There are things I miss about being vegetarian. The moral high ground, the challenge of cooking meat-free versions of favorite foods… That sort of thing. Whenever someone tells me they’re vegetarian, I feel a bit of shame in not being able to say “me too!” anymore. I don’t eat a lot of meat anyhow, especially red meat, but I have to say… My life is easier these days. Barbecues are less awkward, and the food lover in me is really into not technically having to say “no” to anything–anything at all.
And then there’s this. Incredible ribs, without any gigantic backyard smoker pit contraption. I’m kind of into this, too.
A dry rub is pretty easy to pull together. Brown sugar is the base. Paprika is a must. Then you just announce to your spice drawer (weird, I know, I know–I can’t find a rack spacious enough) that there’s a party going on. Chili powder will want to come. Onion powder and garlic salt will definitely want in… Mustard powder might, depending on his mood. Moody little bugger, but we don’t mind. This is a laid-back operation.
My boyfriend is responsible for my newfound affection for ribs. Boy just adores ribs. Look at how lovingly he’s tending to them things. To tell you the truth, he did a huge chunk of work on these… Credit where credit is due.
Besides love and a dry rub, we used a stovetop smoker to make these. I bought mine sometime within the past year and it’s changed my life, I kid you not. (That is an overused and meaningless expression–doesn’t EVERYTHING occurring in your life change it?) But, more on that later–this is the first of many posts gushing about my favorite kitchen toy.
If you love smoky things like I do but have dwelling-related limitations, this thing is super. SUPER. It looks like a roaster thing that you put teeny tiny woodchips into, topped with a rack topped with your food. It gets shut tightly. It goes on your hot stovetop. In no time, it starts to smell amazing. Do you want a bacon-scented home? Do you want to smell like bacon? I suspect at least some do. Maybe not you… But I think it’s worth it. Ventilating well helps, too.
After smoking, these go in a casserole dish, which goes into a low-heat oven. Covering them tightly with foil is essential, and some sort of braising liquid does wonders. The manfriend was handling this part (along with smoking), and he chose to go with blueberry wheat beer. I appreciated his creativity, and it was a good choice. The slight fruity sweetness was definitely noticeable–in a good way. I think this goes to show that any type of beer would work. Wine would work. Broth would work. Two hours of oven time is good. Three is better, four is better still, and… You understand. Some patience is required.
At last, tender, smoky ribs meet the grill for some crisp and those beautiful black marks.
Stovetop Smoker Ribs
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp garlic salt
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 rack baby back ribs
1 cup blueberry wheat beer or other braising liquid of your choice
2 cups barbecue sauce of your choice
Stovetop smoker and smoking chips
Clean ribs and remove the thin membrane from the back side. Mix the ingredients of the rub in a small bowl, then generously rub this mixture over the ribs. Wrap the ribs tightly in plastic and refrigerate overnight. (I told you… This is a labor of love and patience.)
Smoke ribs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. In my Cameron’s smoker, this means about 1/4 of a cup of oak smoking chips, over medium heat on the stovetop, for 45 minutes to an hour. Immediately after smoking, transfer ribs to a baking dish and brush with barbecue sauce. Pour your braising liquid into the dish, cover tightly with foil, and bake in a 250-degree oven for 3-4 hours. Halfway through baking (or more often if you’d like), brush more sauce onto the ribs. When the ribs are finished baking, grill or broil for a few minutes on each side until browned. Finish with more sauce.