There are a lot of things that can go wrong when cooking Pork Spare Ribs “the old fashioned way.” Everyone is familiar with the disappointment of dryness, toughness, and, even “falling apartness.” The irregular characteristics of outdoor barbecues complicate matters even further, requiring frequent, if not constant, adaptation to weather and other conditions.
Traditional methods demand that the side be cooked whole to avoid dryness. Sous vide turns that principle on its head by making greater or lesser surface area irrelevant–since the protein is sealed in a bag, the risk of dryness is eliminated.
Precise temperatures are difficult to achieve in outdoor barbecues. Sous vide guarantees their maintenance. General time calculations and the use of the pinch test further prevent under cooking AND over cooking.
So, no matter HOW you plan to finish your pork spareribs, no matter WHICH style or sauce you plan to use, this time/temperature protocol can be used to achieve excellent results.
18-24 Hours@140F, Shock, Retherm
The reasoning is simple. The surface of meat loses its ability to absorb smoke at temperatures higher than 140F. You frequently see professional barbecue cooks “mopping” the meat with sauce or liquid of some kind. The implication is that they are continually flavoring the meat. But, the science tells us that nothing other than salt or smoke can actually penetrate the surface; flavonoid molecules are just too large to work their way through the complex matrix of tangled proteins. Mopping DOES, however, keep the surface of the meat “cool,” so that smoke can penetrate.
Now that we’ve cleared THAT up…
Once you have processed your spare ribs (or baby backs, which take more like 12-18 hours @140F), you shock them cold–not frozen, but as cold as your refrigerator will get them, preferably 40F. This also helps to prevent overcooking later. It is at this time that you apply rubs, coatings, seasonings, etc., as we describe in greater detail in the individual recipes. When you finally hit the BBQ (or your indoor oven, or the deep fryer, or wherever), you’re spare ribs can travel from 40F to 140F at your leisure. It becomes very easy to achieve your desired surface appearance, red, brown, reddish brown, even approaching black–all without the usual anxieties.
This post is a root article for Sous Vide Resources. All root articles feature a specific Sous Vide preparation of beef, pork, other meats, chicken, fish, shellfish, vegetable or other food that will form the basis of another finished dish.
Preparation and Beginning Sous Vide Process
Pork spare rib sides usually weight between 4-6 lbs. Sometimes the butcher removes the breast bone, sometimes not. St. Louis Ribs are cut slightly different, but, none of these variations affect your time/temp protocol.
You can preseason if you like, keeping in mind that only salt will actually penetrate the meat. Even then, salt only has time to travel 2 or 3 millimeters beyond the surface. If you DO preseason, remember to do so lightly–every grain of salt that you add will have nowhere to go but onto (or into) the meat.
But, but, but….
You don’t HAVE to cut up your spareribs, as long as you have a bag big enough to hold them with out stretching or folding the rack. I usually cut 2 or 3 rib sections, which people can then pick or choose depending on their appetite. Again, we’re using the Nomiku circulator and the Lipavi racks.
Another advantage to multiple packaging is preservation of pasteurization. As long as the seal is not broken, the sous vide processed ribs will keep under refrigeration much longer than if they had not been pasteurized, much like a carton of milk. You can BBQ as many, or, as few, as you like, on any given day.
Sometimes it works out that you only have one rib in a bag, if it’s a particularly large one. Pretty handy.
Ready to go in the tank, again, 140Fx24 hours, in this case.
After processing, the ribs are shocked to 40F, the purge is removed and saved, these screens are handy to avoid sticking and dirtying of the pan. My wife’s idea.
You can expect the color to be very pale, and even pink, but the meat is tender. It is also safe–there is no relationship between the color of myoglobin and food safety.
This is a “non-BBQ” crust that I use as my prototype.
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley, I dry my own, but the packaged stuff is fine for this app
- 1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
- Combine all ingredients
- Sprinkle over the top side of the ribs, or dip the ribs in the mix, it will stick because of the flour.
- Roast @350Fx1 hour.