I've become more of a fan of ribs lately, getting past the fact that you're going to get a little messy eating them. There are lots of different types of ribs. The only beef ribs I've had weren't all that great, so I suppose at some point I'll try them again, but for now I'd recommend pork ribs over beef ribs.
There are many cuts. I learned a little about them when doing a secret shopper assignment at a local grocery store, and I had to ask questions about something in the meat department. For more information than you ever wanted to know about the different types of ribs, go check out amazingribs.com, otherwise just take my word for it that you want the baby back ribs. Some of the other types look bigger, but they have longer bones and thinner meat, so not really worth it.
Alton Brown from the Food Network has a good basic rib recipe that many other recipes out there appear to be based on. At least there is a troll that has posted on most of the top recipes that it looks like they copied Alton's recipe. It may actually be Alton. Who knows?
So if you want a specific recipe, you can go check out the proportions he uses. I just googled around to get a basic list of the spices people often use in their dry rub and sprinkled them on.
Before I jump into that, most recipes out there call for two racks of ribs. Both times I've cooked them, I've just purchased one rack, which will generally come in somewhere between 2 and 3 pounds. I think the idea, though, is if you're going through all this work, you might as well make twice as much, or else you're throwing a party, so you want to make sure there's enough for everyone.
The membrane is the weird part. The first time I made them, I couldn't find something that matched others' description of the membrane, so I assumed it had already been removed, and it came out fine. This time, I found a video that shows how to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. I followed his directions, but it shredded all up instead of coming off in one piece. So if anyone else out there has better experience with this step, I'd appreciate your advice.
From there on, I took a good handful of brown sugar and sprinkled it all over one side of the ribs, maybe not quite as thick as you'd put it on cinnamon rolls. Then I sprinkled on cumin, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, pepper, and salt. I didn't measure at all, just sprinkled it out. This is where you can get pretty creative. If you want to add red pepper to spice it up, ginger to add an Asian touch to it, Emeril's Essence, whatever. These are your ribs.
Rub it in like you're giving it a good back rub, because pretty much that's what you're doing. Flip it over and do the same to the other side.
Wrap it up and seal it tight in some foil. Depending on how the bones stick out, you can rip some holes pretty easily, so you might need to do two layers or use heavy duty stuff. Throw it in the fridge overnight.
When it's time to cook, pull the ribs out of the fridge and unroll one end of the foil packet. We're going to add some braising liquid to the packet and reseal it. I used 1/2 cup apple juice with a tablespoon or so of red wine vinegar and about a tablespoon of honey. I also added a teaspoon or two of beef bouillon, mainly because we have a huge can of it. Microwave it to soften up the honey and mix it up. Some people recommend you add the same seasonings to the braising liquid as you used in the dry rub in case it gets washed off while you're pouring in the liquid, but I wasn't too concerned about that.
Pour the liquid into the end of your foil packet, and seal it back up. If you're not sure you have a great seal, just wrap the whole thing again in another layer of foil.
Place it in the oven on a cookie sheet, at 225 degrees for four hours. You can maybe bump it up to 250 for three hours, but don't push it. High temp, fast cooking = tough ribs.
I put them bone side up so the majority of the meat is soaking in the liquid. You can flip them halfway if you feel like you should do something to them, but resist the urge to open the packet. Just leave it closed. Don't worry, it's doing its thing. Go on a hike or something.
After the four hours is over, pull the pan out and carefully open your packet. Yes, we're cooking low and slow, but 225 degree steam still burns. It's best to just open one end first, pour the liquid out into a sauce pan, and then open the rest of the packet.
Use your little fat separator measuring cup thingy with the juice to get rid of most of the extra fat, and boil until it thickens up a bit, being careful not to burn it. Here's where you can add a little Sweet Baby Ray's if you want. Don't go crazy on the sauce, though, as we only need maybe 1/3 of a cup of sauce per rack. Brush the sauce over one side of the ribs, either on a new piece of foil or if you were careful, just use the remnants of your foil packet. Broil for a few minutes so the sauce caramelizes even more and gets nice and sticky. Flip it over, extra carefully, because if you did this right, it's going to be falling apart on you. You might need a helper. Sauce up the other side and broil again. Many people will do this part on the grill. If your ribs stay together well enough to toss it around on the grill, feel free.
Show the awesome ribs to your kids, let them tell you how disgusting it looks, and proceed to eat it all yourself.