Ribs: A Connoisseur's Guide to Barbecuing and Grilling
By Christopher B. O'Hara

Hardcover, 102 Pages, The Lyons Press, 2000, $18.95
ISBN 1-58574-171-X

Reviewed by Cheri Sicard of FabulousFoods.com.

Selected recipes used with permission from Lyons Press.

Buy This Book

It's almost barbecue season and if you're ready for the ultimate cookout food, then you're ready for "Ribs: A Connoisseur's Guide to Barbecuing and Grilling" by Christopher B. O'Hara (with mouth watering photographs by William Nash).

This is the quintessential rib guide. You'll get not only recipes for just about every rib variation available as well as spice rubs, marinades and mops, but also a tutorial guide to one of America's favorite foods. After covering the necessary tools, equipment, smokers and barbecues, you'll learn the basics such as the various types of meat, getting the coals started and the best cooking methods before graduating to preparing the meat and the essentials of marinades and dry rubs. O'Hara even includes a glossary of the best bottled barbecue sauces, in case you're feeling lazy and don't want to make your own.

While ribs may be a classic of American cuisine, we hardly have the lock on this wonderful dish. Not to worry, countries around the globe are well represented in O'Hara's recipes, from Cantonese Pork Ribs to Jerk Rubbed Island Style Ribs to South American Barbecue Sauce to Korean Bulkogi (beef short ribs). Of course, you'll also find recipes for American classics such as Texas Style Ribs, North Carolina Ribs and Kansas City Ribs, as well as a host of original variations like Citrus Barbecued Ribs, Stovetop Ribs and even ribs made with Dr. Pepper!

The recipes and techniques in this book can turn you into a barbecue master, much to the delight of hungry friends and family. If you enjoy outdoor cooking, this book is a must (unless you're a vegetarian)!

Sample Recipes

The following text and recipes are re-printed with permission from The Lyons Press.

Texas-Style Baby Back Ribs

The first, most important step in making authentic Texas-style ribs is the mop. The mop (so called because it usually applied with the household apparatus of the same name) is basically a marinade, basting sauce, and dipping sauce in one. Real Texas barbecue masters are used to mopping several dozen chickens, slabs of ribs and briskets at a time so they need an actual string mop to handle the task. You can use one of those kitchen glassware scrubbers to get the miniaturized effect. Store extra sauce, refrigerated for future use.

This Texas-style mop can also be used on poultry or other meat dishes, especially brisket.

3 large racks, baby back ribs, excess fat trimmed and membrane removed
1 bag medium-size mesquite chips (for outdoor grills)

Marinade & Dipping Sauce

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 C unsalted butter
2 medium-sized white onions, finely chopped
6 medium-sized shallots, finely chopped
10 large cloves garlic, pressed
3 C pureed tomatoes
1 can (12 oz.) tomato paste
1 can (12 oz.) beer
12 oz. water
6 tablespoons vinegar
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
juice of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dried mustard powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if desired)
salt and pepper to taste


1 can (12 oz.) beer
1 C reserved marinade
Yields 6 Servings Ribs and About 8 Cups Sauce

Heat a large saute pan on a medium-high flame and add the olive oil. After the oil is heated sufficiently, add the butter. Saute the onions, garlic and shallot until transparent.

Add the rest of the liquid ingredients (pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 can beer, water, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice), and heat until simmering.

Once simmering, add the dry spices, stirring in gradually. Let this mixture simmer for at least 30 minutes.

When finished (taste it - you may want to sweeten it with more sugar or spice it up using more cayenne pepper), reserve 1 cup of the sauce for your mop, and at least 1 cup for dipping sauce.

Place the ribs in a shallow baking pan and cover with remaining sauce. Try to fully submerge the ribs and place sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper directly atop the meat, so as to eliminate air. If the ribs are not totally covered, rotate them periodically. Marinate for a minimum of 12 hours.

For the mop, mix 1 cup reserved marinade with 1 can beer in a bowl.

Cook ribs by using the indirect method or a smoker. The author recommends smoking these ribs with water soaked, medium sized mesquite chips. That smoky mesquite flavor is the signature of Texas-style barbecue.


Kansas City-Style Dry Rubbed Beef Ribs With KC Barbecue Dipping Sauce

Kansas City is the crossroads of barbecue, a place where American barbecue styles melded together. The combination of transplanted Southerners and Texans, and more beef than you can shake a stick at (it is the Midwest, of course) produced a barbecue culture of its own. Both KC Masterpiece and Bull's Eye bottled sauces came out of KC, which is testimony to its appeal.

The style of classic Kansas City sauce varies according to which part of Kansas City you're from. Generally, it is a thick, tomato-laden, tangy and sweet sauce. Pretty much like KC Masterpiece. Homemade is better, of course.

This recipe is the best of all worlds: you have a great classic dry rub and a fantastic sauce for dipping. This recipe calls for beef ribs (acknowledging Kansas City's Midwestern beef heritage - although most KC restaurants serve the traditional baby back ribs), but you can substitute whatever kind of ribs you like. The author prefers to dry-rub the ribs first, baste some barbecue sauce on for the last 20 minutes of cooking, and then use the sauce for dipping while eating. However, feel free to thin down the (thick) sauce to use as a mop during cooking.

2 large racks of beef ribs
3 large racks of baby back ribs
2 large Ziplock freezer storage bags

Dry Rub (yields 2 Cups but keep indefinitely)

1 C sugar
1/2 C paprika
1/4 C Kosher salt
1/4 C celery salt
3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried mustard powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Classic Barbecue Sauce (yields about 4 cups)

1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 C ketchup
3/4 C dark unsulphered molasses
1/2 C white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Serves 4-6

Mix all dry rub ingredients together. Store in a covered jar.

In a large bowl, mix sauce dry ingredients together well. Add ketchup, molasses, vinegar and Tabasco. Transfer mixture to a saucepan and heat over a medium flame until warm, stirring frequently. The idea is to make sure the dry ingredients melt into the sauce.

Buy your ribs and make your dry rub the day before you plan on cooking. To apply dry rub, sprinkle (rather than actually rub) the mixture on the meat - it should be moist enough so the rub sticks to the surface. A light coating is sufficient, but use as much as you like, as it tends to come off during handling and cooking. Seal your ribs in plastic bags and refrigerate overnight. You can also prepare your sauce that day and set it aside in the refrigerator.

If you are planning on barbecuing these ribs, set the temperature at roughly 250 F and cook the ribs with the lid closed. Adding some soaked mesquite or other hardwood chips is recommended, but not necessary. Cook the ribs for approximately 2 1/2 - 3 hours, or until the meat has shrunk back well from the bone. About 15 minutes before the ribs are done, add a generous coating of the barbecue sauce. Serve with the remaining sauce and ice cold beer.


Korean Short (Beef) Ribs or Bulkogi

Beef short ribs are generally pretty tough customers, requiring long marinating times to get them tender. I like to make them Korean style because there is something about the marinade that really breaks down the meat and gets them super tender.

Another thing that's so neat about short ribs is that, because they are beef, you don't have to worry about under cooking them; they can be served rare. The other great thing about this recipe is that the only difficult part is having the patience for the marinade - you'll need to soak them for at least 12 hours, preferably more.

6 lbs. short ribs cut into thin pieces, about 2 1/2 inches long

Marinade (yields about 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 large cloves garlic, pressed
1 C soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry (or substitute sweet rice wine)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 C chopped green scallions (green and white parts, mixed)
Serves 4-6

Toast the sesame seeds in a regular pan over a low flame. Remove the seeds when they are nicely browned and set aside. Combine the rest of the marinade ingredients, mixing well. Using a black pepper grinder on the fine setting, mill the sesame seeds into the mix and stir in.

Add your ribs to the marinade, and let them sit in it (refrigerated) as long as you possibly can. I like to prepare the marinade the night before so it's ready for the next night's dinner.

Get a hot fire going in your barbecue and grill these ribs until they are nicely browned and crisp on the edges. Depending on the thickness of the ribs, they should take between 15 to 20 minutes. If you plan on cooking these in the oven, they can be roasted at 400 F for 30 minutes. Be sure to baste them often.

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