Tennesseans, especially those living outside of the Volunteer State, are expected to have more than a passing knowledge of barbecue. I cooked 12 linear feet of pork ribs on Friday–the occasion was the 22nd birthday of Number Two Son–and here’s how I did it.
I prefer Memphis-style ribs. By that, I mean ribs with a dry rub that need no sauce. Sauce is a pain. If you need to mop the ribs with sauce as they cook, you lose all the heat from the smoker every time you open the lid. Sauce is messy to eat, especially for a man with a moustache, so I like my ribs dry.
I begin with pork loin backribs. Full size ribs have too much fat on them. The night before I plan to smoke them, I mix up the rub. The recipe comes from Smoke & Spice, a book by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison published by the Harvard Common Press, which has published three of my books as well. Here’s the recipe, which the Jamisons call “Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub”:
3/4 cup Paprika–I like to use Hungarian paprika, which has more of a kick to it
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
Mix these together and rub them all over the ribs, then put them in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day it’s time to fire up the smoker. I use a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, with one modification. I had a three-inch Trend thermometer drilled into the top of the smoker to help me keep the heat level just right. I put the ribs onto rib racks so as to get as many into the smoker as possible. I use natural charcoal–not those hydrocarbon-filled briquets–and smoke the ribs for about six hours at a temperature range of 200-225 F. From time to time, I toss in a handful of soaked hickory chips. I try to not open the lid more than twice during that period. With the three-inch thermometer, I can see how the fire is doing from inside the house.
That’s it. Everything is easy but the cleanup.