Seems that barbecue is a big topic round here lately. Winter denial perhaps? There have been a few longish threads on the Chicago Board as well, one of which is linked to below. We are not claiming any great things for Chicago barbecue, just tasting, cataloging and trying to understand. Chicago barbecue is primarily ribs and rib tips (are these purely Chicago, or do we find them elsewhere? Some places in Chicago do claim to have "invented" them.), light smoking in a more or less direct flame, tomato-based sauce applied, optionally, after cooking. As one of our posters likes to say, "if you are talking about the sauce first, there is something wrong with the meat," or something to that effect. Anyone who wishes, please feel free to correct, add to, or improve that discussion.
As a result of this, we have had a little exchange about "fall off the bone" barbecue, which seems to be recognized in certain quarters as a kind of gold standard. In my experience, however, fall-off-the-bone means something terrible involving water, has been done to ribs to get them there. Usually par-boiling, holding or baking in foil, freezing and reheating or some such. While these increase tenderness, they also take water-soluble compunds that contribute to taste leaving behind a tender, often mushy, and most importantly flavorless piece of meat. Conceal it with sauce, and it can be tasty, but the meat is lousy.
There are dishes made with ribs that are based on baking in foil or even boiling, and I respect those well enough for what they are though my English Dad taught me years ago that boiling meat is a horror and I generally agree (you get great broth and lousy meat). And I also recognize that it is theoretically possible to slow cook ribs in such a way that they come out tender and flavorful, but I have never found a restaurant, or really even a person, that does this. In my world, fall off the bone ribs have always been substantially tasteless ("meat jello" as one poster describes a particularly unpleasant version). If they ain't chewy, they ain't flavorful.
So I ask the collective wisdom of the Board - is "fall off the bone" a genuine and tasteful style of barbecued ribs, or just a vehicle for sauce and a hoax perpetrated by the restaurant industry to sell an easy to prepare and hold product?
If it is real, where and how is it done?
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