This post is geared towards spare ribs but all in all prepping baby backs is the same minus a trimming or two.
When you go to buy ribs you’ll more than likely see either spare ribs or baby back ribs. At your grocery stores you may only see one or the other and more typically you’ll see baby backs. However, you may see a St. Louis style rib which is just a trimmed up version of the spare rib.
If you want some more insight to the rib types and anatomy of where they come off the hog visit our friends at www.virtualweberbullet.com/ribselect.html
Here’s what you need:
Sharp Knife – Preferably a boning knife
Trash Bag – This may seem like a no brainer but take a look at the pictures. We put a bag right on the counter. All the scraps go into it and when we’re done we close it up and throw it in the garage freezer until trash day. This way we don’t have smelly trash cans around attracting flies.
Rubber Gloves – Necessary for competition but not at the house. We wear them regardless.
For this post I’ll be using spare ribs purchased from our local Sam’s Club. They come in a nice cryovac package and are sold 3 racks to a pack.
How to Prepare:
Open the package and place a rack on the cutting board.
Flip it meat side down and identify the flap of meat that is loose on the back side. Trim this flap off and discard.
Next identify the “knuckle” in the rib. This is a transition point where the rib goes from bone to cartilage. This is where you want to make a long cut parallel to the length of the rack to get rid of the sternum of the hog and breast bones. If you are having a hard time seeing or feeling the “knuckle” pick the rack up and bend the rib bones. They’ll bend at this spot.
Take your knife and cut through the cartilage at the “knuckle”.
When trimmed properly you should be able to see each individual rib. Look in between my thumb and pointer finger below. See that wide flat looking bone? That’s a bit of that breast bone that I missed. If I this were a competition rack and I left that on there I wouldn’t be able to use that rib as a turn in because that cartilage would be in the way of me making a clean cut between the two ribs.
Next we’ll remove the membrane. This can either go really good and come off in one piece or go poorly. I’ve included photos of both.
Lay the rack meat side down and identify the membrane. You can see the membrane in the photo below. First I try to grab onto it right at the end of the rack as I did in this photo. If for some reason I can’t get it I’ll take my knife and cut through it between the first and second rib in the rack. Once I get a hole in it I’ll push my finger through it and loosen it up enough to get a grip on it.
There are some tricks to getting these things off and practice doesn’t always make “perfect”. A vast majority of folks on the BBQ circuit use paper towels to get a grip of the membrane. Like I said I poke a hole in it and use my finger as a hook to hold onto it. Not using gloves sometimes helps as well. Our teammate Chris can get these things off with his eyes closed and fast.
Once you get a hold of the slippery little bugger pull it all the way off.
Here’s an example of what happens when it goes wrong. Sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Try to get as much of the membrane off. If some doesn’t come off, take your knife and score the membrane in a cross hatch pattern.
This is an optional step that we take to make for a more uniform appearing rack. On the thick end of the rack there’s a nice looking piece of meat with a thick layer of fat underneath it. We trim this off for competition but I like to leave it when cooking at home.
Here’s what a finished rack looks like when we do it.
Season those beauties up and throw them on……..
If your new to the “Q” and have a Weber Kettle see “Weber Kettle Cooking – Smoked Spare Ribs” for cooking instructions.