Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ribs on the Grill

When we drove to Chicago for a family get-together, I stopped at stores all along the way looking for interesting regional products. Since we stopped in both Kansas City and St. Louis, barbecue sauces and rubs landed in my cart with alarming regularity.

Babyback pork ribs were on the menu, the grill was standing ready, and I randomly chose one rub and two sauces to sample.

The rub was Zarda Barbecue Rub, and the two random sauces were Gates Sweet and Mild and Maull's Sweet and Mild. I didn't purposely pick two "sweet and mild" sauces, but they were the first ones I grabbed from their respective cities.

I sprinkled the ribs generously with the rub about an hour before I was ready to cook, and put the ribs into a plastic bag and tucked it into a fridge.

When it was time to cook, I seared the ribs on both sides, then moved them to a cooler part of the grill and turned the heat down, and left them cooking for about 90 minutes. When I pulled them off, they were soft, juicy, and very pretty.

I decided not to sauce them on the grill so we could sample them with just the rub and then sample the sauces separately.

The taste test? The rub added nice flavor, but confirmed that I'm a saucy-rib kind of gal. The Maull's had a definite tomato flavor, and the label didn't lie. It was sweet and it was mild. It was like a thin ketchup with a little more flavor. The Gates sauce had a little more smoke and spice, but it also was sweet and mild. Neither were bad, but neither were amazing.

The goal of my sauce-buying binge was to find the sauce of my dreams and then recreate it. I've made sauces before, but it always seems like something is missing when I actually use them. The problem is that the sauces always taste different when they're being made than the do when they're being used. So I figured that if I could find the bottled sauce that hits the right notes when it hits the meat, I can use that as my example when I build my own sauce.

Meanwhile, the ribs were really good. Sauced, not sauced, it didn't matter. They were just what I needed to remind me that although summer's officially over, there's still some good barbecue weather ahead.