Ribs, the OTFP Way

Summertime is my favorite time of year.  Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from summer on May 25 here in northern Illinois.  But, sometimes we have some flashes of some real summertime weather in May, and when that happens, you have to ride those times as far as they’ll go.  We’ve had a spell of 90 degree heat here, and of course, the first thing we think of is not cooking inside, where the house will become hotter than it already is.

One of our favorite ways to cook is grilling, and though I admit I don’t grill quite so often in January as I do in June, I am a year round griller.

I sort of want to save some of this info for a future chapter of ‘things you should have in your kitchen’, but if any of my small but (hopefully) faithful fan base is in the market for a new grill, I cannot recommend highly enough a Weber Genesis-series gas grill.  They aren’t especially cheap but this falls into the category of price=quality.

I am sure there are more than a couple die-hard charcoal grillers out there.  Let me assure you: I used to live and die by charcoal until I got my Genesis back in 2004.  I like the charcoal flavor, but as a trained professional Taster, there are some things that aren’t good about charcoal-cooked meat.  The good parts of that flavor are replicated perfectly by a gas/lp grill after it has a few meals on it, an thus, taking that into account and combining it with the added convenience of fire-and-forget lp, I doubt seriously my return to charcoal.  Anyhow, I use a 2004-vintage Weber Genesis Silver B model gas grill to do my at-home grilling.

Ribs…  You can buy 2 kinds of ribs in most places: beef or pork.  I always choose pork because they tend to be softer and more flavorful.  Beef is almost always tougher, more prone to drying out, and because they are bigger, harder to cook in quantity sufficient for a family of six.  99% of the meat I buy I get from Costco because prices tend to be a little bit lower and the overall quality of the meat is roughly a billion percent better than what I can get at the local Jewel/Albertsons or Dominick’s/Safeway.  I often say that Costco is the next best thing to having your own herd of livestock.

So, here’s what you need to do ribs, OTFP.




Baking pan (pyrex is best but metal works too)

At least 3 or 4 hours

Basting brush


1 or more slabs of pork ribs

Sea salt

Sarawak black pepper, ground

1 clove garlic per 2 slabs

About 16 ounces of Sweet Baby Rays Original Barbecue Sauce

Serves 2-3 per slab for light eaters.


Preheat your grill to about 200F.  Anything higher than 220F is too hot and will dry out the meat.  Less than 200F will require more cooking time.

Fill the baking pan about half full of water.  Half empty, if pessimism is your thing.

Season the ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.  I find that half a clove is about perfect for a full slab, but your mileage may vary.

Ribs must be cooked indirectly or you will burn the undersides and dry the meat out.  This is great if you want flavorful pork jerky on the bone, but I’ve never met anyone that wanted that end product.  I cut each slab in half because that’s what fits best on the grill.

Place the baking pan of water directly over the heat source.  This will buffer heat transfer and add humidity to the cooking chamber.  Place the ribs so that they are centrally located between two low heat sources.  If you have a 3-burner grill, keep the middle burner unlit and cook in the middle.  If you need to use charcoal, prep the grill as though you are cooking a roast, with two fires, and get regular Kingsford charcoal (blue bag).  It lights easily and burns very evenly.

The first hour is low maintenance.  After one hour, turn the ribs 180 degrees to ensure even cooking.  Make sure the baking pan still has water in it.  Same thing with the second hour, but you may want to turn them every 20-30 minutes if you know your heat sources are unevenly hot.  The bones should ALWAYS face down.

If you’re running 220, the third hour is going to be where the most cooking happens.  Again, you should be turning the ribs every 20-30 minutes and watching to verify that the baking pan remains full of water.  If the pan goes dry, the ribs are going to dry out and you’ll see shrinkage of the meat at the ends of the bones.  The juiciest ribs will pull back only about 1/4” from the edges of the bones.  Any more shrinkage than that means your fire was too hot.

The fourth/final hour is where the basting happens.  You should slightly increase the heat for the final hour to about 275F, or simply add about 2 briquets of charcoal (no lighter fluid) to each fire.  Once the charcoals start to burn or the grill heats up to about 275, baste lightly with SBR’s sauce.  Again, turn the ribs every 20 or so minutes, and reapply the sauce at each interval.  If you do this right, there’s almost no shrinkage due to moisture loss, and the sugars in the sauce don’t burn or become bitter from overheating.

Serve with your favorite side dishes.  Our family favorites are a mustard potato salad, applesauce, and a salad.

2 Responses to “Ribs, the OTFP Way”

  1. Those ribs look delicious Frank! I have a couple of racks in my freezer for this weekend.

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