What meat-eater doesn’t love ribs? I mean really, isn’t it just so satisfying to take a hunk of meat and bone and gnaw on it? Dripping BBQ sauce all over your hands and face and maybe other table mates, it is such a throwback to our caveman roots.
Summertime and grilling ribs go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, ribs and my bank account staying full are not quite as cozy. A full rack of baby backs can run over $30, even at the grocery store. And if you order it already cooked in a restaurant with two people, the meal total can creep up towards triple digits.
While in the meat section of the grocery store, I came across a marked-down package marked “country style ribs”. Remembering these beauties from childhood, I decided to cook these up the way I remember them. My mom always cooked them this way, and they are fall-off-the-bone amazing. This lead me to question why there is such a disconnect between the different rib types.
“Pigs have 14 rib bones. They are attached to the spine and are usually divided into four popular cuts: Baby back ribs, spareribs, St. Louis cut ribs, and rib tips. Starting at the top are the baby backs, closest to the backbone, nestled beneath the loin muscle. They are curved, round bones, close together, and most of the meat is on top of the bones, cut from the underside of loin muscle.
As you move further from the spine, the bones get larger, flatter, straighter, and wider apart with more meat between them. There is more fat marbling in the meat as you go further from the spine and closer to the belly. The front ribs are connected to the breast bone with a number of small bones and cartilage known as the rib tips. There are a number of other cuts, and they are all described below.”
As it turns out, Country-style ribs are not really ribs at all! They are actually pork chops, more meaty and less fatty than real ribs. They are cut from the front end of the baby backs near the shoulder. They respond well to brining before low and slow cooking. This is good news, because that is similar to how I cooked them.
Now, if you are thinking to yourself, “but I want ribs tonight, like now, I don’t want to have to wait to brine them!”
Have no fear! We skip the long 24-hour-brine and instead boil them in water with some vinegar added. This imitates the long brine in a much shorter time window. Finishing on the grill gives them the nice crispy outside char, and waiting to add sauce until the last minute ensures that the sauce is caramelized but not burnt.
Best of all, this is only 3 ingredients! (If you use store-bought sauce. I still think making your own is better, but that requires another 9-10 ingredients (which you probably have already)).
- 5-7 pounds country style ribs
- 1-2 cups BBQ sauce (I recommend sweet & tangy homemade)
- 1 gallon water
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the vinegar. Throw in the ribs, and boil about 15 minutes.
Step 2: Drain the ribs, and fire up the grill. Once it’s nice and hot, line with aluminum foil (to prevent sticking, you can also spray the grill with oil before lighting and go right on the grate) and place the ribs on top. Close and cook 5-7 minutes, then flip and cook another 5-7 minutes.
Step 3: Once nicely browned, coat thoroughly in sauce. Cover & cook again for just a few more minutes to caramelize the sugars.
Let rest for a few minutes before serving. Then try to hold yourself back from eating a dozen at a time! Goes great with BBQ Bacon Baked Beans, mashed cauliflower potatoes, and Italian cucumber & tomato salad.
Next time you have a picnic, party, or craving for something finger-lickin good, make up a few dozen of these and everyone is sure to be pleased.