For those that don’t know me, I have a penchant for food on the spicier side. I used to have a motto, “If it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eating.” I have mellowed on that a bit, but I still get a craving for the heat every now and again. And one of the things that I get a craving for a couple times a year is ribs done with jerk seasoning. Just about any kind of meat can be jerked but chicken and pork seem to be the two best.
***Editor’s note ~ Since writing this article, I have found that Jerk Steak is extremely good and make it quite often. OK, I might have a little more than a penchant for spicy food***
Why do they call it jerk and why do I crave it so much? Jerk or Jerky is derived from the word, “charqui,” which meant dried meat. Jerking meat was to load it with spice and then dry it to preserve it to keep it from spoiling. With refrigeration we don’t need to dry it out to preserve it. Now we can load it with the spicy jerk seasoning and grill it just long enough to leave it moist and delicious.
But what is so amazing about it that I crave it so often? Well there is something about the combination of the sweets and the spices and the aromas of the jerk seasoning that make it almost intoxicating. Traditional jerk seasoning consists of Jamaican allspice, garlic, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Think about the sweetness and the aromas of those spices for a moment. Now add in some Scotch bonnet peppers and onions or scallions and you have the perfect combination of sweet, spicy, along with a superb smell.
I decided to do jerk ribs at the last minute so I didn’t do the usual prep I normally do such as marinating or brining the meat overnight. I also did not make my own jerk seasoning. I used a store bought jerk paste that I love called Walkerswood:
If you want to make your own rather than go with an over the counter marinade/spice paste, check out the recipe from my fellow Grillin’ Fool, Tom, that he used to make jerk chicken. Despite that recipe being used on chicken it can also be used on beef, pork, even seafood. Again, this was a last minute thing and I didn’t have time to run to the grocery store for all the ingredients. Low maintenance jerk ribs if you will.
I did not quantify the ingredients because it’s not all that complex. After removing the membrane from the bone side of the ribs (click here to see how that is done), I simply slathered the ribs on both sides with the marinade, a little coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper. The chop stick is what I used to get under the membrane to pull it back.
One tip here. Notice above how the ribs are bone side down now that they are slathered? Always start with the meat meat side down to apply rubs, pastes or sauces. If you go meat side up first, when you flip it over a lot of the rub or marinade will stick to the cutting board and be wasted. Start off meat side down and slather the concave underside of the ribs then when you flop them over the curve of the ribs will keep the vast majority of your rub or sauce elevated off the cutting board. Also, don’t forget to slather the ends if you slice the slabs in half like I did due to space limitation on the grill manufacturer that shall not be named I planned on using:
Jerk doesn’t have to be over the top spicy the way I like it. To reduce the heat simply cut the marinade with olive oil. My dad cuts the marinade in half. Also, after you marinade these for a little while you can always scrap a lot of the marinade off and just go with the flavor that has permeated the meat while marinating. For that I would suggest an overnight marinade in order to infuse the meat better. These marinated for only about 3 hours in plastic bags in the fridge before they hit the grill.
I decided to grill them indirect which is now my preferred way of grilling ribs. I was a big proponent of the 3-2-1 method for spares and 2-1.5-.75 method for BBR’s at 225 degrees (the numbers represent hours, 3 hours smoking, 2 hours in foil, 1 hour back on the heat). But I have found I can produce identical if not better results by going indirect at 275-300 for 2 hours. It’s called the high heat method, but medium heat would be more appropriate since 300 degrees is not really high. Using the 3-2-1 method makes it really easy to make the ribs fall off the bone which to me is overdone. Still good but I prefer them just short of that.
So here I have the kettle set up with the coals on the left and the jerk ribs in a rib rack on the right. Notice that the two fatter half slabs are closest to the fire while the skinnier half slabs are farthest from the fire:
That chunk of smoke wood on the coals to the left is peach. This was my first time using peach wood. It may be my new favorite wood. It has the subtle smoke flavor that I love about apple wood but gives a better smoke ring. Not quite as good a smoke ring as cherry, but still really nice. If you don’t have access to peach don’t sweat it. There are many different woods you can use. Check this page for write ups about close to 50 different woods and such that you can use to smoke meat.
Here is the peach I used. A little redder than apple but not quite that of cherry:
The peach is smoking nicely:
For this grilling session I was going for 275-300 for 2 hours. My probe thermometer showed that around the edge of the kettle I had a temp of about 270 the entire time. This is perfect. My skinnier half slabs were grilling at 270 while my thicker half slabs were closer to the fire and closer to 300.
Here are the ribs just about ready go come off:
Jerk seasoning has a lot of sugars so there will be some blackening during the cooking process. Don’t sweat that either. It is to be expected. The only sweating you should do about the black stuff is when you bite into it later and that glorious heat hits your tongue.
I took the jerk ribs inside and let them rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board before slicing. How good does that look?
And here we have the money shot. The meat is still glistening with juice with a ridiculous smoke ring around the edges:
That’s the smoke ring after only two hours. Yeah, I love that peach. I’ll be using it more often when I am grilling. Some say that the smoke ring is overrated. Not me, I love it.
So next time somebody tells you to stop jerking around turn and yell, “Leave me alone! Can’t you see I’m grilling over here?!?!”
If you have any questions about the above dish please feel free to comment below or shoot me an email.
For other rib recipes on the grill, click here.