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BBQ spareribs, "dry style"--what to expect?


Restaurants & Bars

BBQ spareribs, "dry style"--what to expect?

Bruce | Sep 3, 2001 04:31 PM

I'm doing a little research here, soliciting some feedback from Southern hounds who know something about genuine "dry style" bbq ribs.

(Introduction:) What prompts this is that some friends of mine took me to a roadhouse/restaurant on south side of Chicago. The paper menu there lectures tediously and condescendingly about how people not familiar with "real" dry-style ribs might not understand/appreciate them, and so they will not accept orders back, and the diner should perhaps be cautious and get, initially, a small order, etc., etc. Also lectures how pink meat does not indicate rawness but instead smoking, etc. (Even a yankee like me knows that.)

I've played around with ribs myself for over 20 years, investigated some of the controversies (rubs/no rubs, marinade/no marinade, par-boil or not, etc.), have two different kinds of smokers & big ol' grill, have done attempts on back ribs, spareribs, shoulder (or fresh butt), as well as on fowl & fish. Have several books on the subject of BBQ, have made my own rubs & sauces, and have travelled around sampling BBQ (pork & ribs generally) in TN, GA, SC, NC, and VA. (Also in Chicago many times.) (Also Mutton in 1 or 2 places in Owensboro, KY.)

I HAVE NOT however been to Memphis and I hear that this is ground zero for "dry style" ribs.

So here are my questions: Is "dry style" that much different from wet, except that one is served with the sauce on and the other isn't (or just with sauce on the side)? Also, both dry and wet can be seasoned with rub before smoking/cooking, right?--no law against using a rub on wet, and I would guess it's frequently done? (Probably should ALWAYS use rub on dry style, though; optional on wet?)

Finally, since I haven't been to Memphis, here is the reason for my question: That restaurant in Chicago served up the worst ribs I have ever had in my life.
Their "genuine" dry style ribs had rub on them, yes, and I expected that; and the outside of them was almost black from the smoke, and I also expected that; and the inside was pink, and I expected that. BUT, the black outside was leathery tough like a piece of jerky--hard to cut through, hard to bite through, difficult to chew; it would pull off in long, tough strands with the grain of the meat if you ran your fork over it (of necessity, with some great force). Now, here is my main question: Is this what real dry style ribs are supposed to be like? Is this what they're like in Memphis? Am I missing something or some acquired taste I need to develop before I can appreciate these, or is this yahoo in Chicago just passing off BAD FOOD on people and using his little lectures in his menu to keep people from complaining?

I wanted to hear from some experts on this before I go off half-cocked and lambast the guy on the Chicago board for something I might not know about. But let me assure you that this tough texture on the outside was unlike anything I've ever had or made in my life.

Thanks yall,


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