You see pork ribs eaten all over the South. Everybody’s got their favorite recipe,
but the ribs are always slow-smoked and basted in sweet sauce. I wanted some
different flavors here. I got to thinking about a Cuban pig roast . . . the garlic, the
citrus, the smoke aroma, the moist and tender meat . . . I just love everything about
it. But it’s a hell of an undertaking to roast a whole pig in the ground. So I took the
Cuban mojo seasoning as inspiration and added some hot chile paste to the citrus
and garlic to make a chile-lime butter sauce. I also wanted the recipe to be easy
to make, so there’s no braising, steaming, or precooking here. The ribs are slowsmoked
and then seared at the very end for some crispy char on the meat. That’s
it. Just be sure to keep the temperature consistent as you smoke the ribs. That will
make them tender without the need for braising or steaming. A rib rack helps keep
the ribs upright on the smoker. It’s a cheap wire contraption that resembles a desktop
file holder, with slots for the ribs. But if you don’t have a rib rack, you can also
just lay the ribs on your smoker rack, away from the heat.
Feeds 4 hungry folks
St. Louis-cut pork ribs – 2 slabs, about 4 pounds total
Salt – 1 teaspoon + plus more for the ribs
Black pepper – a few coarse grinds
Honey – ¼ cup
Beer – ¼ cup (lager style)
Garlic – 6 large cloves, coarsely chopped, about 1/3 cup
Limes – 4 fat ones, juice and zest
Scallions – 4, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 1 cup
Fresh cilantro – 1 cup loosely packed leaves
Sambal olek (chile paste) – 2 tablespoons
butter – ¾ cup, melted
1. Heat a smoker to 290°F. Or set up a covered charcoal or
wood grill with indirect heat and wood chips.
2. Remove and discard the sheer white membrane from the
underside of the ribs. The membrane will be slippery, so grab it
with a kitchen towel to pull it off. Pat the ribs dry, then generously
season both sides with salt and coarsely ground black
pepper, patting the seasoning into the meat. Slide the ribs into a
wire rib rack and put the rack in the smoker or on the grill away
from the heat. Or lay the ribs on the smoker or grill rack away
from the heat. Smoke the ribs until tender, about 3 ½ hours total,
maintaining a consistent temperature of 290ºF.
3. While the ribs are smoking, whisk the honey and beer in a
small bowl until blended. After about 1 hour of cooking the ribs,
when juices start to bead up on the surface, brush the ribs with
the honey mixture and rotate the slabs for even cooking. After
the second hour of cooking, flip the ribs over and baste with
the honey mixture again. Continue turning and basting every
30 minutes until the meat is tender, takes on a reddish tint, and
starts to pull away from the bones. The total cooking time will be
3 ½ to 4 hours. Remove the ribs from the smoker or grill and let
them rest at room temperature until warm, at least 20 minutes.
Add wood or charcoal to the fire to bring the temperature up to
medium; you will finish the ribs over direct medium heat.
4. To make the chile-lime butter, put the garlic, lime zest and
juice, scallions, cilantro, sambal olek, melted butter, and the
1 teaspoon salt in a blender and blend until there are no big
chunks left, about 2 minutes.
5. Cut and separate the ribs into single-bone pieces and toss
the pieces in the chile-lime butter. Grill the ribs over the hot side
of the grill just until they start to char, about 4 minutes per side.
Toss again in the chile-lime butter and serve hot.