Finger licking good: Tasty sweet ribs are back in.
Looking back on my tweets over the past 12 months I see that one cut of meat dominated my most animated 140 characters of love – and that's ribs.
It seems that a couple of years back we had all forgotten ribs in our rush to praise and cook secondary cuts like neck, belly and cheek.
Cooked right, all of these are meltingly delicious but ribs also give you the added primal pleasure of tearing the meat away from bones with your teeth and then licking your fingers of the remnants of the all-important sticky barbecue sauce. Cooking ribs is one of those simple things that can be done 100 ways.
In my book there are only two rules. Firstly – no matter what experts tell you – never boil ribs before cooking. I usually use the oven then the barbecue, but the grill in your oven can be used for the final stage instead.
Secondly always remove the fine silver skin on the underside of the ribs before cooking as it is both horrid to eat and stops the marinade or dry rub working its way into the meat.
To remove this, bump the nose of a teaspoon inwards along the edge of the rib underside (concave side) until a little tag of skin is visible. Using paper towel or a clean cloth, grab the tag and pull back the silverskin until it is all removed from this side of the ribs.
The next decision is what to flavour your ribs with, and whether you want to use a wet marinade, a glaze or a dry rub.
In terms of flavourings, pork ribs love a classic marinade of equal parts hoisin, soy and honey hit with minced garlic, five spice powder and something acidic such as lemon juice or cider vinegar.
You can also add a little tomato sauce and reduce the amount of vinegar.
Cook these ribs low and slow to stop them burning before they are cooked through and to keep them nice and sticky. Remember the sugar in the marinades is prone to burning so use indirect heat to cook and a direct heat to finish is best. Also remember, for food safety reasons, you shouldn't really use your marinade to glaze your ribs so make extra and reserve it for this process.
The other great source of ideas for flavourings is the US where ribs are almost a religion. US celebrity chef Guy Fieri likes to include spirits such as tequila in his marinade to give his ribs some bite.
This sauce is perfect to use as a glaze for ribs at the end of cooking, but if you decide to go this route why not brine your ribs first to ensure that they are extra juicy. Brining is the process of encouraging moisture and flavour into meat, and helping
it stay there through the cooking.
With ribs this is as easy as submerging 1.5kg of them in a solution of 4 tablespoons vinegar, 500ml water, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar (25g) and 1 tablespoon pepper for a little as 30 minutes. Then remove them from the brine, dry them off and roast until almost cooked.
This will take about 60 minutes in a preheated 140C oven. Start glazing them every seven minutes. Ribs are perfect when they pull apart easily.
The final option is a dry rub.
DRY RUB FOR PORK RIBS recipe
This makes for great, crusty ribs and removes the danger of sugars burning. Ribs can be glazed at the end of the cooking time, but I reckon they are just dandy as they are because the fat from the meat combines with the rub residue with glorious results.
You can serve this with a homemade barbecue sauce or a lighter sweet and sour dressing made from vinegar, sugar and a little mustard which will help cut the fattiness of the ribs.
AUSTRALIAN RIBS TO LOVE
The arrival of South Carolina BBQ pit master Ed Mitchell for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival earlier this year helped ensure Paul Wilson's ribs at The Newmarket Hotel reached new heights but other Melbourne notables are the southern US ribs at Big Boy BBQ, the lamb rib marinated in Coca-Cola at St Katherine's and the Asian-accented ribs at Dandeloin and The Smith.
Taste's Sydney food reviewer, Simon Thomsen commends the pork ribs at Italian La Casa in Five Dock, the balsamic pork ribs at the Italian enoteca 121BC in Surry Hills and the lamb ribs at Bodega. I suffer serious pangs for the teriyaki beef rib at Izakaya Fujiyama with its grilled garlic and jalapeno dressing and for the sweet and sour lamb ribs at MsGs.
While Tasmania's best ribs – the lamb ribs at Garagistes in Hobart – are loaded with sweet and sour flavours; less sticky but chin-wipingly juicy.
In Queensland, Taste's Fiona Donnelly has "a thing" for the Hanoi-style, deep-fried pork ribs at Nunu in Palm Cove and the authentic, messy Aunt Lilly Mae's barbecue baby back-ribs. Find these sticky soul foods at Carolina Kitchen, in suburban Coorparoo.
While in Adelaide the ribs at newbies like Grace the Establishment, the Mexican Lucky Lupitas smoked beef ribs and Pizza et Mozzarella Bar almost risk eclipsing the classic pork ribs at the Pink Pig at North Adelaide.
Where are your favourite ribs? Tweet @Matt Preston with the hashtag #tastEribs www.twitter.com/mattscravat
Information in this article is correct as of 22 May, 2012 .
Matt Preston writes for the taste section, available every Tuesday in The Courier Mail. The Daily Telegraph. and Herald Sun. every Wednesday in The Advertiser and in Perth's Sunday Times.