How to cook the perfect baby back baby back baby back ribs

Until my brother in-law joined the family, Molly and I thought baby back ribs were just three words in a ubiquitous Chili’s jingle or something you ordered on-line from a magical place called the Montgomery Inn.

Enter grill master Brian, who taught us that home grills could produce tender, spicy ribs that melt in your mouth. Brian, who rises at 4 a.m. on football game days to prepare his tailgate feast, showed us that you could prepare these delicacies in your home grill but he hasn’t shown us how.

This weekend, our friend Joe, who hails from the barbecue capital of the world, Kansas City, conducted a seminar in how to cook succulent baby-back ribs. Joe learned his technique from his grandfather, a St. Louis beat cop.

In our observation, true Kansas City baby back ribs require a chef who is patient, detail oriented and inexplicably humble.

They weren’t even a little dry, Joe, and they weren’t a little overcooked either. In fact, the ribs we ate for Sunday dinner proved to be absolutely perfect.

It starts with hickory chips that you soak overnight in water.
It starts with hickory chips that you soak in water  overnight.
Then you prepare the ribs. Note that our grill master is wearing an authentic butcher's apron and working on real butcher paper. Very cool.
Then you prepare the ribs. Note that our grill master is wearing an authentic butcher’s apron and working on real butcher paper. Very cool.
The whole trick is to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. This will make your ribs nice and tender.
The whole trick is to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. This will make your ribs nice and tender.
Season liberally with dry rub. Joe let Molly help and they did not hold back.
Season liberally with dry rub. Joe let Molly help and they did not hold back.
Here's how you set up the indirect heat: Pour beer and coke into the drip pan, place a lighter cub on each side and cover with charcoal.
Here’s how you set up the indirect heat: Pour beer and coke into the drip pan, place a lighter cub on each side and cover with charcoal.
It's not actually necessary to have a bugler herald your process, but it helps.
It’s not actually necessary to have a bugler herald your process, but it helps.
When the coals are nice and hot, drain your hickory chips.
When the coals are nice and hot, drain your hickory chips.
Add the hickory chips to the coals.
Add the hickory chips to the coals.
Retrieve your seasoned ribs from the refrigerator or cooler where they've been wrapped in butcher paper and waiting for their big moment. Stack them in a rib rack over the indirect heat.
Retrieve your seasoned ribs from the refrigerator or cooler where they’ve been wrapped in butcher paper and waiting for their big moment. Stack them in a rib rack over the indirect heat.
Cover and smoke at 300 degrees for three hours. Things get a little hazy here because one of us, and it wasn't the guy wearing the white apron, may have dozed off reading a book and missed the crucial next step.
Cover and smoke at 300 degrees for three hours. Things get a little hazy here because one of us, and it wasn’t the guy wearing the white apron, may have dozed off reading a book and missed the crucial next step…
After about three hours, remover the ribs from the grill, slather them with sauces, cover them with tin foil and return them to the grill...This is what I'm told happened here.
…after about three hours, remove the ribs from the grill, slather them with barbecue sauce, cover them with tin foil and return them to the grill…This is what I’m told happened here.
Remove the ribs from the grill, unwrap and drool. This is what I was doing. Joe was shaking his head and muttering nonsense like he might have over cooked them and they looked a little dry.
Remove the ribs from the grill, unwrap and drool. This is what I was doing. Joe was shaking his head and muttering nonsense like he might have over cooked them and they looked a little dry. I’m telling you these ribs were perfect.
My mouth is watering again just looking at this picture.
My mouth is watering again just looking at this picture.
Happy chaos and every single person at that table loved those ribs. Thanks Joe!
Happy chaos and every single person at that table loved those ribs. Thanks Joe!

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