever Barbecued Ribs was a huge eye-opener.  Of course, I fast forwarded through the “this isn’t barbecue” and “why use a commercial barbecue sauce when your own is so easy to make?”. But as I got deeper, I heard countless complaints about “too much salt”, “too long a cooking time”, and on and on.  But despite the fact that the two recipes didn’t jibe, I trusted Bon Appetit.  And that was a big mistake.        

The first discovery I made was that there was no way the dry rub, essential to flavoring the meat, was enough for the quantities of ribs I was cooking–especially if you followed Adam’s video instructions to use a lot of it and rub it in.  Annoyingly, even doubling the quantities didn’t give me enough so I ended up making it three times before I finally had enough.

          One of the characteristics of great ribs is the ‘fall off the bone’ component which signals extreme tenderness and is highly desirable.  But comment after comment said the initial cooking time meant to flavor the ribs, create a liquid ‘stock’ for the barbecue sauce and tenderize the meat, was too long and ended up giving their cooks something that fell apart and simply could not be finished on the grill.  So I altered the cooking time from 3 hours to 2. And I took the oven temperature down by 50 degrees from the printed recipe, 25 from Adam’s video.  BA’s instructions were to bake the ribs in advance then keep them in the refrigerator to chill making them easier to maneuver on the grill.  This was correct.  And they were easy to handle. 
         Then there was the matter of all those “too salty” comments.  I chilled the pan juices meant to be added to the barbecue sauce overnight.  This let the fat congeal on top so I could peel it off leaving nothing but ‘stock’ behind.  I brought this to a boil. Now I like salt.  I think under-salting is one of a cook’s worst mistakes.  But this was absurd.  The salt content was through the roof.  One commenter had suggested omitting the salt altogether from the rub knowing that the commercial barbecue sauce would be full of sodium itself.   I just took 1 cup of the stock, added 2 cups of chicken stock to it and two 18 oz bottles of store-bought barbecue sauce and prayed. 
The Ribs front and center
in the buffet 
Couldn’t resist sharing the incredible Hydrangeas
from where else but the Bridgehampton Florist

The big day arrived and I fired up the grill.  Then I stood over it placing the racks of ribs on a medium-hot fire on the Weber.  I basted and basted, flipped and flipped and finally took the ribs into the kitchen, cut them into manageable sized pieces and put them in the warming oven on high.  Andrew and I did a taste test.  We were shocked to discover how very little flavor there was to our ribs.  We made a last minute decision to heat some more store-bought barbecue sauce which we pretty well insisted our guests slather on their ribs.  Guess what?  People absolutely adored these ribs—‘so tender’, ‘so meaty’, ‘the meatiest’, ‘wonderful barbecue sauce’ and ‘can I have some more?’.  So here at last is the recipe which I have to say is for the “Best-Ever Barbecued Ribs”.  No thanks to Bon Appetit. But a big shout-out to all those commenters.

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