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The Hairy Barbie: Memphis-style wet ribs

These tangy, hot ribs are flavoured with a dry rub before baking until tender then finished with a rich, glossy barbecue sauce. Traditionally they’d be cooked in a barbecue pit but we’ve simplified the recipe so the main cooking is done in the oven before the rack is transferred to the barbecue ready for basting with the delicious, sticky sauce.

 

Serves 5-6

2.2kg rindless rack of meaty pork spare ribs, well trimmed (one full rack) (To make enough for 10-12 people, you can double the rub but keep the sauce quantity the same.)

Dry rub for pork ribs

25g soft light brown sugar

2 tbsp smoked hot paprika

1 tbsp flaked sea salt

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp dried oregano

Wet barbecue sauce

200ml ketchup

100ml water

75ml cider vinegar

150g soft light brown sugar

3 tbsp clear honey

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 garlic cloves, crushed

 

To make the dry rub, mix the brown sugar, paprika, salt, cayenne, mustard, pepper and oregano. Take 3 tbsp of the mixture and put in a medium saucepan to use for the wet barbecue sauce later.

Put the pork on a board and rub with the remaining dry rub on both sides, massaging into the meat. Place the pork on a low metal rack in a large roasting tin and leave to stand for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 170C/fan oven 150C/Gas 3. Add 100ml cold water to the roasting tin and cook the pork in the oven for 3 hours or until very soft and tender – the meat should be almost falling off the bones. Turn every hour and add a little extra water if the base of the pan becomes dry as the pork drippings may stick and begin to burn. (Cover the ribs with a piece of foil if they begin to dry out.)

While the pork is cooking, make the barbecue sauce. Stir the ketchup, water, vinegar, sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce and garlic into the saucepan containing the 3 tbsp reserved dry rub. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened, stirring regularly.

Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve into a bowl to get rid of the garlic that might otherwise burn on the barbecue. Pour roughly half the sauce into a serving dish and set aside. Leave the rest in the bowl.

Roughly 45 minutes before the pork is ready, light the barbecue. Take the pork out of the oven and, using a pastry brush, brush liberally on both sides with the barbecue sauce.

When the barbecue coals have been burning for a while and are covered with a light dusting of grey ash, carefully place the pork on the barbecue grill and cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes, turning and brushing with more of the barbecue sauce every 5-8 minutes as it cooks.

Don’t leave the pork for a minute or the marinade could burn and be prepared to move the rack up if the coating starts catching. (You’ll need to use a decent set of tongs to turn the pork as it barbecues too.)

The idea is to get a thick, sweet, smoky coating on the pork. Carve the ribs and serve with the reserved barbecue sauce for dipping or drizzling. (Keep any leftover sauce, covered in the fridge for up to a week.)

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