Slow Cooked Texas/Oakland Ribs
Low & Slow
An Oakland spice rub with a Texas accent
As a native Texan, BBQ always reminds me of home. However, the Bay Area doesn't really have too many options to get that slow cooked Texas BBQ flavor I'm looking for. (Though, my local Oakland-based Everette & Jones know what I'm talking about!) The key to good ribs is keeping things low & slow, as the common adage suggests. My goal was to get that fall-off-the-bone texture we all crave while incorporating some of the characteristics of two places I can call home.
I set off to create my own version but I ran into a few challenges:
- My condo doesn't have a smoke pit.
- How do I get that smokey BBQ flavor without wood chips?
- What makes a good Oakland spice rub?
- Can oven-roasting be as good as a traditional BBQ pit?
All things considered, I'm not interested in having my home reek of mesquite smoke (though, small amounts could be nice at times...maybe). I've tried liquid smoke and I can't say I'm a fan. It's got that intense artificial flavor that just doesn't work for me, similar to how truffle oil fails to compare with the real deal.
Instead, I tried using smoked ingredients (smoked paprika, smoked salt, & rendered applewood smoked bacon fat) and found that it does provide a nice subtle substitute for real smoke. Albeit not as well-rounded and authentic as real smoke, it does the job. Texas BBQ is famous for its simplicity, so this seemed like a good compromise for not having access to a BBQ pit.
What is Oakland spice? When I think of Oakland, I think of unrefined, down-to-earth flavors. I think of spice and heat. Maybe some rendered bacon fat and a little bit of acidity to cut through it all. In addition to the smoked spices I commented on above, I added some garlic powder, salt, black pepper, & cayenne (stables in a BBQ kitchen). Oakland Dust adds some good local flare while amping up my smoked paprika flavors with some chipotle. The lime's sharpness really helped bring out a lot of the flavors that were lost in the bacon fat. Shoutout to my local OakTown Spice Shop for the good stuff.
For the most part, Texas BBQ isn't particularly known for sauce - the emphasis is primarily on the meat. The sauce, if included, is primarily served on the side for dipping. However, in not staying with the norm, I wanted to make them how I liked them growing up - completely and unapologetically slathered in sauce.
Ever since I was a kid, I can't remember eating BBQ without a heavy serving of sauce - always with a mountain of white bread on the side. Besides, this is how they like it here in Oakland so it makes for a good fit. In this recipe, I use Texas' own Stubb's Spicy BBQ sauce.
After several attempts, I think I finally landed on a winner. Here's how to make some of those Texas ribs with an Oakland flare.
1 full rack of ribs
1 tbsp of smoked paprika
1 tbsp cayenne
1 tbsp of garlic powder
1/2 tbsp smoked salt
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp of "Oakland Dust: Steak Seasoning"
1-2 tbsp of applewood smoked bacon grease to coat
juice of 1 lime
1/2 bottle of Stubbs Spicy BBQ sauce
Rationale and some things to consider:
Though uncommon, the addition of lime at the beginning of the recipe serves two purposes: (1) to incorporate some acidity for contrasting the richness of the bacon fat and (2) to break down muscle fibers while marinading. It's not too overbearing and definitely not sour on the finish, especially with all that sauce. Sure, it's weird but it serves a good purpose and adds a smidge of complexity.
Wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil while roasting is absolutely essential. It helps keep all that moisture in so the meat it doesn't dry out. It also helps it heat more evenly and discourages burning. Broiling at the end bakes layers of sauce into the surface for that complete and finished texture.
All in all, this was a fun experiment that helped bridge my two homes. I would say that this is part of the clean-plate club but given how messy it is, I'm not sure if that it qualifies.
Total prep time: 7 hours to overnight
Total cook time: 3.5-4 hours
- Remove membrane on underside of ribs
- Juice the lime and lightly coat both sides of ribs. Let soak and wipe up excess to prevent pooling.
- Combine seasonings in a bowl and apply dry rub liberally to both sides of ribs
- Tightly wrap with plastic wrap & refrigerate at least 6 hours (preferably overnight)
- Remove dry-rubbed ribs from fridge and allow to acclimate to room temperature on a drying rack (~45 min)
- Preheat oven to 300F
- Once at room temperature, coat ribs in smoked applewood bacon grease (room temperature) and tightly wrap in aluminum foil, taking care not to make breaks in the foil
- Place foil in a pan or baking sheet and roast for 1.5-2 hours, depending on size
- Flip and roast for additional 30 mins
- Take ribs out of oven and carefully unwrap foil to allow ribs to vent
- Baste ribs in roasting juices while preheating oven to 450F on broil
- Remove foil and brush both sides with BBQ sauce. Broil for 5 min, meat-side up
- Flip and reapply BBQ sauce to underside. Broil for 3min, bone-side up
- Flip and reapply BBQ sauce to meat-side. Broil for 2 min, meat-side up
- Allow ribs to cool for at least 15min prior to sectioning