Dear Home Ec 101,
I have been told to boil ribs before grilling them. Is this a good way to cook ribs?
Grilling in Greenville
Lots of cookbooks recommend parboiling ribs before grilling as it does speed up the process. However, there is a cost and that’s flavor. Additionally,the advice is sort of misleading. Typically when people say they boil or parboil their ribs before grilling, what they really mean is that they simmer. Do you know the difference between boiling and simmering? It sounds like I’m being picky, but those few degrees can make a major difference. Boiling would rapidly denature -or change- the proteins in the connective tissue which could make them tough and chewy.
Low and slow is the slang term many cooks use to describe the kinds of cooking most suitable to tough cuts like ribs. Like many other tough cuts of meat, ribs are full of connective tissue that needs to cook slowly at low temperatures for tender results. The actual method isn’t important, they all take advantage of the same principle. You can braise, smoke, grilled indirectly, or oven roast -at low temperatures, of course- your ribs. Simmering or par-boiling – Each of these methods take advantage of low heat to let those tough proteins dissolve as the meat cooks.
Keep in mind this thought, if you parboil your ribs in plain water, some of the flavor is going to be lost to the cooking liquid. It may be fast, but is it worth the flavor loss?
You can finish ribs cooked by any method on the grill. This is especially effective if they are slathered in a bbq sauce and heated so the sugars caramelize. In fact, at my last job, that’s how we made our ribs. First they were smoked over night and then refrigerated. Just before serving we would heat them thoroughly on the grill slathering them in bbq sauce. Always tender, always delicious.
I don’t have a smoker, so I slow roast my ribs in the oven. Sometimes I do cook them Memphis style with a dry rub, short ribs I braise in beer, and sometimes I just use my favorite bbq sauce. It all depends on my mood.
Good luck cooking your ribs!