One of the most common backyard barbecue mistakes: Treating the grill like an upside down broiler.
While searing heat has a place in barbecue, it shouldn't be the default. Many cuts of meat benefit from the so-called low-and-slow cooking method, which involves longer cooking times at lower temperatures.
It's easy to do this on virtually any home grill, gas or charcoal, and the recipes here include instructions for both. At the most basic level, it entails preheating the grill, then either pushing the charcoal to one side or turning off one of the gas burners.
The secret to successful and safe low-temperature grilling is an instant-read thermometer. Inserted at the thickest part of the meat, these thermometers indicate when the food has reached a safe temperature.
Many manufacturers even make wireless digital thermometers, which include a probe that stays in the meat and an indicator you can carry with you to monitor your food from afar.
Also helpful are oven thermometers, which often are built in to newer grills (both gas and charcoal). This helps you maintain a constant temperature inside the grill. If your grill isn't equipped with one, inexpensive oven thermometers can be found at most kitchen supply shops.
SWEET HEAT COUNTRY-STYLE PORK RIBS
Though intended for country-style ribs, which are cut from the blade end of the loin and are meatier than other rib cuts, this recipe also can be used for spareribs.
Start to finish: 7 hours (including 4 hours of marinating)
Servings: 6 to 8
2 small or 1 large very ripe papaya, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika
5 to 6 pounds country-style pork ribs
In a food processor, combine the papaya, wine, lime juice, ginger, soy sauce, five-spice powder and paprika. Pulse until smooth.
Place the ribs in a baking dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add the marinade and turn the ribs several times to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling.
Prepare a grill for indirect cooking. With charcoal, light and preheat the grill. Once heated, divide the coals into two piles on either side. The center should have no coals in it. Alternatively, move all of the coals to one side. During cooking, add fresh coals to maintain the heat at medium.
With gas, preheat the grill until very hot (about 400 F to 450 F) by lighting all the burners, then turn off the center burner (in the case of three-burner grills) or turn off one side (for two-burner models). The burner or burners left on should be set to medium during cooking.
Lift the ribs from the dish and scrape off most of the marinade. Discard the marinade. Set the ribs, meat side down, over the hottest part of the grill and sear for about 10 minutes, or until there are defined grill marks on the meat.
Transfer the ribs to the cooler part of the grill, cover and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the ribs registers 160 F. Turn the ribs every 15 to 20 minutes during cooking.
Cut the ribs between the bones to serve.
(Recipe from Stanley, Leon, Evan, Mark and David Lobel's "Lobel's Prime Time Grilling," Wiley, 2007, $27.95)
BABY BACK RIBS
Start to finish: 4 to 5 hours
1 cup hickory or oak wood chips
3 pounds baby back pork ribs (spareribs also work)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup apple cider, in a spray bottle
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons clover honey
Prepare a grill for indirect cooking.
Soak the wood chips in a bowl of water for 1 hour prior to cooking. Allow ribs to come to room temperature.
With charcoal, light and preheat the grill. Once heated, divide the coals into two piles on either side. The center should have no coals in it. Alternatively, move all of the coals to one side. Maintain the grill at about 200 F and add fresh coals as needed.
With gas, preheat the grill by lighting all the burners, then turn off the center burner (in the case of three-burner grills) or turn off one side (for two-burner models). Maintain the grill at about 200 F.
Just before cooking, add about half of the woods chips to the coals (or place them in a metal box or foil pan and set over the gas burner).
Rub the ribs with the mustard and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper and salt. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over both sides of the ribs. Season the ribs with black pepper.
Place the ribs on the unheated side of the grill, bone side down. Cover and smoke for about 3 hours, adding additional charcoal (if using) and wood chips as needed. Every 45 minutes, spray the ribs with apple cider.
The ribs are ready for the next step when you can grab them with a pair of tongs, lift them up and they bend easily.
Move the ribs to the heated side of the grill. Brush the ribs with barbecue sauce, then close the grill and cook 6 minutes. Turn the ribs, brush the other side with barbecue sauce, close the grill and cook another 6 minutes.
Arrange the ribs to be meat side up, drizzle them with honey, close the grill and cook another 3 minutes to set the glaze.
(Recipe from Fred Thompson's "Barbecue Nation," The Taunton Press, 2007, $18.95)