Ribs! Ribs! Ribs! & Ribs!

September 1, 2012

I’d frame this and put it up on my wall along with my Bieber poster.

Ribs have been one of my To-Die-For foods since I was a little girl. When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, my dad would occasionally bring home a few smokey slabs of Boykin’s Ribs.

And long after my family was finished with dinner, long after the pots and pans had been scrubbed and the dishwasher was running, long after 60 Minutes was over and my parents were in bed, I’d still be sitting there at the table  – a skinny, toothy, rib-lovin’ kid, gnawing at those bones like an insatiable caveman.

A rib-lover in the making. That’s me on the left daydreaming of ribs.

There is nothing about me that is vegetarian. I mean, I’d like to be the kind of person who can’t stand the sight of a cooked animal before her – I think that would be sweet.

But alas, I’m not so soft of soul; I like meat, I like bones, I like the carcass of the roast chicken, I like the foot of a pig – I am, at my deepest, most primal part, a meat lover.

Sorry, vegetarians; it’s food porn for me.

Since our neighbor, Keith, has taken up a hobby of building ‘artisan’ (aka welded pieces of otherwise useless junk) smokers, our summer holidays have revolved around smoked meat.

Last year’s model, the ‘Keith 1.0’ was a monstrous thing that required about two tree’s worth of wood per use and a round-the-clock team of smoker-stokers. This year’s model, the ‘Keith 2.0’ is kind of like the MacAir in comparison – lightweight, elegant as all get-out, kinks worked through, and easy to whip out when the inspiration strikes.

We’ll let you know when Keith has a few 2.0’s in production and available to the general public!

The Keith 1.0 was a hungry thing!

We smoked stuff all summer. Ducks. Pigs. Chicken. Potatoes. Corn. Onions. Eggplant. If you could Google it, I slapped it on the Keith 2.0.

Ribs? Yes. Chicken? Yes. Onions? Jury’s still out.

But it always comes back to ribs for me.

Ribs is where it’s at.

It’s kind of crazy, but except for the chopping wood part, acquiring a smoker, stoking the smoker, buying the best ribs, seasoning a day ahead of time, and waiting for hours, smoked ribs are ridiculously easy to make. Once you get your wood-smoker-rib-making set-up worked out, it will be a go-to meal for its ease, fun, and low-maintenance clean-up.

Everyone kicks in to make ribs.

Children will be given an espresso, license to operate heavy machinery, and will be required to split wood.

The following recipe uses one of my absolute MUST pantry staples: Secret Spice from North Main BBQ in Euless, Texas.

FIRST of all, Texas guys know how to smoke up some nasty-good ribs. (Isn’t that right, Voiceguy?)

SECOND of all, this stuff arrives in the mail in a Styrofoam take-out box with a hand-written note for a seriously vicarious “I just ate the ribs there” feeling.

And THIRD of all, this stuff is truly the Secret Spice of all things in your life going forward. I promise. Secret Spice is instant goodness on just about anything. I probably have a Secret Spice-added something three times a week.

Secret Spice. A game changer.

I buy the fancy, expensive kind of babyback ribs from my fancy-schmancy market for this recipe because I like them better than the average grocery store pre-frozen slabs (which seem tasteless and uselessly fatty to me). I feel like if you go to the trouble of getting your smoke-on, you might as well get the best meat.

This recipe is more of a ‘way of life’ than instructions for a specific food dish. But it’s a good place to start.


(double, triple or quadruple this recipe at will)


3 racks of babyback ribs

1 cup (about 20 shakes of the container) of Secret Spice


Check out the Potluck Party Post for this delicious BBQ sauce recipe


Keith 2.0 smoker, or smoker of your choice

A whole mess of wood. We experiment with a few different types of wood for different flavors. Apple wood is great. Hickory is the be-all-end-all but we use it sparingly because of its intensely woody flavor.

1. The night before… Prepare to get messy. Take out the racks of ribs and shake Secret Spice all over them. Pat them down. Leave no stone unturned. The more covered they are the more delicious they will be.

2. Store the ribs in the fridge somehow. I really like to use the Food Saver and seal the racks so that I can toss them anywhere in the fridge rather than finding space for an enormous bowl of them. I also like to use the Food Saver because I sometimes sneak an extra few racks in, seal them with their Secret Spice coating, and lovingly shove them in the freezer for future use.

3. I’m going to make this part sound way easier than it is: get the smoker going. For me, this usually involves asking my husband to “get the smoker going” and that’s that. If this was his blog instead of mine, he’d post endlessly about the finer points of smoking. He’d only make mention of the ribs and say something like: get the ribs ready.

So honestly, I’m no expert at the fire part.

But no one writes better about this kind of thing than BBQ Guru Chris Schlesinger whose legendary East Coast Grill made America salivate. Ask my husband or Chris about the finer points of wood, temperature, turning and timing.

4. Wait. Drink cocktails. Tell stories. Go down to the pond. Take showers. Open a bottle of wine. Set the table. Bug husband about the ribs. Write a few blog posts. Etc etc.

Stuff to do while you wait for the ribs to be done: Eat dessert…

…organize the fixins’

…converse…clean…do business…

…check out the pond…

…get in the pond…

…shower…check Facebook…blog some stuff…Friend some people…Tweet…ask when the ribs will be done…

5. In the last few minutes slather the ribs with BBQ sauce. This is not an absolute must but I think a lot of people are attached to the sauce part of the BBQ. Me? I don’t care – saucelessness is fine by me.

6. Remove. Let cool a bit. Ask husband to cut ribs up. Remember about other stuff you were going to cook. Ask husband to make sure fire goes out. Ask husband to save the apple wood ashes to ‘feed’ the morel patch.

7. EAT!

And at last. Labor Day Smoked Ribs.

Who wants some?

Take your boots off before you come in here!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }


Holy Crap those ribs look good!! Now I want ribs!


Jennifer Solow

Me too!


Solow Nan

From the mother of my carnivore…sure we bought ribs once in a while, but ribs were actually something I enjoyed cooking for you. Not as well prepared as my muddy daughter’s on a fancy smoker, but they were a family treat started in the oven and ended in the Weber cooker. Jennifer, you loved ribs and bones as soon as you got teeth, and the only way to end a meal (that included something gnaw-worthy) was to clear the table. Well, that worked when you were little. As soon as you were old enough to open the fridge yourself, you gnawed at 7 AM, proclaiming carcasses and bones a perfect breakfast.


Jennifer Solow

I remember your ribs, Mom! The Boykin’s thing just makes the story sound especially vivid, particularly because you can link to an old article about it.
Loved your ribs, Mama! Thanks for everything BTW.



For the love of food!! Now I am totally hungry. I love your blog so much. Aside from the food you show us that we can make in the future, I also love the way you suggest stuff when there are visitors at home, activities to do etc. It is very informative and fun at the same time. Keep it up, make us hungry for more posts!


Jennifer Solow

Thanks Sheila, Sasha, Miss Sashy! I need to read more about that bubble tea you had!



This looks good…and I’m a vegetarian. 😉


Jennifer Solow

Oh, so sorry about the in-your-face meat, Liesl! You must be a very open-minded vegetarian!

My daughter proclaimed herself a vegetarian (and a Buddhist) as soon as she could speak. She’s now 13 and still a vegetarian…not sure about the Buddhist part. She still caves in for bacon, though!


Browsing the Atlas

Man, those look good. Now I’m going to have to make some.


The Muddy Kitchen

Thanks, Juliann!!



We here in Reno/Sparks have the Best of the West Rib Cook-off over Labor Day week…rib smoke galore, bbq’d corn on the cob, slaw, beans, fried pickles…you name it! 🙂


Jennifer Solow

Sounds like my kinda parteee!



The ribs look awesome…and we have “smoker envy”….


Jennifer Solow

Yeah – I was at Bed Bath & Beyond yesterday and my friend calls me up and says “Ever since I saw those ribs, I’ve been craving ribs…so I’m at Mill Valley Market and…”

Long story short, I had to talk her through the whole recipe, brainstorm a non-smoker solution, brainstorm a non-Secret Spice solution, etc. I basically talked her through ‘ribs’ the entire way through my BB&B run.

I bought too much stuff!

Way BEYOND the bed and bath department!
xjennifer (You guys need to buy you up some a’ that Secret Spice! You’ll like it!)



Way beyond…

Cooking real BBQ is in the category of a “lifetime decision” a lot of gear and work…but very much worth it…you never lack for friends if you can smoke pork…


Jennifer Solow

Very wise man. I see a T-shirt. Or a fortune cookie. A cute drawing of pig parts. Flames. The whole bit.



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