Par-Cooking Shortens Your Preparation Time
Few culinary traditions run as deep as barbecued ribs. Old-fashioned and modern cooks alike hold family secrets close to their chests, and aspiring chefs develop their own tricks and methods over the years. One common prep method for ribs is parboiling, a precooking that tenderizes the meat. Some chefs use vinegar for parboiling, in an effort to tenderize the meat and bring its natural flavors to the surface.
Wash and dry your ribs and cut them into slabs to fit your Dutch oven, starting your cuts from the spinal column and going down.
Place the ribs in a Dutch over or large lidded pot and cover them with water. Add a few tablespoons of distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to the water. For a stronger flavor, you can add more vinegar -- up to a half cup or so -- and experiment with different varieties, such as red wine vinegar.
Bring the water to a rolling boil, then reduce heat. Allow the ribs to simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, until they are tender enough to be easily pulled from the bone. Add seasonings, if you wish. Some tried-and-true rib seasonings include salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic, sugar, red pepper and cumin. Once you remove the cooled ribs, you can pat them dry or take them right from the pot to the grill.
Finishing the Ribs
Applying a finishing sauce to your ribs is the last step between the cutting board and your table. Ideally you should finish your ribs at high temperature, so the sauce caramelizes and sticks to the ribs, adding flavor. When the weather cooperates, crank up your grill to a medium-high temperature and sear them there. If that's not an appealing option, use your oven's broiler setting to brown and char the ribs lightly.
A seasoned vinegar soak serves as an alternative to parboiling. Marinate ribs in your own special blend and refrigerate them for anywhere from twenty minutes to overnight. In addition to vinegar, bourbon, red wine and Worcestershire sauce, among others, serve as flavorful marinades.
Parboiling is somewhat controversial in the barbecuing community. While some cooks champion it as a tenderizing method, others claim that it robs the meat of flavor. Still others use all sorts of substitutes for vinegar, ranging from bourbon to cola. Experiment with your own preparation methods to find your personal preference.