These are mini because sometimes that’s all you can get! I’m a huge supporter of local butchers, and you get the best range and quality from them. That said, the COVID pandemic means I’ll take what I can get – in this case supermarket pork ribs from Waitrose.
Quality ingredients alway increases the potential tastes and textures we get from food. In this case the ribs are already lacking in available meat before they hit the grill. That shouldn’t stop us giving them the proper treatment that can be applied to meatier ribs in the future.
This recipe combines the main techniques of good barbecue. A rub adds flavour as well as increasing the surface area of the meat to catch smoke. A barbecue sauce is used to glaze the ribs in the last few minutes of cooking and to serve. All smoked over indirect heat.
The ingredients for the rub are infinitely changeable. This rub provides a base for the barbecue sauce and a good deep colour without being too strongly flavoured.
I tend to use Maldon Sea Salt, which needs slight crushing. You can also use ordinary table salt depending on how free from additives it is. I’ve also used Golden Caster sugar, in place of a Dark Brown Sugar that has a richer taste. The Golden Caster sugar is unrefined and provides a more lighter, caramel flavour.
This barbecue sauce is ketchup based, with a balance of sweet and sour flavours. The sauce can be used for a glaze as well as added to the ribs as part of the meal.
The sauce stores well in squeezy bottles or sealable tub in the fridge. It can be used for a couple of weeks after its made. This recipe when reduced makes around 300ml, which just about fills a good sized squeezy bottle.
Tomato Ketchup – 280ml (or roughly 16 tbsp)
Cider Vinegar – 35ml (or roughly 2 tbsp)
Worcestershire sauce – 35ml (or roughly 2 tbsp)
Brown Sugar – 3 tbsp
Black Pepper – 1 tsp
Treacle – 2 tsp
Salt – 2 tsp
American Mustard – 10ml (or 2 tsp)
Ideally of the ingredients can come together straight from the fridge or at room temperature. If you’re using American Mustard from the fridge it may form lumps. These come out with a little heat and a balloon whisk.
- Combine all of the ingredients into a saucepan and stir.
- Stir and reduce the sauce over a medium to low heat until it thickens. It will become the consistency of ketchup.
- Take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool.
The sauce should be a good thick consistency. Too watery and it’ll just sap heat from our meat too thick it’ll be more like a gel which doesn’t flow over food. Think how thick ketchup and other sauces are and aim for that.
Allow to cool before bottling, especially if using plastic sauce bottles. If the sauce does go into the bottle warm then leave off the bottle tops or condensation will form.
- Make a small nick under then membrane using a sharp knife, then using the handle of a flat teaspoon to pull away one end. You can use a blunt butterknife as well.
- Using a piece of paper towel to aid your grip, pull away the membrane. Give the ribs a quick tidy up to remove any tough bits left at the ends and on the back.
- Cover the ribs in the rub on the bone side then flip over and do the same for the over side.
Leave the ribs for a maximum of 10 minutes before adding to the barbecue, otherwise the rub will start to soak up the juices from the meat and become wet.
I setup my Kamado Joe for indirect cooking, with a target temperature of 125C. You will need a water pan below the ribs, which in the Kamado sits on top of the heat deflector plates. This should be filled with an inch of boiling water before the ribs are added. Boiling water won’t reduce the temperature in the Kamado as much, and less energy is expended on heating the water pan.
I’ve used applewood for this cook, but other woods such as cherry work well. I’ve ended up with two boxes of applewood from the end of last season, so expect to see a lot of it this year.
- Set up the barbecue as above, adding the wood around 10 to 15 minutes before you begin cooking.
- Place the ribs bone side down over the water pan.
- Leave the ribs in place for roughly 2 to 2 and a half hours. You’ll want to do a couple of checks on the ribs, and to check the water pan is still full. If it gets low then top it up.
- The ribs are done when the meat starts shrink and expose the bone, and the ribs start to bend. That’ll be difficult to see with small cuts like these.
- Add barbecue sauce as a glaze for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
Once the ribs are done they should be rested. I wrap in heavy duty tin foil and then either rest on the side for a few minutes if eating immediately or wrapped in towels in the cool box for longer.
This cook needs a thermometer, in addition to the one already installed in your grill.
- Thermometer – As the ribs are quite small I used my Weber iGrill with an ambient probe attached to the grate. The temperature difference between the surface of the grill and the dome where the main probe is can be larger than you’d expect.
- Shaker – I also use a shaker to add rub to the meat, but if you don’t have one a spoon or fingers work! I use these shakers which are sealable.
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