I have been hearing a lot in the past several years about the 3-2-1 Method of grilling ribs. Here is the latest information that I could find. Not difficult at all and some of the pro grillers use this method. In his article, The Controversial 3-2-1 Method for Ribs, Steven Raichlen, Grilling Authority, http://www.barbecuebible.com, says that,
“Competition barbecuers sometimes call it the “Texas Crutch.” In a nutshell, you break cooking ribs into 3 time blocks:
3 hours of smoking unwrapped at 225º F, followed by
2 hours of cooking wrapped in foil (with a little liquid, such as apple cider), followed by
1 hour of cooking unwrapped at a higher temperature, with a generous basting of barbecue sauce
The process gives you meat so tender it virtually slides off the bone, with the multiple layers of flavor most of us associate with great barbecue. And within a predictable 6-hour time frame, too.
It’s relatively fail-proof, meaning that if you follow the directions, you are almost guaranteed you’ll avoid the dual pitfalls of ribs that are tough or dry. And if you serve ribs cooked by the 3-2-1 method, 95 percent of the people who taste them react with delight and will declare you a barbecue genius.” [http://www.huffingtonpost.com]
A couple of suggestions at this point may help. Some people use a spray to baste their ribs throughout the process. This is not really necessary, but it won’t hurt anything. If you use a mister, use apple cider in it. And the “white skin”, that membrane located on the “boneside” of the ribs. “It is nice to remove it but it’s not worth a lot of frustration so try to do the best you can and leave it at that. It’s hard to get a picture of this being removed but you simply lay the ribs with the boney side up. You will notice a thick plastic like skin covering the meat. Slip a knife or other sharp object under it and try to get enough pulled up so you can grab it. Grasp it with a paper towel for good grip and pull it clean off if you can. If it tears, no worries. Just make another go at it. You may have better luck with catfish skinning pliers.” [ Jeff Phillips, smoking-meat.com, Smoked 3-2-1 St. Louis Style Spare Ribs]
What about the “type” of ribs? Baby Back? St Louis style? From Major League Grilling, “Furthermore, loin backs ribs or St. Louis style ribs benefit most from the 3-2-1 method. Otherwise, cook times will have to be modified if cooking with baby back ribs or spare ribs. Also, do not use this technique on country ribs or beef ribs, it doesn’t work as well because the country ribs are too lean and the cook times along with the flavor profile is all wrong for beef.” They also give a little better instruction and definition of the 3-2-1 Method. “What is 3-2-1? This method is a way to smoke ribs from start to finish. 3-2-1 represents the amount of hours the rack of ribs cook at each stage. In other words, the
[unwrapped] ribs smoke for 3 hours [225º F]
wrap for 2 hours and
cooks without smoke for the last hour, [on a hot grill].
Total, the ribs will spend 6 hours on the cooker.”
What is our preference? Robin and I like/prefer the St Louis style ribs. They seem to be a little more meatier and flavorful. And we only use pork ribs. No beef ribs. That is a personal thing and has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the ribs. We just like the pork ribs better.
And lastly, the rub! Major-League Grilling haas this to say about rubs. “Once in a while, I make my own rubs, but my homemade rubs are not quite as good as the rubs on the market. For this reason, I find so many great BBQ rubs at the store that it’s hard for me to stick with one. Although, the one constant is Plowboys Yardbird rub, for several reasons this is my favorite. Many times I have used the Yardbird rub and combine it with another rub with excellent results. But just for the record, I got 1st place using Plowboys alone. Listed below are more of my favorites:
Dizzy Pig Pineapple
Penzey’s BBQ 3000
Penzey’s Galena Street
Smokin’ Guns Hot
McCormick’s Grillmates Sweet & Smoky
Notice that each one of these rubs have a high concentration of sugar in them. In particular, brown sugar is the main ingredient in many pork based rubs. It is because brown sugar compliments pork extremely well while at the same time, the low temperatures of the smoker or grill caramelizes the sugar and gives it an eye pleasing look and a delectable aroma.”
So. Take your pick of rubs. Choose the rib style you like and get grilling. It’s that time of year! Cheers!