Grilled ribs are the perfect way to kick off summer and, more important, celebrate Father's Day. There are many ways to grill ribs, but my favorite method is to generously rub them with a dry spice, and then simply grill them low and slow until the meat is tender with a crispy crust. I may baste them with a sauce in the final moments of grilling for a shiny shellac, but I usually leave them as they are. The succulent meat provides enough moistness without softening the crispy coating. For sauce aficionados, I'll pass a bowl at the table for brushing and dipping.
When ribs are prepared this simply, the key to flavor perfection lies in the rub. A good rib rub should have a robust balance of sweet, salt and heat that will coat and permeate the meat as it slowly cooks. While the amount of heat (cayenne) may be adjusted to your taste, there should be a generous amount of salt, sugar and flavorful spices, such as cumin, chili powder and paprika.
This method is also ridiculously easy. All you need is time for the slow cooking. Start cooking the ribs early in the afternoon; place them over indirect low heat on the grill or pop them into the oven and forget about them for 3 hours. Thirty minutes before serving, finish the ribs on the grill, cooking them over direct heat just long enough for them to caramelize and crisp.
Dry Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Pork Ribs
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 3 1/2 hours
Yield: 6 servings
For the rub:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon cayenne (or to taste)
3 racks baby back pork ribs
Prepare the grill for indirect cooking over low heat (or preheat the oven to 200 degrees).
Combine all the dry rub ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel. Arrange in one layer on rimmed baking sheets. Rub the spices all over the ribs on both sides, coating well.
Transfer to the grill; grill over indirect low heat, with the lid closed, for 3 hours, turning once or twice. (If cooking in the oven, transfer the ribs to the oven and cook for 3 hours, turning once or twice.)
To finish the ribs, grill the ribs over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until the meat darkens and crisps, about 10 minutes, turning as needed. (If using a sauce: Baste the ribs with your favorite sauce a few minutes before removing them from the grill. Serve with additional sauce on the side.)
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