Kansas City Ribs and Smoked Beans

Yesterday was my big BBQ for the Memorial Day weekend. I started cooking at 11 AM and was busy with 4 or 5 recipes until dinnertime at 6 PM. First and foremost, the recipe of the day was these slow-cooked barbecued ribs and smoked beans, which take 6 hours in the making. This is one of Chris Kimball’s more ingenious recipe. It uses both level of your Weber kettle grill for cooking; the beans are down with the coals, and the ribs are placed directly above the beans and the drippings from the ribs fall down to flavor the beans. The results are spectacular; as you would expect with slow-cooked ribs (4 hours of indirect heat).  This is one of my kids favorite summertime recipe, but I usually only make it once or twice a year because of the time commitment.

Here are the ribs before being brushed with final smattering of BBQ sauce.

This recipe is not available on Cook’s Illustrated website, only available on ATK’s website (from season 8) for which I don’t have a subscription. But if you do subscribe, then Chris Kimball has 3 separate recipes and you are supposed to weave them together on your own. Start with the ribs until they have their spice rubs applied, then work on the beans as the coals ignite, finally start the sauce after the ribs are on the grill. I’ve done the integration below, so that it’s all part of a single flow.


  1. I’ve been trying to switch my grilling over to lump charcoal, because of Kingsford corporate blunders, but slow cooking absolutely needs regular charcoal briquettes. Unfortunately, the first batch of briquettes self-extinguished (a constant problem with Kingsford’s reformulation). So the first 2 hours of barbecuing were at exceptionally low temperatures (between 250 and 175-degrees). However, the second batch of charcoal re-ignited the first batch and super-heated the ribs (above 400-degrees; which is my thermometers maximum temperature) during hours 3 and 4 of barbecuing. Solution: If your coals tend to self-extinguish, add a little lump charcoal to your first batch of briquettes. This will ensure that the first batch does lose its potency, and will ensure that the second batch isn’t overheating because of re-igniting the un-spent coals from the first batch.
  2. 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.
  3. My ribs were exceptionally meaty this year, which made this recipe especially rewarding. The only downside is that they weren’t as fall-apart-tender as usual. Still well-cooked and delicious, but not as tender as past years.
  4. I inadvertently use 1/2-cup of molasses instead of the 1/4-cup called for in the recipe. It was fine and gave the sauce a deeper flavor, but 1/4-cup is better.
  5. In addition to these 3 recipes (Ribs, BBQ sauce and Beans), I made the carrot cake (which I will publish in a few days) and the granola. There weren’t many changes with the granola, so I just updated the existing post from 2 months ago.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $18 for large, single rack of ribs, about 7 pounds.
How much work? Medium/High.
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 bean recipe is here, and the sauce is here.  My descriptions of how I prepare it today are given below:

The best baked beans you’ll ever eat.

BBQ Ribs Ingredients:
1 full racks pork spareribs (or 2 racks of St. Louis Cut ribs).
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. The night before your barbecue, soak your pinto beans in  12 cups (3 quarts) of water with 2 tablespoons of table salt. Allow to sit on counter-top overnight for at least 8 hours. Alternatively, you can use the “quick soak” method that brings the beans to a 1-minute boil, then allow them to sit for an 1 to 2 hour before draining. Incidentally, the quick soak method is also more effective at removing the non-digestible enzymes that cause intestinal gases.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 20 minutes until covered with fine gray ash.
  5. Meanwhile, use these 20 minutes to begin your preparations of smokey beans through step 3.

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. Chop bacon and cook in Dutch oven over medium heat for 6 minutes until it begins to crisp (not fully cooked).
  2. Meanwhile mince onion, peel garlic and drain and rinse your beans. Stir minced onion into bacon and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Press garlic directly into skillet and cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add drained beans and 6 cups of water to pot, and bring up to a simmer, then reduce burner to medium-low. Cover and cook for 1 hour until the beans are just soft.
  4. When the coals are ready, arrange one of your 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. Position the ribs so that they are over pan; meat-side up. Place some aluminum foil directly ontop 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 1/2 open.

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. After the ribs have been cooking for 1 hour, flip then and rotate so that the side nearest the fire is now farther from the fire. Replace the foil directly on-top of the ribs. Continue barbecuing ribs for another 1 hour. (Note: if you have trouble with your Kingsford self-extinguishing then throw a few pieces of lump charcoal on-top of the Kingsford to keep it cooking at an even pace)
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the beans: 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 over medium-low burner while uncovered for another 1 hour.
  3. About 1h40m after you began grilling the ribs (About 20 minutes before coals are spent), light another 60 coals in chimney starter and burn until covered with fine gray ash.
  4. With about 5 minutes to go before the second batch of coals are ready, empty the beans into a second 13″x9″ disposable aluminum pan.  Wrap it tightly with aluminum foil. Use a paring knife or skewer to poke about 12 holes in foil, which will allow the juices from the ribs to permeate into the beans. The beans are not yet done; they will finish cooking by nestling disposable pan with beans inside disposable pan already in grill.
  5. 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.
  6. Nestle beans inside existing disposable aluminum pan. Replace cooking grill.
  7. Turn and rotate ribs so that the meat side is upwards, placing the place ribs directly above beans, so that the juices flavor the beans. Barbecue for 1 hour.
  8. Brush ribs liberally with sauce, on both sides. Tightly wrap the ribs with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Continue barbecuing for 30-minutes to 1-1/2 hour more; check their doneness after the first 30 minutes to ensure they don’t overcook. If there are very meaty then they may need and the full 1-1/2 hours.
  9. Transfer ribs (still in foil) to cutting board and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  10. Check the beans for doneness, if they are not fully soft bring them inside and bring them to a vigorous boil until soft. If they are soft allow the beans to continue to cook for 15 minutes longer than ribs; to keep them hot for serving. Discard foil, stir in 1/2-cup of barbecue sauce.
  11. Unwrap ribs and brush with additional barbecue sauce. Slice ribs between bones and serve with remaining sauce.
  12. Chop off the burnt ends, cut them into small pieces and add them to the beans.

2 Responses to Kansas City Ribs and Smoked Beans

  1. Trax says:

    So, this is like a year later, but Stubbs briquettes are highly regarded. I’m still on Kingsford, since Lowe’s sells 40 lbs for $9 every so often. Wicked Good Charcoal is a fantastic lump, especially for long, low cooks.

    • Thanks, I will try giving them a try. I’m still on kingsford too, but sometimes mix in some lump charcoal, but it burns hotter and quicker. Still haven’t found a good alternative for low and slow, so will definitely give it a try.

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