Barbecue masters brag about their ribs, rubs and marinades, and competitors keep their top secret cooking tricks under wraps. A few simple tips and techniques take the mystery out of cooking pork spare ribs. Creating your own seasoning mixes and sauces that appeal to your family spices up the finished product.
Use a sharp knife to cut away gristle and extra fat. Silverskin is the shiny connective tissue on the bone side of the ribs. Slip the tip of your knife under the silverskin and slide your knife along the bone to remove it. It's not essential to remove the silverskin, but some cooks believe that removing it makes a better finished project. Rinse the ribs thoroughly and run your fingers over the ribs to check for odd bits of bone that might be a hazard if they came off after the ribs are cooked.
A rub adds flavor to the ribs. Experiment with flavors your family enjoys. Typically, a rub contains sugar -- often brown sugar for pork -- salt, and spices like garlic and onion powder. Add cayenne or your favorite hot sauce if you like your ribs spicy. Use fresh herbs like oregano and rosemary from your herb garden. Alternatively, try a buttermilk or spicy ranch seasoning mix mixed with a teaspoon each of cumin and paprika. Massage the rub into the ribs with your hands. Cover the ribs with foil or a clean dishcloth and let them sit at room temperature while the oven preheats.
While pork spare rib purists may object to precooking the ribs before you finish them on the grill, using this method assures the ribs are tender every time. You can set the timer and do other things while they cook, rather than fussing over a hot grill, and you can serve them straight out of the oven if you choose not to grill them. Place the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan, add a little water to the bottom of the pan, and cover it tightly with foil. Check after an hour to see if they're tender and continue cooking them if they're not.
Finishing the ribs on the grill is a simple matter of cooking them with barbecue sauce until the sauce sticks to the meat and has the color and consistency your family enjoys. Preheat a gas grill and spray the rack with cooking spray before you add the ribs. If you cook over charcoal, make a hot fire and start the ribs after the coals are covered with ash. Brush the ribs with sauce and turn them. If you're an apartment dweller or don't own a barbecue grill, use a grill pan on your stove or the broiler of your oven to put a nice finish on the ribs.
Cooking pork spare ribs typically takes several hours, so if you're in a hurry, pull out your pressure cooker. Cut the racks of ribs into pieces that will fit and brown them in a little oil in the cooker. Pour off the grease and put the ribs back in. Add water, beer, wine or cola to the pot and your favorite barbecue sauce. Follow the manufacturer's suggestions about how much liquid to add. Two pounds of ribs take about 15 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.