Barbecue on July 4th is as American as apple pie.
To make sure your barbecue is the best on the block, here are a few tips from Melissa Cookston, co-owner of Memphis Barbecue Company in Horn Lake, Miss. Cookston, a familiar face on TLC's reality show "BBQ Pitmasters," is a three-time World Champion BBQ Pitmaster and the only female to have won the prestigious Memphis in May (MIM) World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest.
Cookston took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to give us her secrets to making the perfect, mouth-watering ribs--and what rookie mistakes to avoid.
“We’re going to show you exactly what we do to our ribs for competition to make your ribs world champion ribs too,” Cookston begins.
First, you want to remove the membrane that is on the back of the ribs.
“You can’t chew through that. So we want to remove that, so that all of our flavors can get in the back of the rib as well as the top of the rib, and it’ll make it much more tender. You just slide your fingers underneath the membrane, pull up, and bam it’s gone.”
After that, liberally coat both sides of your ribs with rub, and be sure to rub it all in so the meat gets lots of good flavor.
Then spread on a coat of secret ingredient #1, mustard.
“The mustard acts as a sealant on top of the rub, which will help force that rub down into the pores; as well as it contains Vinegar, so it will help these ribs tenderize,” she explains. “You will never taste the mustard in these ribs, I promise.”
Now your ribs are ready for the smoker at 225 degrees for two hours.
“After two hours, these ribs will be a nice, red color and they almost look like they’re done. But guess what? They’re still tough. So what I’m going to do, is I’m going to wrap this up in some foil,” she says.
Wrapping your ribs in foil will help them tenderize and keep them from over-smoking.
Before you wrap them up, shake some more rub on both sides and cover it with another thin layer of mustard.
Then comes secret ingredient #2, apple juice.
Add a cup or two of apple juice to your foil-wrapped ribs to ensure your ribs are cooking with moist heat and not a dry-heat. The juice will also keep your ribs tender, and add a little bit of sweetness.
Make sure the ribs are wrapped tightly, and put them back in the smoker for another two hours.
When your ribs are done cooking is when you add your barbecue sauce, not earlier.
“BBQ sauces all contain some sort of sugars which will caramelize and actually burn through the cooking process, so you only want to put the sauce on at the very end of the cooking process,” Cookston says.
After you’ve sauced your ribs you’ll add the final touch of Cookston’s last secret ingredient, honey.
“It’ll give your ribs a great shine, and it’ll give them just that sweet taste, which is really good if you like sweet BBQ.” Plus, “If it looks good, it taste good. So shiny ribs are better than dull ribs.”
Put your ribs back in the smoker for 10-15 minutes to let the barbecue sauce soak in, and then your ribs are ready to enjoy.