Ribs Two Ways

Paula: When I smoke ribs for friends and family, I often take an informal poll to gauge what style of rub inspires the most cheers. Asian? Mexican? I may stack the deck with my own preferences, but I still enjoy the consensus of who likes what.

Scott: When I smoke ribs for friends and family, it usually ends in tears. Mine, mostly. More than once my family has quietly abandoned ship and headed out for burgers because I miscalculated the cook time. I’m confident you don’t have that problem.

Paula: Isn’t that what guacamole and Funyons are for? The cool thing about spice blends, and a couple racks of ribs, is that it’s easy to please a crowd of diverse tastes. The Usual is for purists, because the subtle whiff of garlic, rosemary, and salt really let the rich flavor of good pork and wood smoke shine. The mix of red spices and brown sugar in Pork Perfect creates classic Southern barbecue goodness. Pass the Tupelo Two-Step, and BOOM everyone wins!

Scott: I love a good win/win story that ends with everyone eating ribs.

Ribs Two Ways

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons The Usual
  • 2 tablespoons Pork Perfect
  • 2 racks St. Louis-style spare ribs (about 41⁄4 pounds), trimmed
  • Tupelo Two-Step, for serving

Sprinkle both sides of one rib rack with The Usual, then sprinkle both sides of the remaining rack with Pork Perfect. Use your hands to coat the surfaces evenly with the seasoning. Place the racks on a platter and let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, or wrap them well with plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (Let the meat come to room temperature before grilling.)

Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, use tongs to remove the cooking grate and place a drip pan with 1 inch of warm water on the side with no coals, and add a couple chunks of hardwood (such as hickory or oak) to the periphery of the fire. Wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again.

When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, place the ribs over indirect heat (if a portion of the rack stretches over the coals, it’s okay), close the grill, vent the grill for smoking, and smoke for 30 minutes, using the vents to maintain a temperature of 275°F to 300°F (use tongs to flip and rotate the ribs, so the opposite side is stretching over the coals. Close the grill and smoker for 11⁄2 hours more, flipping and rotating the ribs every 30 minutes, adding more coals and wood as needed to maintain a steady temperature and smoke flow, until the ribs are deeply fragrant and have a nice crisp crust.

Preheat the oven to 225°F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and top the foil with two layers of parchment paper. Stack the racks on top of each other on the baking sheet. Wrap the racks tightly in the paper and foil packet, and cook in the oven for 2 hours. Remove the racks from the oven and let them rest in the packet for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 minutes.

To serve, unwrap the racks, slice into individual ribs, and serve with Tupelo Two-Step, or your favorite hot sauce.


Grill-side banter provided by food writer, cookbook author and grilling enthusiast, Paula Disbrowe, and infamous grill nerd and co-owner of PK Grills, Scott Moody.

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