Can You Really Grill Pork Ribs? By Paul Yates
I’ve been a BBQ enthusiast for many years now and in the early years it was really only about grilling. You see coming from Europe most of my influences were for what Americans call grilling, the idea of hot smoking really isn’t part of European culture. That’s now starting to change and I hope that I can do my bit to support that change.
Some of that clearly is to do with the weather. The closest culture to America has to be England and frankly there isn’t a place on Earth that can be more damp and dreary when it wants to be. Not the sort of weather that promotes outdoor cooking as a hobby.
In my formative years most of my grilling was done in mainland Europe (much, much warmer and drier than Blighty) I’d grill anything and everything that the butcher had to offer. I often think about the different countries of Europe and the different things they sell. For example, go into a butcher in Germany and ask for lamb and he’ll look at you blankly and say no……don’t plan a holiday in Germany unless you like beef, pork, pork and more pork!
Having said that Pork is in abundance, it’s still difficult to get hold of ribs. If the Germans don’t buy them, who does? Maybe they’re all shipped to the States where they know how to cook them?
When I did eventually get to grill ribs it was as individual ribs rather than a side – big mistake. The ribs were dry, not my best effort. So can you really grill ribs and get a decent result or am I flogging a dead horse?
I think the answer is yes you can but with one caveat:-
You have to appreciate grilled ribs for what they are and not make a direct comparison with smoked ribs. Grilling is one technique, smoking is another they should exist side by side and not compete with each other.
Flavor-wise, a lot is down to the sauce or the rub, the difference is more about the texture. A grilled rib will have a much firmer texture to it as opposed to the tender fall of the bone results that you get out of the “low and slow” BBQ smoker. Grilling is a direct heat cooking process and this heat will cause muscular tissue to contract hence making for firmer results.
That said it’s important to give a grilled rib every opportunity to tenderize so to make good grilled ribs I believe that the best way is to break the process down into 3 parts.
- Marinade the ribs. By definition a marinade is a liquid that contains an acid and it’s this acid that helps to tenderize the meat.
- Pop them in a pan of boiling water for 15 minutes. This cooks the ribs and you can also add flavors to the water.
- Grill for ten minutes. Your not really cooking the ribs here, just mobilizing any fats to add some smoky flavor and get a bit of external caramelization.
When done, add the homemade barbecue sauce of your choice and enjoy grilled barbecue ribs.