Bacon Wrapped Ribs
I came across a version of this recipe while conducting grilling research (that is what Scott says I do best!) and decided to modify said idea to Grillin’ Fools methodology. This is my first effort and I must say it was most taste-worthy. I’ll include brining, baconing (If that isn’t a word, it should be), indirect smoking, and glazing to produce some flavorful pork. After all, wouldn’t we all like more pork with our pork?
Bacon Wrapped Ribs Ingredients:
1 slab pork spare ribs
1 lb of thick slab bacon – reserved for later
6 tbsp Code 3 Spices 5-0 Rub (pronounced Five-Oh) – reserved for later
The first step will involve honing your knife skills. See what I did there?! A 3 lb. slab of St. Louis spareribs will require a little trimming and then removal of every other bone to increase the meat to bone ratio as spares can sometimes be a little sparse in the meat department. But this is only after the ribs are skinned:
We always skin our ribs to permit seasonings and smoke flavor to penetrate while yielding a tender bite. The ribs are skinned and the knife work begins with a slender utility knife. Please understand I’m not a meat-cutter and some of them seeing this are probably chuckling right now at my feeble attempt but I got it done. Here’s a look at the process.
The slender knife blade is inserted from each end of the bone and worked around the bone on both sides to minimize meat loss.
Soon, I realized I was having a bit of difficulty and sought another sharp instrument…a boning/filet knife that was better designed for my purpose. Please exercise caution. It appears every time I use this razor sharp rascal I end up wounded (only poked my finger once this time).
There! I did it! The first interior bone is removed and most of the meat is intact surrounding the other bone:
And a close up:
Now skip a bone, repeat the process until every other bone is removed, leaving some very meaty ribs. If you find this process troublesome, ask your local butcher to do this for you:
Don’t forget the rib tips! The spare ribs were trimmed to achieve St. Louis ribs style but the tips were included with my purchase. The piece shown was boneless and cartilage free—I trimmed a bit of cartilage from another chunk and ended up with 3 more rib-size hunks. More on that later. The other small pieces shown? They are known as griller’s nibblers:
Brining is the next step.
1 qt apple juice
¼ cup salt
2 tsp white (or black or both) pepper
The trimmed ribs were then placed into a re-sealable plastic bag along with the brine ingredients, the salt worked into the juice till dissolved and then refrigerated for 2 to 12 hours:
When grilling time approaches drain, rinse, and pat dry the ribs to prepare for seasoning and bacon. Lately I’ve been using an assortment of Code 3 Spices rubs. The rubs are tasty on top of the fact that they give back a portion to organizations that benefit first responders and military. Being a Vietnam vet and my wife recently requiring the services of first responders this was an added incentive for me to use their fine products. We like to say that they are great rubs and a better cause. I did encounter a problem with the Code 3 rubs however, (and there’s always a however in life) I had planned on using 5-0 rub but didn’t have enough of it or the Rescue Rub to cover my ribs! This issue was quickly rectified by incorporating 2 tbsp each of the 5-0, Rescue and Backdraft to generate the 6 tbsp to cover the ribs. If in the future those Code 3 boys introduce a Trio Rub I hope it has a Grillin Fools sticker on the label:
The rubs are blended and the ribs are waiting to have a lot of character added to their flavor.
The ribs are well-coated with the trio of rubs but a bit is reserved for another layer of seasoning after the bacon is wrapped. Remember to coat the ribs on both sides:
Take a close up look at a rubbed rib. It looks edible already!
The bacon is wrapped around each rib, secured with toothpicks, and dusted with remaining rub. Keep in mind that the bacon will stretch. I used one strip on most and 1 ½ strips on a few:
The rib tips were also dusted with rub, trimmed to size, bacon wrapped and will join the other pieces on the grill:
The kettle charcoal grill is set up for indirect/two zone grilling with hot coals on one side and no heat on the other. Place the meat on the side with no heat and on the coals toss a couple hunks of pear and hickory. Apple, peach, apricot will do for the pear if you are so inclined. For the most extensive list of smoke woods and what they pair well with on the web, check this link. Don’t forget to use a drip pan under the bacon wrapped ribs. Usually I indirect ribs with a high heat method which is in the range of 275-325 temp-wise. This cook resulted in the higher end at 325. I’ll have to be more on the ball next time around but it turned out fine in the end as you’ll see later. I’m anticipating a cook time of 2 hours.
…and they’re on!!
While the bacon wrapped ribs are smoking I went back inside to prepare a glaze to add more to the flavor profile and give this recipe a proper finish. I knew I had a spicy rub on the ribs, as the Backdraft Rub has some serious heat, so I thought the glaze should have a bbq flavor but with a significant amount of sweetness to balance out the dish.
Agave Thai Chili Glaze Ingredients:
¼ cup apple juice
¼ Blues Hog Smoky Mountain Sauce
1 tsp Agave Nectar (substitute brown sugar or honey)
1 tbsp Thai Sweet Chile Sauce
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Combine all the ingredients in a small pot, place over medium heat, stirring occasionally until all ingredients are combined.
A look at 90 minutes at my bacon wrapped ribs. Is that bone I’m seeing?
During the last 15 minutes the glaze is applied. The bacon wrapped ribs were given 2 coats on each side.
How does that look? Yeah, that’s bone alright in the bottom right, now I’m concerned I’ve over-grilled these rascals. Drill in a bit closer…if that doesn’t get your appetite going then I don’t know what does!
Pulled from the grill:
They’re lookin’ a bit dark. That is the sugars in the Blues Hog caramelizing. Taken inside and a lot of bone is showing now I’m even more concerned. Expect an editorial comment about now as to why I didn’t use a thermometer.
We prefer ribs that are just short of fall off the bone, tender but leave a definite bite mark. Only one way to check:
That’s the perfect bite:
This recipe was a great combination of smoky spicy warmth cushioned by the sweetness of the glaze and no chance of the ribs drying out with the bacon basting them throughout the grilling process. The bites were very meaty due to the extra knife prep. The crispiness of the bacon combined with the tender rib meat yielded an enjoyable contrasting texture. Mmmm. Pork on pork turned out beautifully.
And while this came out great the first time, in the future I would make a couple adjustments. I would eliminate the brining process as the bacon continually bastes the rib meat which preserves the moisture so no need for the brine. I would also consider using low sodium bacon next time. The salt taste, although not overpowering, was bit heavy for my taste because the ribs got a heavy dose of salt in the brine and again from the salty bacon. We’re big proponents of brining, but in this case it isn’t necessary. The recipe in the printable card below has the amended recipe with the changes outlined in this paragraph.
- 1 slab St. Louis style spare ribs, skinned
- 1 lb thick slab bacon
- 6 tbsp dry rub (we used Code 3 Spices)
- ¼ cup apple juice
- ¼ Blues Hog Smoky Mountain Sauce
- 1 tsp Agave Nectar (substitute brown sugar or honey)
- 1 tbsp Thai Sweet Chile Sauce
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- Slice the ribs after every second rib and then remove one of the two ribs by working a long, slender (and VERY sharp) knife down the bone from each end and remove the bones leaving one in
- Cover all sides of the meat with a BBQ rub
- Wrap each chunk with bacon, securing with a toothpick if necessary
- Add another dusting or rub to the outside of the bacon
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with coals/heat on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temperature inside the grill is 300, plus or minus 25
- Place a drip pan underneath the ribs on the cool side of the grill and smoke wood on the other (we used pear and hickory)
- Smoke for approximately 2 hours or until the meat pulls back from the bone about a half inch
- Prepare the sauce
- Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer to thicken and then apply to the ribs on both sides twice over the last 15 minutes of the grilling session
- Remove the ribs from the grill after the second coating and serve