From America's Test Kitchen Season 11: Grilled Pork Chops and Ribs
Memphis pit masters pride themselves on their all-day barbecued pork ribs with a dark bark-like crust and distinctive chew. Up for a challenge, we decided to come up with our own version, but one that wouldn’t involve tending a grill all day.
After failing to grill the ribs in a reasonable amount of time (less than seven hours), we opted for a grill-to-oven approach. We started first with the grill. For a fire that would maintain the key amount of indirect heat (roughly 250 to 275 degrees), we turned to a modified two-level fire where the hot coals are arranged over half the grill. To avoid the constant dance of lifting the lid to add more charcoal to keep the heat stabilized, we mounded coals we’d burned for 15 minutes in a chimney starter on top of unlit coals—a trick that would allow us to extend the life of the flame without opening the grill. In addition, we stowed a pan of water underneath the cooking grate on the cooler side of the grill, where it would absorb heat and work to keep the temperature stable, as well as help keep the meat moister. Then we transferred the ribs to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and cooked them in a moderate oven until tender and thick-crusted. We even mimicked our grill setup by pouring 11/2 cups water into the rimmed baking sheet. In all, we’d shaved about more than three hours off of our shortest recipe.
Finally, because dry rub ribs are more exacting and have a very small window during which they are perfectly cooked (compared to the more forgiving wet ribs), we used an instant-read thermometer—once the thickest section of the ribs reached 195 degrees, the meat was tender and boasted a satisfying chew.
Serves 4 to 6
Don’t remove the membrane that runs along the bone side of the ribs; it prevents some of the fat from rendering out, leading to more tender results. Pouring lit briquettes over unlit briquettes provides the low, steady heat necessary for effective smoking. To maintain a constant temperature, manipulate the upper and lower vents of your grill and do not remove the lid any more often than necessary. For less spiciness, reduce the cayenne to 1/2 teaspoon.