How to Make Tender Flavourful Ribs

Recipe for Tender Tasty Ribs

So you want to discover how to transform ribs like these ⇓ into tasty, tender ribs like these ⇑?

Back Ribs

Follow these four easy steps and you too will make tender ribs that have great flavour.  You can choose back ribs or side ribs, depending on what you prefer.

 

A: Flavour Part 1, The Rub

The first step in giving your ribs great flavour is to coat them in a great tasting rub.  I use a brown sugar rub (you can find the recipe here) which my family loves, but if you have a favorite rub for pork, you can use that.

When coating the ribs with rub, start with the underside, then do the ends, and finish with the top side.  You want a thick, even coating on the entire slab.

pork rub coating all sides of the slab of ribs

 

B: The Cooking Technique, in this case, Braising

Ribs have a lot of connective tissue, and to make them tender it is best to cook them at a low heat for a long time, often called low and slow cook.

Braising means cooking in a covered pot in a shallow layer of liquid.  To braise it, the meat isn’t completely covered with liquid, which would boil or stew it.  Instead, the meat is only partially submerged, and then simmered at low temperature until it becomes tender.

Braising ribs in the oven in a sealed foil packet makes them tender

One of the great things about braising is that it’s a hands-off cooking technique.  The oven does all the work for you.  It just requires patience to transform potentially tough cuts of meat into tender goodness.

 

C: Flavour Part 2, Enhance the Braising Liquid

While plain water, broth or even apple juice can be used as the braising liquid, I like to take the opportunity to add even more flavour to my ribs.  To make my braising liquid, I add garlic, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and Dijon mustard to the water.

After the ribs are cooked, you can use the braising liquid as the base for a sauce for the ribs if you want.  You cook the liquid on the stove-top until it thickens.

 

D: Finger Licking Good, The BBQ Sauce

We prefer saucy ribs, so once the ribs are cooked and tender, the final step is to add our favorite bbq sauce and place ribs in the oven on broil for 3 minutes.  What comes out of the oven are tender ribs with lots of flavour and dripping in sauce.  Just the way we like them.

Tasty tender ribs dripping in bbq sauce

 

So it’s as simple as that:

A + B + C + D = flavourful, tender ribs that will have your family asking for more.

 

I used back ribs for my recipe.  Side ribs (also called spare ribs) can also be cooked using the same technique.  You would simply increase the cooking time for side ribs.  For two pounds of side ribs, increase the cook time given in the recipe below (which is for back ribs) by about 30 minutes.

 

Recipe:  Tender Pork Ribs

Braising ribs makes them tender

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) pork back ribs
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons dry rub (recipe here)
  • ¾ cup (185 mL) water
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) your favorite bbq sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory & Brown Sugar)

Directions:

  1. Place ribs on a plate. Coat all sides of pork ribs evenly with dry rub.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
  2. Take ribs out of fridge. Pre-heat oven to 250 F.
  3. Make your braising liquid. In medium bowl, add water, garlic, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup and Dijon mustard and whisk until well blended.
  4. Place a large piece of heavy duty aluminium foil (one large enough to make a sealed packet for the ribs) on a cookie sheet. Fold the large piece of foil in half.  Place the ribs in between the top and bottom layer of foil.  Tightly fold up one of the short sides of the foil as well as the long side.  Leave one of the short sides open.
  5. Pour braising liquid into the foil packet, and tightly fold up the last side, creating a sealed packet.
  6. Place ribs in oven and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours. When they are cooked, you will be able to use a fork to cut through the meat.
  7. Take ribs out of oven and turn oven to broil.
  8. Remove ribs from foil packet (be careful when opening, as the steam will be very hot) and transfer them to a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  9. Brush bbq sauce generously over the ribs. Place ribs in oven and broil for 3 minutes, letting the bbq caramelize just a bit.
  10. Remove from oven and serve.

 

Recipe Notes:  I use pasture raised pork, which tends to have somewhat shorter cooking times than conventionally raised pork.  My pasture raised pork back ribs cook in 2 hours.  If using conventionally raised pork, your cook time will likely be closer to 2.5 hours.

Brown Sugar Pork Rub Recipe

recipe for pork rub with brown sugar paprika and chili powder

Have you discovered rubs yet? Although I’ve been marinating meat for years, rubs are something I really discovered last year.  I started buying my pork and my beef directly from local farmers, and as a result I have been exposed to many new-to-me cuts of meat.  Some of those cuts require a slow cook at low temperatures and rubs are more effective than marinades for that.

A rub is a way to infuse a lot of flavour into your meat. By coating your meat in the rub and letting it sit in the refrigerator for several hours (anywhere from 2 to 24 hours), the flavour is able to penetrate beyond just the surface.

Ribs coated with brown sugar pork rub

One key ingredient in any rub is salt. The salt helps to draw the flavours into the meat.  I use coarse salt.  If you use table salt, reduce to about ¾ teaspoon.  The grains are smaller, so volume isn’t the same between different types of salt.

When using a rub, make sure that you coat every surface of your cut of meat, including any ends. I usually start with the bottom side of the meat, then any ends, and finally spread the rub on the top.  The moisture of the meat will help the rub stick to it and melt in a little as the meat sits in the fridge.

pork rub coating all sides of the slab of ribs

When I developed this pork rub recipe, I was looking for bold flavour, without too much heat, as my family doesn’t like very spicy food. This rub has some brown sugar to provide a bit of sweetness.  It also includes some chili powder, for just a bit of heat, but not very much.  It’s really a very family friendly pork rub recipe.

This brown sugar pork rub is very flavourful and is great on various cuts of pork, from ribs to chops to roasts. It’s been a big hit with my family.  They rave about it every time I make it.

I have ribs in the oven right now, coated in this rub to give them great flavour. Today I am sharing the recipe for the brown sugar pork rub.  Later this week I’ll share the technique for making these tender, oh so flavourful ribs.

Braised ribs brown sugar pork rub plus barbecue sauce

 

Recipe: Brown Sugar Pork Rub

This makes enough for about 2 pounds (1 kg) of ribs or chops, or a 3 pound (1.4 kg) roast.

recipe for brown sugar rub for pork

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon paprika
  • ¾ tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to small bowl and mix thoroughly.
  2. Place pork on a plate. Coat all sides of the pork with the rub, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
  3. Cook pork according to your recipe.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs: Chicken with Blackberry Sauce

Chicken Recipe Chicken with Blackberry Sauce

This chicken dish has become one of my favorites. There are several reasons for that. One of them is Greg’s reaction the first time I made it. He came into the house when I was almost done cooking, and excitedly exclaimed “It smells like a restaurant in here!” It was a compliment. And it was true. The shallots and fresh rosemary used in the blackberry sauce were really fragrant and made the food smell very appetizing. As this was early into my journey of cooking from scratch instead of making, uh, heating up, processed food, these wonderful smells were pretty uncommon in our kitchen.

Sprig of fresh rosemary - photo by Fir0002

Sprig of fresh rosemary – photo by Fir0002

I think a second reason I like this chicken with blackberry sauce so much is that this dish is what first introduced me to using fresh herbs. The recipe, which is from the August/September 2011 issue of Clean Eating magazine, calls for fresh rosemary. So off to the store I went, in search of fresh rosemary. It was easy to find, and I discovered that I like rosemary. The only problem was that the amount of rosemary in the package was far more than needed in the recipe. Not liking to waste food, I had to find other uses for it. My first success was combining it with garlic to make roasted potatoes. It didn’t take too long to figure out how to use this wonderful fresh rosemary, and then to move on to using other fresh herbs, like sage, dill and thyme.

Fresh herbs bring such vibrant flavour to my food that they have become a necessity in my kitchen. So much so that at this time last year I decided I would have to create a herb garden. Once I thought about it, I decided that if I was going to get Greg to dig up a garden for me, I might as well make it big enough to plant some vegetables too. Last year’s garden was a success. I had fresh herbs from the garden from late May until late November. It’s now late March, and I keep looking out the back window, feeling despair as I see my garden, still buried under several feet of snow. It feels like winter may never end this year. I want spring to arrive, so that I can plant again, and have the ability to go pick the herbs I need to prepare tonight’s dinner.

So you see, this chicken with blackberry sauce isn’t just a meal the family enjoys eating. It is also the reason I now have a herb and a vegetable garden.

This recipe is simple and easy to make. There are not very many ingredients, and only a bit of chopping for prep.

While making this dish, I learnt the technique of deglazing a pan. Deglazing is when you add liquid to the pan and scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom and they end up as a part of the sauce. Not only does it add flavour to a sauce, it also makes cleaning the pan quite easy.

Recipe: Chicken with Sautéed Blackberry Sauce

(recipe from Clean Eating magazine, August/September 2011 issue)

main dish idea chicken with blackberry sauce

Ingredients

  • 4 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 2  9- to 12-oz breasts cut in half)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots (1 large shallot)
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice*

Directions

  • Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • In large skillet (not non-stick), heat oil on medium heat. Add chicken and cook, about 6-7 minutes per side, or until it is cooked through. If the skillet is not large enough for all the chicken breasts to fit with space between them, cook in batches. Once cooked, transfer the chicken to serving plates and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • While the chicken is resting, place the same skillet on medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add rosemary and cook about 1 minute more, until shallots are tender.
  • Add the blackberries and pomegranate juice to the pan, deglazing the pan by scraping up browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the liquid is reduced to a thin layer, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Top chicken with the blackberry sauce and serve.

* Note: If you don’t have pomegranate juice, you can substitute a half/half mix of cranberry and orange juice. Don’t go with just cranberry juice as the result is just a bit too tart.

Super Easy Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin

 

Pork Tenderloin Teriyaki

I first made this teriyaki pork tenderloin recipe for my step-daughters when they were about 8 and 10. I was a little worried that they wouldn’t like it because of the fresh ginger.  I knew that ginger was not something they had been exposed to yet at that point, and I didn’t know how they would react to it.  Fortunately, my worry was unnecessary, as they both loved it, ginger and all.  It’s now ten years later, and the youngest still states that this is her favorite meat dish every time she eats it.

Pork Tenderloin Teriyaki

I love this teriyaki pork tenderloin recipe for several reasons.  One: it tastes great.  The fresh garlic and ginger give great flavour to the pork without overpowering it.  Two: the meat ends up incredibly tender. Although pork tenderloin is a tender cut of meat, marinating it makes it even more tender.  The longer it marinates the more tender it will be.  Three:  it is very easy to make.  Even Greg, who is intimidated by recipes and has a lot of difficulty following them, can make this dish.  Four: it makes great leftovers that can be used as the starting point for other great meals over the week.

I usually put the pork in a large freezer bag and pour the marinade in the bag with the pork.  Sometimes I double the marinade recipe and use two tenderloins.  I might cook both and use the extra as the start to other pork dishes during the week, or I might cook one and freeze the second one (this is when the freezer bag comes in extra handy), which means I have one in the freezer, already marinated and ready to go for a day when I am pressed for time.

The original recipe that my sister shared with me calls for sherry, not balsamic vinegar.  The last time I finished the bottle of cooking sherry I had, I didn’t bother replacing it.  I decided to use balsamic vinegar instead, and the flavour was just as good as the original.  It just wasn’t practical for me to have a bottle of sherry in the cupboard for just one recipe.  Balsamic vinegar on the other hand, is a pantry staple in my house as I use it all the time.  So I have been using balsamic vinegar since then.  Balsamic vinegar or cooking sherry, the choice is yours.  Use whatever works best for you.

Pork Tenderloin Teriyaki

Pork Tendeloin Teriyakii

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger root
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 large clove fresh garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)

Directions:

  1. Mix the first six ingredients together in a bowl to make the marinade.
  2. Pour marinade over pork, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  3. Place pork in shallow dish and bake 30-35 minutes at 350 F, until internal temperature reaches 155 F (68 C).

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Easy Grilled Pork Souvlaki

Easy Grilled Pork Souvlaki

My family likes pork souvlaki.  It makes for a great meal, as it is so flavourful.  Until about a year ago, I bought the already prepared souvlaki in packages at the grocery store.  Last year I realized I could probably make it myself and so I searched for recipes.

Making my own marinade for souvlaki is really easy.  In general, marinades are easy.  I like making my own, because that way I know what goes in it.  I find the quality of what I make myself is better than what I can buy already prepared.  And the cost is less to make my own too.

As I have spent more time cooking in the past few years, I have learnt that it isn’t necessary to follow recipes exactly, and that I can improvise, based on our likes/dislikes and on what I happen to have on hand.  Yesterday was an improvising day.

I prefer to use fresh herbs whenever I can, because I find they have so much more flavour.  And just the act of chopping fresh herbs makes the house smell great.

Yesterday I decided to grill some pork souvlaki for dinner.

Easy Grilled Pork Souvlaki

 

When you think of souvlaki, you probably think of oregano and garlic.  Garlic, no problem, as you can tell from yesterday’s post about garlic.  But the fresh herbs available to me at the moment are what I have growing in the garden: rosemary, sage, thyme, dill and chives.  No oregano.  However, I tend to think that the “Mediterranean herbs” as I call them (oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage) are pretty interchangeable.  The flavours of those herbs all work well together, and are found in many Greek and Italian dishes.  So I decided to work with what I had on hand, and to use just a bit of dried oregano too.

souvlaki marinade recipe

You can see all the fresh herbs, and the fresh garlic, in the marinade

The souvlaki was delicious.  The fresh herbs and fresh garlic really made the meat flavourful.  It was grilled just to doneness, not letting it overcook and get dry.  I served the pork with fresh local corn on the cob and a green salad that had pumpkin seeds and orange segments in it (I had used the zest of the orange to make some Orange Blueberry muffins and wanted to put the orange to good use).  The meal was a definite success.  The meat was tender and flavourful.  The corn tender and sweet and the orange added a nice slightly sweet and juicy touch to the salad.

So here is today’s pork souvlaki recipe, as I made it, with what was on hand.  I tasted the marinade as I was making it, which I think is always the trick to getting it right.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.  I used centre loin pork chops, because that is what I had on hand, but in future, I would use pork tenderloin, which would make it even more tender and juicy.

Easy Grilled Pork Souvlaki

 

Grilled Pork Souvlaki Recipe (makes 5 to 6 skewers)

  • 2 pounds pork centre loin chops 9or pork tenderloin), trimmed of fat and cut into 1 ½” cubes

Marinade:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 ½  tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons (about 2 extra large cloves) fresh garlic, minced
  • a pinch of salt
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fig flavoured balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic vinegar works too)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl.  Add pork pieces and make sure they are coated in the marinade.  Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Turn the pork pieces over at least once while marinating.

Take pork out of fridge about 30 minutes before cooking time, to let meat get to room temperature before grilling.

Thread pork cubes onto skewers, 4 or 5 pieces per skewer.  I use metal skewers for the bbq, that way I never have to worry about remembering to soak wooden skewers in water ahead of time.

Spread the herb and garlic pieces that are still in the marinade bowl onto the meat, coating it.

Oil the grill with olive oil or a cooking spray before starting grill.  Pre-heat grill.

Grill meat on low heat, 8 to 9 minutes, turning skewers after about 3 minutes.  Let meat rest about 2 to 3 minutes after removing from grill.

Enjoy!