Pork shoulder ribs, also known as country-style ribs, are among the meatiest and most flavorful pork ribs you can buy. These ribs are not really ribs; they are a type of pork chops cut from the loin near the shoulder, and come either bone-in or boneless. Grilling adds a distinct flavor to meat, but it also can dry out even the choicest cuts. The secret to grilled ribs that are always tender and moist is a slow cooker.
Starting your shoulder ribs in a slow cooker gives you a head start on cooking the ribs without the risk of drying them out. Although you can skip this step and cook the ribs from start to finish on low heat on the grill, the method requires constant monitoring, and even then the results aren't predictable. The safe route is to slow-cook the ribs in your favorite barbecue sauce, or just add 3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock seasoned with a package of dried green onion or spicy ranch mix. Cook the ribs on low for six hours. They will come out of the cooker tender and juicy but not falling off the bone.
Finishing the ribs on the grill gives them the smoky and firm finish that rib aficionados prize. Preheat the grill to medium and cook the ribs for 20 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meaty part registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Baste the ribs with sauce as you cook them, if you are using it. If you're charcoal grilling, add some soaked hardwood chips to the coals, such as oak, ash, sugar maple or hickory, to give the ribs even more smoky flavor.
Cut the ribs into individual portions if you didn't by them already cut. Because the meat portions are 3 to 5 ozs. each on a shoulder rib, one generous rib or two smaller ones should each person. Allow the ribs to rest for 10 minutes before you carve or serve them to allow the hot juices to permeate the meat. Shoulder ribs are rich and meaty, so they pair well with summery sides, such as corn on the cob, coleslaw or a fresh tossed salad with creamy dressing.
Some home cooks prefer their ribs to be very tender. If this is how you like your ribs, increase the time you slow-cook the ribs to seven hours. If the ribs come in a variety of sizes, insert the meat thermometer into each rib to make sure they have all cooked all the way through. The smaller ones may cook much more rapidly than ribs with larger portions of meat and should be removed and kept warm as soon as they're finished.
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Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.
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