This method emphasizes whatever smoky flavor you're able to coax out of your home grill.
1 tablespoon whole cumin
1/4 cup fine-quality imported sweet paprika
2 tablespoons top-quality chili powder
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic mashed to a paste with 1 tablespoon coarse salt
3 slabs pork spareribs (about 3 pounds each)
1. Make the dry rub: Heat a small skillet over moderately high heat, add the cumin, and toast until very fragrant, but not burned, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and cool completely. Grind to a fine powder in a coffee/spice grinder. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the remaining dry rub ingredients, mixing with your hands, if necessary, to completely incorporate the garlic.
2. The night before serving the ribs, coat them with half of the dry rub. Cover the ribs tightly and refrigerate overnight.
3. About 4 hours before serving, prepare your fire. You'll need a large grill with a cover, good hardwood charcoal, and about 12 cups of wood chips (we like hickory). Build a stack of charcoal on one side of the grill, ignite it, and let it cook until the coals have turned to fine gray ash. (A thermometer is a great thing to have for this type of cooking; the ideal temperature for the inside of the covered grill is 210°F.)
4. About 1 hour before cooking the ribs, remove them from the refrigerator. Half an hour before cooking ribs, cover about a sixth of the wood chips with water.
5. When ready to cook ribs, place the soaked wood chips on top of the coals. Transfer the meat to the grill, putting the ribs on the opposite side of the grill from the heat source. Cover. Total cooking time will be about 3 hours. Monitor the heat, ideally maintaining it at 210°F; you will need to add more charcoal during the course of the cooking. Every half hour, place another sixth of the wood chips, soaked, on top of the coals. Turn the ribs over every hour. Half an hour before the meat is done, coat it with the remaining dry rub. The meat is done when it is falling off the bones. Let the ribs stand for 10 minutes before cutting them into individual ribs.
Though the term barbecued ribs conjures up images of sauce-splattered slabs of meat, many rib connoisseurs believe that the finest barbecue of all are dry-rub ribs from Memphis—ribs that lack barbecue sauce altogether. This method emphasizes whatever smoky flavor you're able to coax out of your home grill. Purists also keep sauce off the table—but you should feel free to serve these delicious ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce. This recipe yields ribs that are quite spicy, so reduce the amount of chili powder and ground peppers if you like. Serves 6. Recommended wine: Pinot Noir