We’d bought cooked (oven roasted I think), marinated spare ribs from our local butcher a couple of times. They were great, very flavorful, which is why we kept buying them once in a while. Just reheating them in the oven was enough to have nicely flavored ribs on the table.

However, they weren’t fall-of-the-bone-tender. They were always the same, adapted -flavor wise- to the general public’s taste. Tasty, but not extraordinary. Nothing extra special.

Another problem, if you want to call it that, was that the membranes weren’t removed from the bottom of the ribs. I knew that I could do better myself. Adapt them to what I like in a rib. What we like.

After smoking the chicken breast, I figured I could use that same method to smoke ribs. Sure, It wouldn’t be extremely smokey. It wouldn’t be the ultra slow barbecueing which I love in the US. But I figured it would give it some extra flavor. I still had an ‘award winning’ rib-rub I’d bought at the Savory Spice Shop in Colorado the summer before. So all I needed was a rack of not yet marinated, uncooked ribs.  Fortunately the butcher had some in the back that he hadn’t prepped yet, so I was good to go.

I really love that butcher. It’s really close to our house and they have everything I want, or can get it. I have their phone number and I can call in orders if needed. When they’re in, they actually give me a call so I won’t have to go to their store in vain. The girls who work there on Saturdays, which is the day I  usually go there, are all lovely. They recognize me and have fun with me. They joke and are friendly. They are amused by the fact that I ask for things to be a little different. Like the uncooked ribs. They hardly ever sell those. So if I have a reader who lives in the west part of Amsterdam and likes good cuts of meat, please go by the Keurslager at Ecuplein. They’re awesome.

Back to the ribs though. I started out prepping them to be cooked. This means removing the membrane and applying a rub. I don’t have pictures or a video of how that works, because Laurens was at work when I did this and I really needed both hands for this. It’s fairly easy though, once you know how it works. You just take a dull knife (butter or dinner knife or so), which you wiggle under the membrane on the bottom side of the rib. You then take a piece of kitchen towel to hold the little piece of membrane you’ve wiggle loose and while you hold the ribs with one hand, you pull the membrane off with the other hand. If the membrane breaks or splits, just start over with the piece that’s still attached to the ribs.

Removing the membrane is the key to true tasty, tender ribs. The membrane will be touch after cooking, and it won’t let flavors from your seasonings into your meat. So don’t skip the membrane-removal. Promise me you won’t!

Once the membrane is removed, apply your favorite rub generously over the front and the back of the ribs, then smoosh them in a bit. Especially with the membrane removed, you can stretch ribs out quite a bit. This’ll shorten cooking time, but will make the ribs tough and a little drier. Not tastier. So smoosh them together. Set the ribs aside while you prep your grill.

Start by grabbing some nice wood chips. I like hickory, personally, but I bet mesquite would be nice too, or apple wood. Break the wood chips into small pieces. Big pieces take a long time to start smoking, so make sure you have a lot of little pieces. Once they start smoking, larger pieces will start to work as well, but make sure you have some small chips as well. Soak the chips for 10 to 20 minutes.

Once the chips are soaked, drain them and place them in a shallow aluminum bowl. Small chips go on the bottom. Place the bowl of chips over the flames, under the rack of your grill. Then turn on the burner(s) under the bowl. Close the hood of your grill and let the temperature get to about 110C or 225F. At least not too much hotter. You want the heat to be enough to get the chips smoking and the pork cooked, but you want it to go slow!

Once the grill reaches the right temperature (and the chips have started smoking a little) you place your ribs on the other side of the grill. As far away from direct heat as you can. Again, smoosh them together a bit.

Let the ribs cook like this for about 40-45 minutes, then turn them over and wait another 45 minutes. Then flip again and move them a little closer to the heat, so they might get the tiniest hint of a crispy outer layer. After about 10 minutes you turn them again. If you have really thick ribs you might want to repeat this 3 or 4 times, with normal sized ribs they should be done after those 10 minutes or (almost) direct heat on both sides.

They’ll be delicious. They’ll have a subtle smokey flavor, they’re tender enough to tear them apart. We shared a rack, and honestly, from a nutritional perspective that’s more than enough. But we could’ve easily eaten a whole rack a person. That’s how good they are!

If you want the ribs a little ‘saucier’, you could put a barbecue sauce/glaze over them for the last 20 minutes of cooking (just brush it on each side alternately and turn after 5 minutes, so 2 glazes per side). It’s what I did with the ribs in these pictures. Honestly, I don’t think they need that (I’ve made them with and without the glaze).

Also featured in this dinner was roasted garlic. That garlic with some nice crusty whole wheat bread was perfect to accompany the ribs. A how-to on the garlic will be posted soon!

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