Disclaimer: the intent of this blog is not to traffic in “man food.” I do not adhere to the belief that meat and beer are the two main food groups, and I do not intend to promote the dietary repertoire of a drunk tyrannosaurus-rex. In fact, it is my continual aim to limit the amount of animal flesh I consume—to relegate it to the status of a treat or an indulgence.
Having made those necessary proclamations, I will admit that large, tough cuts of meat are among my favorite things to cook. There is something a bit magical about the alchemy of a long, slow cooking time that fills the house with increasingly intense aromas as those cuts break down into something almost altogether new, taking on a level of tenderness and succulence that seemed initially impossible.
There are a couple of likely explanations for my exuberance about this style of cooking. First: braising a pot roast, for example, makes an amateur feel like an expert. There is little finesse in throwing a big pot roast into some broth along with aromatic veggies and parking it in the oven for four hours, but your friends will think you’re a virtuoso when you’re all 23 years old and you plop that beast on the table.
The second reason is perhaps a tad more personal. I floated through a couple years of post-college-extended-adolescence as a meat cutter at a little grocery co-op in Washington state. (The crunchy yuppies in that little town had no idea how lucky they were to have access to the variety of cuts that we offered in that tiny little kitchen—I’ve yet to come across anything that diverse in southern California—but I digress.) Those couple of years spent in that job fertilized my interest in cooking. There’s only so much time one can spend being broke and drinking beer (a considerable amount of time, yes—but I digress once more) in a small town without finding something to dirty the idle hands. Fortunately, I had access to free soon-to-expire racks of ribs and flat iron steaks, and I decided to learn how to cook them.
I was quite the devotee to the cult of Alton Brown in those early years (and still am to some extent), and his rib recipe is the basis for this one. The true beauty of this method for cooking is that the braising liquid becomes the sauce, and none of that flavorful nectar is wasted. I wanted to extend the low-and-slow braising time, so I opted for the slow cooker, whereas he advocates oven braising wrapped in foil. And whereas he caramelizes the sauce via broiler, I opted for the grill because these were served up for a group barbecue.
Beer braised pork ribs
Adapted from I'm Just Here for the Food
- 5 lbs. pork ribs or baby back ribs
- Kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons dry rub (see below)
- 22 oz. of beer (such as leftover home brewed dunkelweizen)
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup asian chili garlic sauce
For the rub
- 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
- 3/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons ground thyme
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- Season racks liberally with kosher salt and dry rub, coating on all sides. Place onto sheet pan or baking dish, cover with foil or cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, place ribs into slowcooker (you may need to cut racks in half to fit properly) and cover with beer. Cook on low setting for 6 hours.
- Remove ribs from slow cooker and refrigerate covered for up to 8 hours.
- Ladle braising liquid into a saucepan placed over medium-low heat. Add ketchup, Worcestershire, orange juice, maple syrup, and chili sauce. Simmer until reduced by approximately 2/3, or until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to bowl.
- Preheat grill to medium-high. Add ribs to grill, flesh side down, and cook for 3 minutes, flip and cook for another 3 minutes, brushing flesh side with sauce. Flip again, allowing sauce to caramelize for 3 minutes, brushing other side with sauce. Flip and cook once more for 3 minutes, completing a total of six minutes for each side.
- Remove from grill and rest before cutting. Garnish with cilantro if desired. Serve with remaining sauce on the side.