Barbecue grand champion John Critchley’s method relies on slow-cooking and generous seasoning
Sun 17 Jun 2012 00.05 BSTFirst published on Sun 17 Jun 2012 00.05 BST
Slow-cooked barbecue ribs. Photograph: Romas Foord for the Observer
You need a 13-bone spare rib cut, intact. Ask the butcher to remove the flap of meat on the bone side. Also remove the membrane covering the bone side by slipping a butter knife underneath and then gently pulling away. It should come off in one sheet.
For the rub
light muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, white sugar 2 tbsp of each
garlic salt, onion salt 2 tbsp of each
celery salt, seasoning salt, coarse ground black pepper 1 tbsp of each
chilli con carne mix 2 tbsp
paprika 2 tbsp
cayenne 1 tbsp
ginger ½ tsp
Italian seasoning ½ tsp
For the sauce for sticky ribs
fresh ginger 2.5cm cube, grated
cloves of garlic 4, crushed
vegetable oil 4 tbsp
For the spice mix
ancho powder 2 tsp
ground black pepper 1½ tsp
chilli con carne seasoning 1 tbsp
mustard powder ¼ tsp
coriander, allspice, cloves, nutmeg a pinch of each
sea salt ½ tsp
dark brown sugar 8 tbsp
molasses 5 tbsp
cider vinegar 100ml
dark soy sauce 2 tsp
Worcester sauce 2 tbsp
lemon juice 2 tbsp
tamarind paste 2 tbsp
hot sauce 2 tbsp
tomato ketchup ½ litre
honey 7 tbsp
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To make the rub, grind the ingredients into a fine dust in a spice grinder then rub into the meat generously, but so you can still see the meat through it. Do this no more than 1 hour before starting to cook.
Use a kettle-style barbecue. Divide it vertically into thirds and stack charcoal on the two sides. In the middle, place a metal heat-resistant tray and coat with a little water or apple juice. Light the coals, wait for the flames to die down and let it heat up until an oven thermometer on the grill shelf reads 120C. That’s the temperature you want it at, so add more charcoal if it starts to cool. Place chunks of apple or cherry wood on the coals. Place the meat on the grill, bone-side down and close the lid. After 1 hour, add wood and turn the ribs meat-side down for 2 hours.
After those three hours, get enough aluminium foil to double wrap the ribs. First, spread 3-4 tbsp maple syrup or honey on to the foil and sprinkle over 4 tbsp of light brown muscovado sugar. Place the ribs meat-side down on to the sweet mixture. Put the same amount of maple syrup or honey and sugar on the bone side and sprinkle extra rub. Wrap as tightly as possible in foil so there is no air. Cook for another hour. When the rack of ribs are floppy, take them out of the foil and put back on the barbecue to dry. If you want dry ribs, sprinkle with more rub and leave. If you want sticky ribs make the sauce.
For the sauce, sauté the onion, ginger and garlic in the vegetable oil in a pan. Then add all the dried spices and the sea salt and stir. Remove from heat.
In another pan, heat up the dark brown sugar and molasses and dissolve in the vinegar, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, lemon juice, tamarind paste and hot sauce – use a whisk for this. Then add the ketchup and honey. Combine the two pans. Liquidise everything and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and store in glass jars – it will keep refrigerated for up to 1 month.
To make the sauce into a glaze mix for the pork, add equal measures of the sauce with honey or maple syrup. Brush glaze on to meat side of ribs twice over 10 minutes. Turn over on to the bone side and repeat. The ribs are done. Rest for 20 minutes before eating.