Ribs need to be cooked low and slow
What it is: It's pig on a stick! They start at the spine, and just like a human being, wrap all the way around to the breast bone. It's rare to see a whole rib section; usually it's divided into parts:
- The baby back ribs are the curved bones along the spine and they're about 5-6in long.
- The center cut is from the bones that run down the side of the animal.
- Spare ribs include the softer, cartilage-heavy rib tips that connect to the bottom of the center cut.
- When the tips are removed from the rest of the ribs, it's called the St. Louis cut.
These are all great on the grill, though they are fatty. But that fat is unctuous, that's flavor. That's ribs, folks! If you don't like fat, don't buy ribs.
Grill it up: Cook them over indirect heat at a low temp with a little smoke. A good number to shoot for is around 225 degrees. You want to melt that connective tissue, which can become really tough if you cook your ribs too hot and fast. Leave 'em on the grill for about three to four hours for baby back, and five to six for spares, which can take a little longer because they have a little more meat on top of the bone. Don't let them shrink much. You don't want to see the bones protruding!
How to season: They're fantastic with or without a sauce, but if want to use a sauce, put it on at the end so it doesn't burn. I like a sweet, red Kansas City-style sauce. It's just perfect.
Loin is best brined
What it is: The loin is the big long muscle that runs from the shoulder all the way down to the hip. It's a tube that tapers a little towards the end, and that's where most of your pork chops come from. It's very lean -- the opposite of ribs -- so you've got to be really careful not to overcook it.
You can either soak it in a liquid brine or dry brine, which is when you sprinkle salt on it a few hours before cooking. This helps the protein hold on to moisture. If you want to put it in a bath of salt water, it works just about the same.
Grill it up: The temperature at which one grills should depend heavily on how thick the meat is. If it's a thick piece of meat, you can't cook it very hot or you'll burn the outside before the inside is done. If it's a 1/2in or so, you can cook it hot and fast -- you want a dark sear. Sear is flavor. I like to do a reverse sear. That means you start at a low temperature and gently warm them, and then you finish on a hotter temperature with the lid up.