First rule of thumb: skip the microwave

Felicia Trujillo

If you're lucky enough to have leftover ribs from a cookout or barbecue joint, you need to know how to reheat them properly so they don't dry out.

I asked Matthew Register, owner of Southern Smoke BBQ in Garland, NC, and author of the new cookbook Southern Smoke for his advice. Register recommends skipping the microwave and reheating cooked ribs slowly in a low oven. Place the ribs in a pan covered with aluminum foil, then bake at 250˚F. When the meat reaches an internal temperature 130˚F to 140˚F, remove the ribs from the oven.

Watch: How To Cook Fall-Off-The-Bone Ribs

If you are reheating ribs that you cooked at home with your own sauce or rub, Register suggests adding another layer of either to the ribs before serving them. "If you're using barbecue sauce, brush the ribs with the sauce, then cook them uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes so the sauce can caramelize on the ribs," he says. "If you're using a spice rub rather than a sauce, after you bring ribs the up to temperature, remove them from oven and cover them with the spice rub before cutting and serving."

If all this talk of ribs is making you hungry, try Register's recipe for Memphis-style dry-rub ribs from his new book:

Memphis Dry-Rub Ribs
In my restaurant, I've adopted Memphis-style ribs. Their signature flavor comes from a unique rub, featuring ingredients like oregano, celery seed, and onion powder. Since Memphis was a major city on the Mississippi River trade route from New Orleans, residents had access to spices like these that were unavailable in other parts of the South. The recipe that follows draws on these flavors and is my homage to Memphis-style ribs. Besides cooking low and slow, my only advice is to cook these on a Saturday night surrounded by friends, with B.B. King playing in the background.

Serves 4 to 6

For the Memphis Dry Rub
1 cup paprika
6 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. onion powder
¼ cup celery seed
2 cups packed brown sugar
6 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Tbsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. mustard powder
6 Tbsp. salt
½ cup chili powder

For the Mop
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
½ cup Memphis Dry Rub

2 racks baby back ribs, about 1½ pounds each
Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce, for serving (see below)

1. Make the dry rub: In a bowl or an airtight storage container, mix all rub ingredients together with a fork, making sure they are well combined. This rub can be held for up to 3 months when sealed.

2. Make the mop: In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, water, and rub and whisk together. Set aside.

3. Prepare a grill for smoking. To prepare the ribs, flip them over so that the bone side is facing up. Slide the tip of a dull knife under the membrane covering the back of the ribs. Lift and loosen the membrane until it breaks loose, then grab the corner of the membrane and pull it completely off. This will help create an even smoke ring on your ribs.

4. Season the ribs with about ½ cup of the rub, making sure the ribs are coated. Massage the rub into the ribs to make sure it sticks. Place the ribs bone side down on the grill and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Take the lid o­ your grill and brush the ribs with the mop sauce. Place the lid back on, cook for 30 minutes, and baste again. Cook for a final 30 minutes, or until the ribs are tender and the bones become exposed.

5. To serve, cut each rack in three-bone sections and sprinkle about ½ cup (or more, if desired) of the remaining rub over the top. (Save and store the rest of the rub for the next time you make ribs.) Serve with a side of Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce.

Memphis-Style BBQ Sauce
Makes 3 cups

2 cups ketchup
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. garlic salt
½ cup mustard
1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup pancake syrup (not maple syrup; you want the high sugar content of the syrup)
1 Tbsp. hot sauce

1. In a 3-quart (2.8 l) pot, combine all ingredients and whisk together until well mixed. Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. It can be held for up to a week.

Recipe excerpted from Southern Smoke: Barbecue, Traditions, and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today by Matthew Register.

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