Ribs are something we take very seriously at Saddleback and they are one of our most popular items. That last statement makes us very happy because they are kind of polarizing. Which cut to use? How tender should they be? Dry rubbed and or sauced? These are questions everyone asks and almost everyone has an opinion on.
At Saddleback, we have quite a bit of experience cooking ribs (one of our pitmasters, Brad, has been cooking ribs for over 20 years, old fart) and early on fall-off-the-bone tender was how you judged how well they were cooked. At Saddleback, we cook our ribs till they are tender and still have a little texture. Since Ribs are in the smoker for so long and since it’s such a dry environment for the ribs, if we cooked them till they fell off the bone they would be dry and tasteless - unservable ribs. Instead, we cook them till they are tender, have a little chew to them, and in our humble opinion, the juiciest ribs around.
We use baby back ribs for our ribs, not the more traditional spare rib. Let’s go into a little more detail on each one and further explain our choice of baby backs. Baby back ribs are ribs cut from the back of the hog and baby refers to the ones that are smaller closer to the back of the hog. Hence the name ‘baby back ribs’. These ribs are more tender, have less fat and are generally meatier ribs. Spare ribs are from the bottom of the hog, are a little tougher, have more fat and are generally not as meaty as the baby backs. Spare ribs have great flavor and are the more traditional cut for bbq since they react better to the low and slow mantra. The fat helps protect the ribs from the long cook time, have a great flavor because of that fat and are very good ribs overall. Why would we pick baby backs over spare ribs? Well baby backs are more popular in the Midwest, but more importantly we believe that we have the skill set to best take advantage with our knowledge of our smoker and experience in cooking them. Also, our pork rub really helps us to achieve the results that have people coming back day after day.
Rubs are important for ribs because, for one, they really need that spice rub to bring out that great pork flavor. More importantly we need to create that great bark to help seal in all of those juices in the baby backs. Like I talked about in our Pork Shoulder blog, our pork rub has a sugar component that melts over the long cook and creates a good stickiness that helps attract that blue smoke, creates that crispy coating that seals in all of that flavor and juiciness. We serve our ribs dry, with no sauce, so you can get that great pork flavor we all love so much. Our Red Sauce is a great compliment to our ribs with its sweet, savory taste profile that accentuates the rib without overpowering the natural taste of the rib.