Kansas City Ribs and Smokey Beans

September 24, 2011

I haven’t made my kids favorite summertime recipe in more than a year, and with spare ribs on sale for $2/lb this was my best chance. I started them at noon, cooked them over indirect heat for four hours. They were ready for a 6pm dinner.  After an initial effort of 1 hour, most of the cooking time is unattended. You’ll need to be home to do something every 30 minutes or hour, but the heat is so low that you can rely on the clock rather than constant checking.

Slow-cooked ribs are fall-apart tender


  1. If using St. Louis cut (as Chris Kimball recommends), then use 2 full racks of pork ribs, plus double the sauce recipe. I use 1 rack of regular spare ribs, because it cost so much less, and isn’t cryo-packed like the St. Louis cut.
  2. In the past there was some chance that the ribs would be overcooked, so I reduced the number of coals from 60 to 50. However, since Kingsford has reformulated their charcoal (and ruined what used to be a great product) you need to use the entire 60 coals.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $12 for single rack of ribs, about 5 pounds.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 12:00 PM. Dinner time 6:00 PM.

The original recipe for the ribs is here, the beans are here, and the sauce is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

1 full racks pork spareribs.
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups wood chips
2 disposable aluminum pans (13″x9″ )

  1. Use a paring knife to loosen the membrane from the back of the ribs, then use paper towels to rip it off. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels.
  2. Combine 3 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper in small bowl. Massage the spice rub into both sides of ribs.
  3. Soak wood chips in bowl of water for at least 15 minutes. Open bottom grill vents fully. Light a chimney starter 2/3-rds full with charcoal (about 60 briquettes) and burn for 25 minutes until covered with fine gray ash.
  4. Meanwhile begin your preparations of smokey beans through step 4.
  5. Arrange a 13″x9″ disposable aluminum pan on one side of grill. Dump the hot coals into a pile on the opposite side. Sprinkle half the pre-soaked wood chips over coals. Replace grill grate.
  6. Position the ribs so that they are over pan; meat-side up. Place some aluminum foil directly on the ribs to trap heat.  Cover grill and place the lid vents directly over ribs to draw the smoke to the ribs. The vents should be 2/3 open.
  7. After 1 hour flip and rotate. Continue barbecuing ribs for another 1 hour.

Smokey BBQ Beans:

4 slice bacon
1 minced onion
4 cloves garlic
1 pound pinto beans
6 cups water
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons table salt

  1. The night before soak beans.
  2. Chop bacon and cook in Dutch oven over medium heat for 7 minutes until it begins to crisp. Meanwhile mince onion, peel garlic and drain and rinse your beans.
  3. Stir in minced onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Press garlic directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add beans and water and bring to simmer, then reduce stovetop to medium-low. Cover and cook for 1 hour until the beans are just soft.
  5. Add 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons brown mustard, 1 teaspoon hot sauce, and 2 teaspoons table salt.  Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for another 1 hour.
  6. Put beans to 13″x9″ disposable aluminum pan.  and wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Using paring knife or skewer, poke holes in foil.
  7. The beans will finish cooking by nestling disposable pan with beans inside disposable pan already in grill.

BBQ Sauce:

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small onion
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup root beer
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoons brown mustard
1/2 tablespoon hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

  1. Mince onion. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chicken stock first to stop the onions from cooking. Whisk in all the remaining ingredients (except for the optional liquid smoke).
  3. Bring the sauce to boil, then reduce stove-top to medium heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour until the sauce has reduced to 2 cups.
  4. Stir in liquid smoke, if using.

To Finish:

  1. About 1h30m after you begin grilling the ribs (About 30 minutes before coals are spent), light another 60 coals in chimney starter and burn until covered with fine gray ash.
  2. Remove cooking grill and place new coals from the chimney started right on top of spent coals. Sprinkle the second cup of soaked wood chips over coals.
  3. Nestle beans inside existing disposable aluminum pan. Replace cooking grill and place ribs directly above beans, so that the juices flavor the beans.
  4. Turn and rotate ribs and continue barbecuing for 1 hour.
  5. Brush ribs liberally with sauce, on both sides. Wrap with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Barbecue for 1 more hour.
  6. Transfer ribs (still in foil) to cutting board and rest 30 minutes.
  7. Let beans cook for 15 minutes longer than ribs; to keep them hot for serving. Discard foil, stir in 1/2-cup of barbecue sauce.
  8. Unwrap ribs and brush with additional barbecue sauce. Slice ribs between bones and serve with remaining sauce.

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