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lucy waverman

Korean, beef and pork spareribs with barbecue sauce.Carlos Osorio/The Globe and Mail

Ribs are synonymous with summer. Everyone loves these messy, delicious bones hot off the grill.

When it comes to buying ribs, you can choose back or side. Side ribs come from the belly section, have longer bones, more fat and less meat. Back ribs come from the loin section and tend to be drier, since they are meatier and less fatty. Each type has its devotees, but fat wins out for me. I prefer the tender juiciness of side ribs. St. Louis ribs are side ribs cut in an even rectangle, so each rib is the same size.

Ask the butcher to remove the membrane that covers the back of the ribs. To do it yourself, use a sharp knife and cut through enough of the membrane to grasp it with your hand, and then pull it off. If not removed, the ribs will cook unevenly, and the rub won’t penetrate.

Salt your ribs two hours before cooking. It helps to tenderize the meat. Sprinkle on a scant ½ teaspoon of Kosher salt per pound of meat. If you use table salt, use only 1/4 teaspoon as it has smaller granules. Before cooking the ribs, combine 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard with 1 tablespoon oil per 2 lbs. of ribs and lightly brush over. This helps the rub adhere. Marinating them does nothing for the flavour, so grill straight after this step. If you are using a smoker, the recipe is the same. If you only have a barbecue but want to add a smoky flavour, place soaked wood chips in aluminum foil and seal. Poke some holes and place under the grill racks. Replenish as they burn out.

Preheat your grill to 250 F to 275 F. Turn off the two back burners and leave the front (or side one) on medium high. Play around until you get the right temperature. After you’ve coated the ribs with the mustard and sprinkled with rub, place over the unheated part of the grill and leave for three hours for back ribs, and four hours for side, turning occasionally, or until tender. Some people spritz their ribs every half-hour with a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and apple or orange juice. The theory is this helps the meat tenderize. To test whether your ribs are ready, pick the rack up with tongs; if it bends in the middle it is done. At this point, raise the heat to high on all the burners, brush the rack with your favourite barbecue sauce and grill for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning frequently, or until the ribs are glazed. Serve with additional sauce.

To make a basic rub, combine 2 tbsp. coarsely ground black pepper, 2 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tbsp. dried thyme, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tbsp. dry mustard, 1 tbsp. hot smoked paprika, and 1 tsp. cayenne (omit if you don’t want it too spicy). If you have not salted the meat, add 2 tbsp. Kosher salt.

To make a quick basic barbecue sauce, combine 1 cup ketchup with ¼ cup cider vinegar, 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 1 tbsp. smoked Spanish paprika, 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. Kosher salt, and lots of ground black pepper. Combine and cook gently for 10 minutes to blend the flavours (this is not necessary if you are in a hurry).

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