How to keep your ribs from tasting like HAM
I went to college down in the west Texas town of Lubbock. Growing up in the culturally diverse and blue voting city of New York, I needed a change and Texas provided it in spades. Antagonism ran high in NY vs TX. Texans were no more interested in New York culture than the New Yorkers were interested in ostrich skinned cowboy boots. New Yorkers were godless heathens and Texans were unread right wing nutjobs. To be fair we haven’t really deviate all that far in public sentiment.
As far as BBQ goes now, New Yorkers love Texas BBQ. Specifically Central Texas BBQ. We now eat our meats on butcher paper and people now pay by the pound. As of 2013 we have no less than 5 groups doing Texas style BBQ around and more are on their way! These are not faux Texans either, they’re really going out of their way to reproduce the product and it’s really good.
One strange by product of this is the simplistic salt & pepper rub being used on everything in New York. In Texas, they put salt & coarse ground pepper on their BEEF products but are much freer with the seasonings when it came to pork ribs. Somehow this got translated into ONLY salt rubs for ribs, leading to somewhat unpleasant results.
It’s not that you can’t get great ribs just using salt & pepper. You can indeed get GREAT ribs just doing the duo. The danger is that you get “hammy” ribs. This happens where the salt, smoke and long cooking accidentally “cures” the meat. Now you’ll get some of that in pork butts but it’s not as much of a problem given the large amount of interior meat to mix with it.
Hammy ribs tastes -- just as the name implies – like ham on a long bone. And not complex good ham either, just sodium inflected meat.
There’s several ways you can make sure that you don’t serve ham on a bone.
#1 Salt late!
You should only season your ribs right before you toss them into the smoker. Because of how thin a slab of ribs are, seasoning your pork with a rub and letting it sit overnight will cause it to cure.
#2 Cook hotter
Low and slow is the mantra of BBQ and it’s a good thing. REALLY LOW and REALLY SLOW is just ridiculous and doesn’t produce a superior product. In fact, it doesn’t help the pork ribs render fat very well. So now, not only do you have hammy ribs, you have fatty hammy ribs. No good. You hear of people cooking ribs for 9 hours? = HAM
#3 Avoid Enhanced Pork
Many places sell enhanced pork which have been injected with a brine mixture to give the illusion of juiciness. You know what that produces? Well you guess it. HAM. Don’t get me wrong, I love ham but you’re looking make ribs not ham right?