Amazing Ribs Is All About The Zen Of Barbecue, Grilling, And Outdoor Cooking
"I think food is important and if you don't know how to cook, it's tragic." Julia Child
You have come to the best place in the world for everything related to outdoor cooking, for barbecue recipes, for ribs recipes, for grilling tips and techniques, mythbusting, and the world's best buyer's guides to smokers, grills, and grilling accessories. I hope you brought napkins.
Barbecue is the world's oldest cooking method and among all the creatures on earth, only humans cook. It can be said that barbecue is what made our ancestors human. Heck, it may be the world's second oldest profession.
Barbecue was probably discovered by some proto-human tribe padding warily through the warm ashes of a forest fire following their noses to a particularly seductive scent. When they stumbled upon the charred carcass of a wild boar they squatted and poked their hands into its side. They sniffed their fragrant fingers, then licked the greasy digits. The magical blend of warm protein, molten fat, and unctuous collagen in roasted meat is a narcotic elixir and it addicted them on first bite. They became focused, obsessed with tugging and scraping the bones clean, moaning, and shaking their heads. The sensuous aromas made their nostrils smile and the fulsome flavors caused their mouths to weep. Before long mortals were making sacrifices and burnt offerings to their gods, certain the immortals would like to try their heavenly recipes.
Anthropologists even think that it was mastery of fire that permanently altered our evolutionary path and it is this primeval link that makes us still love cooking over flame so.
Kissed by smoke, hugged by sauce, licked by fire
Today we do it the same way our ancestors did. Our noses lead us to meat roasted by live fire and we eat without forks or linen. Just pig on a stick, grease and goop on our faces. The meat is ethereal, kissed by smoke, hugged by sauce, and licked by fire. "Don't play with your food" doesn't apply when you're eating barbecue. If you don't get it on your shirt you're not doing it right. This is primal, elemental, sensual eating. Pure carnal joy. Just like our ancestors.
Since the beginning of time, cooking with fire has always meant a gathering the clan outdoors, and there is no more intimate assembly than hanging around the fire with the sweet smell of smoke and meat in the air, with a beer in hand, and loved ones at our table. It is as if we draw energy from the fire, as if the fire is the path to both sustenance of the body and the soul. As it was for our forbears, cooking for the clan, the burnt offering, becomes a religious ritual. And then we share the recipes.
So this website is not so much about cooking as it is about the happiness derived from creativity, by self-expression, and the selfless act of feeding others. But just because our ancestors learned to cook outdoors doesn't mean that it comes as second nature to us all. That's the reason for this website, to pass along the ancient art as it has always been taught, generation to generation. To pass the flame from an old timer like me to a young'n like you.
There are a lot of step-by-step recipes from the canon of dishes a barbecue cook needs to know, but the meat and potatoes of AmazingRibs.com are the concepts and techniques that allow us to feed friends and family well. And then have them worship us.
But we are not homo erectus huddled around a campfire. We are a technologically advanced society and we have learned that a lot of the old ways are old husbands' tales, more myth than fact. Today our knowledge has taught us ways to do thing better than ever before, and there is a strong scientific bent to this website. We want you to understand the theory and not just follow a recipe. We are a blend of poetry and chemistry. One of out mottos is "Give a man a fish and he will probably get it sruck to the grill. Teach a man to cook a fish and he will be a hero."
Making it happen is not that hard. Just about anything you can cook in the kitchen can be cooked outdoors if you know a few tricks. And this site will teach you the tricks of controlling temperature and time, essential for cooking anything.
Barbecue means "party"
If, as I believe, a nation's cuisine is at the core of it's culture, barbecue is as important to the American heritage as is jazz, both festive activities perfected by African Americans in the South. To this day, nothing says "party" like barbecue so it should not be surprising that almost 80% of US households own an outdoor grill or smoker. Truly barbecue is America's cuisine.
There may even be a psychological reason we love barbecue. Psychologists have shown that certain foods, among them barbecue, just plain make us happy. Who needs comfort food when we can have happy food?
Not just ribs
One focus of AmazingRibs.com is on pork ribs because they are the holy grail of backyard chefs around the world and mastering them gives you the tools to master almost all outdoor cooking. Whether you prefer pork baby back ribs or pork spareribs or St. Louis cut or beef ribs; whether you prefer sticky Kansas City style red sauces, savory South Carolina mustard sauces, pungent vinegar-based Lexington dip, Memphis style dry rub, or you eat your meat nekkid; whether you spell it BBQ, barbecue, or barbeque; this site has all you need to know.
But there is much much more here. You'll learn meat science, the thermodynamics of cooking, about charcoal, wood, food safety, thermometers, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, hot dogs, potatoes, chile peppers, beans, slaws, and the table of contents grows weekly. Even the side dishes. You can even find the definitive answer to the ancient questions: Charcoal or Gas?
There is an emphasis on traditional dishes, the regional specialties that have been fine tuned and handed down for generations, but I'm a modern cook with modern tools and food science on my mind, so I have often tweaked them to fit the modern patio, kitchen, grocery, and diet.
This website is for food lovers as well as all the trash-talkers who aspire to make the best barbecue on the block, and then brag about it. It's not hard. Come on in, the backyard gate is open, get fired up, roll up your sleeves, strap on a bib (or better still, an apron), and dig in to some Amazing Ribs and much much more!
Below are links to some of the best parts of this website. To see everything, click here for a complete table of contents.
If you boil ribs the terrorists win
The backyard kitchen is built on myths. AmazingRibs.com specializes in mythbusting and teaching the fundamental facts you need to know to be a great outdoor cook.
Myth #1: Boil ribs to make them tender
A lot of folks boil their ribs. Don't do it! You wouldn't boil a steak would you? When you boil meat and bones, you make flavorful soup. That's because water is a solvent that pulls much of the flavor out of the meat and bones and makes the meat mushy. Boiling also removes vitamins and minerals. That's why the water is cloudy when you're done. That's flavor in the water. DOH! Taste tests have shown that ribs are most flavorful when roasted. If you are in a hurry, you are better off steaming or microwaving ribs and then finishing them on the grill or under the broiler. Just don't boil 'em if you want max flavor! If you boil ribs the terrorists win.
Myth #2: The best ribs fall off the bone
Barbecue judges agree: Properly roasted ribs are tender but still have some chew, similar to a tender steak. They don't fall off the bone. If they do, chances are they have been boiled. Click here to learn what the experts think Amazing Ribs taste like.
Myth #3: Thermometers are for sissies
I don't care what the TV chef said, you cannot tell anything about the temp of a grill is by holding your hand over the grate and counting "1001, 10002, 1003" until your palm bursts into flame. Each of us reacts differently to heat, and the heat 1" above the grate can be significantly different than 6" above. Maybe an old pro who cooks 100 steaks a night can do this parlor trick, but you cannot.
Likewise, you may have also heard that you can tell the doneness of a steak by poking it and comparing the bounciness of the meat to the tip of your nose or the flesh between your thumb and forefinger. As if everyone's hand has the same firmness and bounciness! As if a filet mignon has the same firmness and bounciness of a sirloin! Lookit, almost all professional chefs carry a meat thermometer in their chef's coat. There's a reason.
Finally, you cannot rely on popup thermometers in turkeys, and most dial thermometers built into grills are waaaaay off, often 50°F, and the temp in the dome is different than the temp on the cooking surface.
Myth # 4: Soak wood before using it
When I soaked wood chunks overnight, they gained about 3% by weight. Chips gained about 6%. I cut the chunks in half and penetration was only about 1/16". DOH! That must be why they make boats out of wood! Wood doesn't absorb much water! If you toss wet wood on a hot grill, the small amount of water just below the surface will evaporate rapidly, negating any effect of soaking. On charcoal, the wet wood cools off the coals when it is important to hold the coals at a steady temp. Learn more about the Zen of Wood.
Myth #5: The juices from a steak are blood
If they were blood they would be dark, almost black, like your blood. And they would be thick and coagulate. No, the blood is drained during slaughter. The juices on your plate are a protein rich liquid called myoglobin, so stop grossing out your kids by calling it blood. Click here to read more about meat science.
Myth #6: Always use tongs, never forks
Don't worry about poking holes in the meat. A steak is 70% liquid (much of that myoglobin), so if you poke a hole in a 16 ounce steak and it loses 1/4 ounce of juice, you'll still have more than 9 ounces of fluid left. When you cook, however, you can lose up to 20% from evaporation and dripping. That's more than 3 ounces. Click here for my favorite barbecue and grilling tools and toys.
Myths #7, 8, 9, and beyond:
Here are some mkore myths explored on these pages or coming soon: Searing seals in juices. Pink pork is undercooked. If there is red in chicken it is undercooked. If you're lookin' you ain't cookin'. Cooking time depends on the weight of the meat. The bone adds flavor. Oil the grates before putting food on them. Flip burgers only once. The Stall is collagen melting. High heat is the best heat. Whole chicken tastes better than chicken cut into parts. Beer can chicken is the best chicken. Melting fat penetrates the meat. Grilling causes cancer. Grill marks are important. Medium and medium rare are the same thing. Stainless steel grills are better. Cast iron grates are the best. Many more within. You can rely on your grill's built in thermometer. Ground beef is the riskinest food for pathogens. Barbecue sauce is always red. Marinades add a lot of moisture to meat. Start with the Table of Contents.
Some politically incorrect messages from a Meathead:
To single guys
Learn to cook and you will find love because the secret of a great meal isn't what's on the table. It's what's on the chairs.
To married guys
Your wife hates it when you're in her kitchen. Learn to cook outdoors.
To single ladies
To married ladies
You want quality time? Look out back. He's right there. Grab a beer and join him. Teach him to cook. Use this site as a textbook. He can learn. I did.
This site attempts to teach the novice and at the same time be thorough enough for the expert. I try to explain why as well as how, because when you can cook outdoors, you can cook anywhere. And anything you can cook indoors taste better cooked outdoors. Tuck in!
Here's a great trick for thin steaks
The challenge is to get the exterior dark and the interior medium rare. I call it the Afterburner. It only works on skinny steaks, but boy does it work great. Read about it in Extreme Steak.
When are steaks, chops, chicken, fish, and other foods done?
I want my meats tender, juicy, and flavorful, and I also want them safe. The temperature of the meat controls these things. You cannot tell by looking and feeling. You need a good instant-read meat thermometer and a good oven thermometer. Nothing will save you from apologizing to your guests and keep you from wasting money as well as good thermometers. Click here for my Buying Guide to Thermometers.
Click here for the definitive clip and save table of meat temps.
The ultimate barbecue turkey on any grill
This is no ordinary turkey preparation, pilgrims. Follow these (excessively) detailed steps and you will never have a dry, stringy, cardboardy, boring bird again. Nor will you ever risk life and limb nor stain the patio while deep frying a turkey again. This will be the best turkey you've ever tasted. Best of all you can do it on a smoker, any old backyard grill, or even indoors (without the smoke). But remember, when you cook the bird outdoors, you not only get great flavor, you free up the oven for all the other dishes.
World's Best Barbecue Buying Guide & Meathead's Hotstuff Awards
An example: The Smokenator. You can easily convert a standard Weber Kettle into a smoker capable of making restaurant quality smoked ribs, pork shoulder, brisket, turkey, or salmon. If you have a Weber, you need a Smokenator. Less than $75.
Before you buy, check out the reviews in my Buying Guide. There is nothing in the world like this section. Just about every backyard grill, smoker, and pig roaster available is listed, and many of them have links to discount suppliers.
There's a sections devoted to the best grills, best smokers, best BBQ tools and toys, best BBQ sauces, best thermometers, required kitchen tools, bar necessities, corkscrews, and the book reviews section covers the best references available.
Last Meal Ribs
Cut to the chase: Here's how to make the best ribs you've ever tasted.
There's classic side dishes here, including the best baked beans you've ever tasted (with Bourbon), several classic slaw recipes, real lemonade, cheesy grits, blue cheese potatoes, and potato pancakes.
All kinds of barbecue recipes
Occasionally I hanker for something other than ribs. Check out my recipes for Perfect Pulled Pork and Texas Brisket, Lamb Loin Chops, the Classic Chicago Hot Dog, Italian Beef Sangwitches, Korean Kalbi: Grilled Beef Ribs, a dozen BBQ Sauce recipes, real Grilled French Toast, the Ultimate Smoked Turkey, Schmancy Smoked Salmon, all the classic Cole Slaws, Potato Salads, Bourbon BBQ Baked Beans, Soused Apple Slices, Caramelized Onion Pizza on the grill, Jalapeño Poppers, and as they say on the commercials, much much more!
Finally you can master brisket
Here's what Barry Sorkin of Smoque Restaurant in Chicago says: "Great article on brisket. That's a better explanation than I've seen in any of the cookbooks, and I've read a lot of them. It does a great job of making one of the most complex and difficult cuts of meat simple and approachable. My only concern is that if everyone learns how to make brisket, how's a poor schmuck like me going to make a living?!?!"
Huge hot dog section
More than 25 articles (!) on the best ways to cook hot dogs, buns, chili sauce, recipes for the regional styles (Chicago, NY, Detroit, Cincinnati, West Virginia and more), and a hot dog road trip! Click here for everything you need to know about hot dogs.
Huge hamburger section
Take a tour of all the regional hamburger styles, the secrets of killer steakhouse steak burgers, the secrets of crispy diner burgers, the Zen of buns, burger condiments and secret sauce, recipes for specialties like the New Mexico Chile Cheeseburger, and more.
Huge pizza section
You can get that fabulous wood-fired grill flavor in your own back yard. It's a bit tricky, but once you master grilling pizza you'll never be able to order delivery again. Start with a great all purpose pizza crust for the grill and just for kicks, take a tour of all the world's great pizza styles.
How to Grill Great Steakhouse Steaks
Steaks are easy. Hard to mess up. Regardless of what cut you cook, there are some basic tips and techniques that can raise your game, and when you master them, you will have your guests reeling in deliria.
In this all new article, in my typically exhaustive style, we focus on the best cuts, the best grades, thickness, prep, cooking method, testing for doneness, serving, accompaniments, and much more. Click here to learn the secrets of great steakhouse steaks.
Ribeyes. Just typing the word makes my keyboard cower in fear of drool. Ribeyes are, in my humble opinion, the best steaks on the steer. And Chef Jamie Purviance agrees. Jamie is the well known author of several cookbooks, most recently the New York Times bestseller, Weber's Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling.
Jamie and I got together last month with two identical Weber Kettle charcoal grills to answer the kind of question that keeps steak lovers like us up all night: When is the best time to sear a steak, when you start cooking, or at the end of the cook? Believe it or not, when you sear the steak makes a huge difference in flavor, texture, and juiciness.
Dueling grills, dueling ribeyes cut from the same roast side-by-side. May the best steak win. Completely unrehearsed, watch the video above and see what happened.
Santa Maria Tri-Tip Steaks
Originally settled by Mexican cowboys called vaqueros, Santa Maria, on California's beautiful Central Coast, has an international reputation for their local specialty, tri-tip steak, the unique grill they invented to cook it, and the clever way they carve it to make it tender. Click here to learn about buying and cooking tri-tip steaks.
Tips & Techniques for Amazing Barbecue
Here's where you can find the Zen of barbecue. Techniques teaches you about the different cuts of ribs, what happens to meat as you cook it, the thermodynamics of cooking, the best meat temperature guide, when to add the sauce, how to tell when the ribs are ready, all about wood, all about charcoal, how to skin 'n trim a slab, a glossary of barbecue terminology, a handy dandy cooking log, the secrets of the Texas Crutch, and much more.
Best charcoal barbecue
Best gas grill setup
The secret is in a pan of water between the meat and the heat.
Hot food, drink, cooking, barbecue, and rib links
There are so many great resources on the internet: Associations, competitions, message boards, podcasts, blogs, and more. Just click here.
Stuck indoors? Try these:
Smoky Sauna Ribs. This technique makes verrrrry tender, juicy, ribs, indoors all year round.
Chinatown Char Siu Ribs. Everybody loves those Chinese restaurant ribs. How do they do it? The secret is not the sauce, it's the marinade. You can do them at home on the grill or in the oven.
Hoisinful Nine Dragon Ribs (shown at right). These may be the best Chinese ribs you ever tasted. And you can cook them indoors.
Chinese Five Spice Ribles. Fried and crispy, flavored with five spice powder, these ribs are the perfect finger food for parties.
You can kick most barbecue restaurants in the ribs
The best news is that you can make better ribs at home than any restaurant, even the hallowed temples of barbecue such as Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Rendezvous in Memphis, and Kreuz Market in Lockhart Texas.
Most of these restaurants make hundreds of slabs, cooking them for 4-6 hours overnight or in the morning, and by the time you order them, they have been sitting in the holding oven for hours and are overcooked. Yes, the texture and flavor are fabulous, but you can do better at home simply by getting the timing down and delivering perfectly cooked ribs to your dining table better than any restaurant in the world!
The one requirement of all my recipes: When you're done, you must lick your fingers, leave a plate of bare bones, and exclaim "Amazing Ribs!"
My Meat Temperature Magnet has won first prize, Best New Barbecue Tool !!!
The prize for "Best BBQ Tool" at the 2012 The National Barbecue Association conference did not go to a fancy grilling gadget. It was a simple inexpensive, indispensable, refrigerator magnet by Yours Truly. Hey, I've always known I was a tool, now I'm the best tool!
The AmazingRibs.com Meat Temperature Magnet is a comprehensive guide to meat temperatures. Click the red link for ordering info and a detailed explanation of meat temps.
It includes the latest USDA recommendations as well as chef recommendations (and they often differ) as well as color photos of the different stages of doneness for red meats. Designed for grillers' quick reference, the temperatures are the same for both indoor and outdoor cooks.
Most cookbooks contain outdated meat temperature info since the USDA has has changed its recommendations several times. Knowing the best temps is essential to cooking safe and great food. The Center for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses, (often mistakenly called "stomach flu,"), and 3,000 die. And nobody knows how many millions of dollars were wasted on overcooked food.
"Meathead converted me after 30 years of poking my meat with my finger and throwing out a lot of overcooked steaks," laughs Brad Barrett, manufacturer of GrillGrate, an innovative cooking surface for grills. "I was so impressed by the guide on his website that I converted it to a magnet and got exclusive rights to sell it." Barrett offers it for $5.99 on Amazon.
Cooking without a thermometer is like driving without a speedometer. A good temperature guide like this and a good digital thermometer are essential for every cook, especially backyard cooks.
About this website
AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes and tips on technique. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, spareribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, barbecue sauces, rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best buying guide to barbecue smokers, grills, and accessories, all edited by Meathead.
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