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Memphis-Style Spareribs

Memphis-Style Spareribs
In the opinion of many grill masters, including the legions of experts who trail the weekend BBQ contest circuit, Memphis is the only place to find real ribs. It's where the contest finalists gather each year for the big rib cook-off, and it's where enthusiasts come year-round for legendary ribs at world-famous restaurants. Ribs are done dry (dry rub, that is) in Memphis, and the sauce is served on the side.

Ingredients:

For the Memphis dry rub:

  • 2 Tbs. sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. ground celery seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 lb. trimmed pork spareribs, in slabs
  • 3 or 4 handfuls hickory chips, soaked if using
      charcoal
  • 1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce (optional)

Directions:

To make the Memphis dry rub, in a small bowl, stir together the paprika, chili powder, sugar, onion and garlic powders, celery seeds, cumin, mustard, oregano, thyme, cayenne and salt. Use the rub immediately, or cover tightly and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Using your fingers, pat the dry rub evenly over the spareribs, rubbing it in well. Place in a dish in a single layer, cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. Oil the grill rack.

For a charcoal grill: Place a drip pan half full of water in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle a handful of the wood chips on the coals. Place the ribs on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke the ribs, turning every 30 minutes or so and adding more wood chips, coals and water to the drip pan as needed, until the ribs are fork-tender, about 2 hours.

For a gas grill: Place a shallow pan half full of water at the edge of the grill rack. Add the wood chips to the grill in a smoker box or perforated foil packet. Place the ribs on the grill rack away from the heat elements. Cover the grill and smoke the ribs, turning every 30 minutes or so and adding more water to the pan as needed, until the ribs are fork-tender, about 2 hours.

Pour the barbecue sauce into a saucepan and heat on the grill rack or on the stovetop, then transfer to a bowl. Transfer the slabs to a carving board and cut into separate ribs or into manageable 3- or 4-rib portions. Pass the barbecue sauce alongside. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003).