I am not really sure why people make such a big deal over baby back ribs. Spareribs cook faster, are more succulent and have more meat per dollar spent; yet all people can talk about is baby back ribs…well, that leaves more for me! The spareribs come from the part of the ribcage that is attached to the sternum and is just north of the belly (you know… the part that makes BACON). With just a little trimming, a good dry rub (or brine, if you wish) and a relatively inexpensive smoker you can have awesome ribs for the 4th.
I don’t always trim the spareribs…sometimes I take James Beard’s advice and season them with salt and pepper and cook them for about 45 minutes in a 375°F oven, it is that simple; but we want smokey delicious ribs that will bring the Competition TO THEIR KNEES…!!!
First I trim the flap of meat off the back of the rack (the diaphragm which would be the skirt steak if it were a cow) then I remove the triangular piece of meat that contains the cartilaginous material so I have a rectangular rack with just hard bones in it (this is called St. Louis cut ribs). For some good pictures of the trimming process, this site has good instructions, click here. I do cook both of the trimmed pieces as they do contain good meat, I just don’t call those ribs. I season the meat liberally with salt, pepper, and sugar (sometimes a little garlic powder), this part we will call the “dry rub”. The dry rub is applied about 2 hours before I cook the ribs in a 250°F (more or less) smoker with any good smoking wood like hickory, pecan, apple, cherry or alder wood which means no mesquite (in my humble opinion, mesquite is just scrub brush). Let the ribs cook for about 2 to 2½ hours so the meat is tender, juicy and full of that wonderful smokey flavor. Most of the fat will cook out leaving the ribs moist and tender. They don’t fall off the bone which requires more of a braising or steaming method, but they are very tender. The sauce can be applied near the end if you wish, but well seasoned smoked ribs don’t really need sauce (I often eat them without sauce).
There is one further piece of advice I can give; do not, under any circumstances, boil your ribs (lest you anger the BBQ gods). All you will be doing is removing the flavor into what will become a boring stock that you will undoubtedly throw away. Cook them entirely on the wood smoke and be amazed…Enjoy.