Atomic Ribs

Atomic Ribs

Why This Recipe Works: Armed with multiple racks of ribs and the entire contents of our spice cabinet and pantry, we set out to develop a recipe for really great (and seriously hot) atomic ribs. We used our basic grill-to-oven method, which allows the meat to develop deep smoky flavor before moving to a low oven to finish. We cranked up the heat in the spice rub with paprika, chili powder, pepper, and cayenne. Salt and brown sugar added flavor and a touch of sweetness for balance. Mustard contributed bright flavor and a thick consistency that helped the sauce cling to the ribs. Heat in the sauce came from habanero chiles and dry mustard. We brushed the ribs with the sauce just before serving so it retained its pungent flavor.

Serves 4 to 6

Buy St. Louis–style ribs, which are more manageable than untrimmed pork spareribs. If you can’t find them, baby back ribs will work fine; just reduce the cooking time in the oven in step 6 to 1 to 2 hours. To remove the membrane from the ribs, use a paring knife to loosen one end, then grasp the membrane with a paper towel and peel it off in one piece. This sauce is very spicy. For less heat, use only one habanero and remove the ribs and/or seeds before mincing. If you’d like to use wood chunks instead of wood chips when using a charcoal grill, substitute two medium wood chunks, soaked in water for 1 hour, for the wood chip packet.

1/4 cup sliced pickled banana peppers, chopped fine, and 2 tablespoons pickling liquid
1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup yellow mustard
4 scallions, sliced thin
3 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons chili sauce
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 habanero chiles, stemmed and minced
Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
2 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) full racks pork spareribs, preferably St. Louis-style, trimmed and membrane removed
2 cups wood chips

1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.)

2. FOR THE RIBS: Combine paprika, chili powder, sugar, pepper, salt, and cayenne in bowl. Pat ribs dry with paper towels and rub evenly with spice mixture. Wrap ribs in plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours. (If refrigerated, let sit at room temperature for 1 hour before grilling.)

3. Just before grilling, soak wood chips in water for 15 minutes, then drain. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap chips in 8 by 4 1/2-inch foil packet. (Make sure chips do not poke holes in sides or bottom of packet.) Cut 2 evenly spaced 2-inch slits in top of packet.

4A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter three-quarters filled with charcoal briquettes (4 1/2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against side of grill. Place wood chip packet on top of coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

4B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Remove cooking grate and place wood chip packet directly on primary burner. Set cooking grate in place, turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Turn primary burner to medium-high and turn off other burner(s). (Adjust primary burner as needed to maintain grill temperature around 325 degrees.)

5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Unwrap ribs. Place ribs, meaty side down, on cooler side of grill; ribs may overlap slightly. Cover (position lid vent over meat if using charcoal) and cook until ribs are deep red and smoky, about 2 hours, flipping and rotating racks halfway through grilling. During final 20 minutes of grilling, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees.

6. Remove ribs from grill and wrap tightly with foil. Arrange foil-wrapped ribs on rimmed baking sheet and cook in oven until tender and fork inserted into ribs meets no resistance, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.

7. Remove ribs from oven and let rest, still wrapped, for 30 minutes. Unwrap ribs and brush with half of sauce. Slice ribs between bones and serve with remaining sauce.

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