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This week we are cooking up some country style ribs a little different. I have opted to cut them up into cubes, double marinate them, then skewer them with various vegetables before smoking them. I have to say that this was a very good idea and the almost 6 pounds of CSR's that I prepared, didn't last long at my house!
These are not ribs at all but are usually just pieces cut from the pork butt. They have plenty of fat marbling which keeps them moist while they cook and if you cook them long enough they will get very tender. I do recommend marinating them and adding a good seasoning such as my rub a day or so before smoking them.
What to Purchase
Look for Country Style Ribs in the pork section of your local grocery store or meat market. They come as regular (bone-in) and boneless. I prefer the boneless but that's just me.. buy the bone-in if you prefer them. The boneless do work better for skewering since it makes it easier to cut them up into uniform pieces.
Look for CSR's that have plenty of fat marbling in the meat without a lot of large fat pockets. The marbling is good, but if there are huge pockets of fat, you will most likely want to trim that out before cooking to make them more pleasant to eat.
Purchase about a pound per person if they are boneless, with the bone-in, you will want to purchase extra to make up for the bone. Obviously, adjust according to who will be eating.
How to Prepare
I like to marinate these in Worcestershire and dry rub but when putting them on skewers, cut them up before marinating them as this allows the marinade to get to more of the meat at one time.
Lay the pieces on a cutting board and cut them into 1.5 inch by 1.5 inch pieces as uniformly as possible making sure to trim any excess fat on the outside as you go. I take a little extra time removing outside fat and my family really appreciates it at meal time.
With the pieces cut up, trimmed of fat and ready to go, place them in a suitably sized container and pour Worcestershire over them until covered. Marinate for 6 hours covered in the fridge.
When 6 hours is up, pour off the Worcestershire sauce then place the meat into a large gallon sized ziploc bag with ½ cup of my rub or about ¼ cup per pound. Zip the bag and shake or roll on the cabinet to coat the meat well.
Once satisfied that the meat is well coated, place the entire bag in the fridge for 8-12 hours to let the flavors meld together. You can also pour them back into the original marinating bowl that you used previously.
This process of marinating with Worcestershire then my rub is a process that I like to use to get the maximum flavor out of the meat. I feel the Worcestershire does a pretty good job of giving the outside edge of the meat a good flavor but the rub then takes it to a whole new level. Try a batch without the rub then with the rub and you'll see exactly what I mean.
Skewering the Meat
After marinating, the meat is ready to be put on skewers. This can consist of bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes or the long stainless steel versions or even the new, handy dandy FIREWIRE.
Note: The FireWire is cool but is only handy if you are planning on taking the food off before serving. If you are wanting to make individual skewers for each person, then I recommend the stainless steel variety like the ones shown HERE. These are flat instead of round and the food does not spin on the skewer as easily as they do on the bamboo or other round skewers.
I purchased the small cherub yellow and red tomatoes, some green bell pepper, small yellow potatoes, and pearl onions to go on the skewers with the meat. All of these veggies are wonderful in the smoker and make for a perfect meat when it's all done.
I have a tendency to be real symmetrical and systematic when putting the meat and the vegetables on the skewers but I was careful this time and left it all to chance.
Place all of the meat on the skewers or FireWire with vegetables in between until all of the meat is gone.
Tip: I noticed that most of my pieces where very uniform but I still ended up with 6 or 8 pieces pieces that were fairly small.. save these till the end then put all of them on a skewer together with a few tomatoes or pearl onions. This particular skewer of small pieces will be done in about an hour or so and makes a great snack while you wait for the other stuff to get done.
Smoking the Meat
Once everything is on skewers, lay them aside and go get your smoker ready to go. I recommend about 225-240° on these and smoke flowing the entire time if you are using a charcoal, gas or electric smoker. Once the smoker is clean, fired up, ticking along at your goal temperature and light smoke is starting to show, you are ready to place the meat on the smoker.
Place the skewers directly on the grate with about an inch between each one to let the smoke have plenty of access.
The country style ribs can be expected to take about 3-4 hours at 225-240°. They will most likely go up pretty fast at first then hit a stall at about 150°. At this point, meats like pork butt and brisket will stop raising in temperature for a bit while the fat and muscle is being broken down. This is normal and should not be rushed. Just let it happen and the meat will be more tender and tasty because of it.
With these being smaller pieces of pork butt, the stall should not last as long as it would in a large hunk of meat but it will still be enough to be noticeable.
I used all cherry wood to smoke these country style ribs but they are also good with pecan, oak, mesquite, hickory and almost any fruit wood. I must tell you though, if you use a really light wood like apple, it may be enough and it may not. I like to really taste the smoke and therefore, I can't use apple alone. It must be buddied up with some oak or pecan to get a fuller flavor. This is a personal thing and can only be discovered through experimentation.
When is the Meat Done?
I recommend using a thermometer in one of the larger pieces to give you an idea of when the meat is getting done but tenderness is the main indicator. After about 3 hours I would just do a tear test on one of the pieces of meat. I usually let the meat get to about 175-180° and even slightly higher on occasion to make sure it's as tender as it needs to be. The tenderness should be something like a good steak.. not falling apart but easy to bite and chew.
How to Serve the Meat
Really in my opinion, this is an all-in-one meal and with some dinner rolls and maybe some of my barbecue sauce on the side for anyone who wants it, you're good to go. If you want to get fancy, you could do some corn on the cob or even some fried okra to round it off real nice.
If you want extra vegetables or you have some left over that would not fit on the skewers, sprinkle on some of my rub (be generous with it) and place the pan under the skewers to catch some of the juice that falls down.
- Purchase pork country style ribs @ 1lb per person (approx.)
- Cut meat into 1.5 x 1.5 inch pieces
- Trim any excessive visible fat on outside of meat pieces
- Place meat in bowl covered with Worcestershire; Marinate in fridge for 6 hours
- Discard marinade
- Place meat in ziploc bag with Jeff's Rub recipe
- Shake and roll bag to coat well
- Place meat in fridge again for 8-12 hours
- Place meat on skewers with vegetables
- Smoke for 3-4 hours at 225-240 degrees
- Smoke until tender or meat reaches 175-180 degrees internally
- Serve immediately with a little warm sauce (for those who want it)
- Why marinate twice? To me the Worcestershire does a great job of adding a little special flavor and it helps to tenderize the meat but if you leave it on there too long, the meat just tastes like Worcestershire. This trick of marinating for only 6 hours then with my rub alone, gives you just the right amount of flavor and tenderness without being over the top.
- If you like the potatoes really soft, consider cutting them in half instead of using them whole.
- If you prefer the meat to be “wet”, brush my sauce onto the ribs about 30 minutes before they are done cooking. Also serve warm sauce in individual condiment cups at the table for dipping.
- Cut leftover meat into thin strips and save it in the fridge for putting on salads the next day.. excellent cold or warm.
- No skewers? No problem. Place the meat directly on the grate making sure it is not able to fall through. Smoke the vegetables in a shallow pan on a lower rack, if possible, stirring occasionally.