From America's Test Kitchen Season 3: Backyard BBQ
Dry, flavorless ribs are a true culinary disaster. More often than not, baby back ribs cooked at home come out tasting like dry shoe leather on a bone. We wanted ribs that were juicy, tender, and fully seasoned, with an intense smokiness, ribs that would be well worth the time, money, and effort.
Meaty ribs—racks as close to 2 pounds as possible—provided substantial, satisfying portions. For ribs that are so good and moist they don’t even need barbecue sauce, they must be brined first—we used a salt, sugar, and water solution—then rubbed with a spice mix before barbecuing. Chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, and dark brown sugar formed a nice, crisp crust on the ribs and provided the best balance of sweet and spicy. For even more flavor, we piled wood chunks on top of the coals before barbecuing and used the “low and slow” cooking method: barbecue the ribs for a few hours on the cool side of the grill, then add fresh briquettes to the coals and continue to cook for another hour or two. This extended amount of time on the grill made for tender baby back ribs with an intensely smoky flavor.
For a potent spice flavor, brine and dry the ribs as directed, then coat them with the spice rub, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate overnight before grilling. You will need two wood chunks, each about the size of a lemon, for this recipe.