The Amazing World of Ribs

The weekend is almost here, summer is fading into fall, and it’s the perfect time of year to fire up the grill.  Next time you cook out, you might should consider taking a break from burgers and hot dogs.  You might should want to cook some barbecue.  But you might don’t have a grill large enough for a whole hog or even a pork shoulder.  Plus, slow-cooking those big ol’ cuts o’ pig is more time consuming than most people can handle.  Ribs make for a nice change of pace for North Carolina barbecue addicts, but I’m guessing you might could use some guidance on which cut of ribs to buy.

The best website I’ve seen on exploring the wonderful world of ribs is without a doubt  Check the site out when you get a chance.  Until then, read the recent Huffington Post article by creator Meathead Goldwyn.  “Unfuddling the Many Different Cuts of Ribs” is an illustrated guide to understanding and selecting the right ribs for your next cook out.  Happy ribbing…

Judge Ribs Not Lest Ye Ribs Be Judged

This past weekend I was lucky enough to help judge the Texas Pete Twin City RibFest in Winston-Salem.  Although ribs don’t hold a place of any real importance in North Carolina barbecue culture (sorry Rib Rabbi, but it’s true), I still didn’t hesitate to sign up when offered a coveted judge’s seat.  And the fact that 60 MPH winds and heavy downpours were forecast didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.  (Luckily, only the rains materialized while I was at the event.)  I was ready to make my first appearance as a bona fide, albeit not certified, barbecue judge.

Receiving instructions from festival organizer Allen McDavid (Photo by Ben "Boss Hog" Pressgrove)

I can attest that the six-person judges panel took its job as seriously as one would expect (i.e., at least somewhat seriously).  We were focused on the task at hand, especially since Ms. Texas Pete 2010 no-showed for her judges gig, leaving us menfolk with nothing to ogle besides the ribs on the table in front of us. 

Festival organizer Allen McDavid spent upwards of three minutes preparing us for our roles as judges.  He paced back and forth in front of the judge’s table and explained…  The ribs would be served one at a time on a numbered plate to protect their identity (lest any of the judges be on the take and working for a contestant).  Each rib was to be judged on four categories–taste, texture, tenderness and appearance.  Each category should be rated between 2 and 9, with 2 being the worst score we could dole out and 9 being the best.  (Apparently barbecue judges cannot count to 10.) A score of 1 would be assigned only if a contestant broke a rule related to the category, such as garnishing with something other than lettuce or parsley.   After tasting the first rib, we should write down our scores, take a drink of water to cleanse the palate, and wipe our hands if we so desired.  And then we were to taste, rinse, wipe and repeat until each contestant’s ribs were sampled.  

Nothing too it, right?  Anyone could be a barbecue judge.  Piece of cake.  Or so I thought until the tasting began.  Continue reading