BBQ Ribs

BBQ ribs are one of my favorite meals, and like many things I enjoy I’ve invested some time in trying to perfect my craft. Ribs are, in my opinion, an easy dish to make and one that’s hard to mess up provided you add a sufficient quantity of the most important ingredient – time.


A photo posted by Peter Hsu (@peterchsu) on

Going along with my theory that recipes should include mandatory and optional ingredients so as to be more accessible to the novice cook or those of us without obnoxiously well stocked pantries, I’ve identified both the mandatory and optional ingredients, as well as the mandatory and optional steps. A significant portion of what I’ve learned came from the site Amazing Ribs, which has a wealth of different recipes – especially for the serious smoker.


Optional ingredients are in italics.

  • 1 rack of ribs
  • BBQ sauce of your choice
  • Aluminum foil
  • Rub of your choice. (There are specialty rib rubs out there, but any pork-friendly rub will do fine. If you read the ingredients, you’ll discover a lot of rubs are similar.)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Whiskey

The Easy Way

These are the basic steps – everything else is extra. These will get you passable ribs that you can prepare with less than 30 minutes of actual labor and proudly serve on your dinner table.


  1. Lay out a piece of foil slightly longer than your rack of ribs. Place the ribs bone side down (meaty side up) on the foil.
  2. Cover the ribs in BBQ sauce. Place another piece of foil (slightly smaller than the first) over the ribs and fold both pieces of foil up over the ribs like so:

  3. Place your ribs in the fridge overnight.


  1. Heat oven to 225. Place ribs in oven inside foil packet. Bake for 3 – 4 hours.
  2. 20 minutes before finishing open the top of your foil packets; add BBQ sauce over the ribs and put your oven on broil.
  3. Remove and serve.

The Oven + Grill Method For Optimum Deliciousness

This method increases prep time by perhaps 20 minutes, as well as makes the cooking slightly more complex by forcing you to use both the oven and your grill. Either a gas or covered charcoal grill will work; we all know that gas is easier while charcoal tastes better. In my opinion it’s well worth it. Remember that virtually all of the additional steps here are optional, so you’re welcome to simply skip any added steps you think are too hard or not worth the time.


  1. Lay out a piece of foil slightly longer than your rack of ribs.
  2. Place the ribs bone side up and remove the membrane on the back of the ribs. You may not be able to see it immediately, but if you slip a knife underneath the back of the ribs you should be able to feel a membrane connecting the back of the rib tissue. Starting from one end, grasp the membrane (after using your knife to cut a bit loose) and peel it off the back of the ribs.
  3. On both sides of the ribs apply a slight amount of vinegar (I think balsamic works well, but any vinegar is fine) and then liberally spread rib rub throughout the ribs. The vinegar is completely optional, but helps tenderize the meat and increase rub absorption.
  4. With the ribs bone side down on the foil, place another piece of foil (slightly smaller than the first) over the ribs and fold both pieces of foil up over the ribs.
  5. Place your ribs in the fridge overnight.
  6. If you’re using a smoky or sweet BBQ sauce you can add a little kick to it by adding a little whiskey.  Pour the whiskey (about a shot will do fine) directly into the BBQ sauce bottle and shake well.


  1. If using a gas grill – pre-heat your grill to maximum temperature. Remove your ribs from the foil packets and sear the ribs on both sides on the grill to lock in the juices. Place ribs back in the foil packets. Alternately, you can accomplish the same thing by opening or removing the top off your foil packet and broiling the ribs in the oven for 10 or so minutes. (The optimum method would use a gas grill for this step, and then a charcoal grill to finish the ribs at the end below.)
  2. Place a pan with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom rack of the oven. This will create a nice sauna that helps prevent your ribs from drying out.
  3. Place your ribs in the oven at 225. Cook for 3.5 – 4+ hours (I never pre-heat my oven, so take timing with a grain of salt). You can use the bend test below to test when done.
  4. Pre-heat (or light) your grill. With the grill at a medium temperature, remove ribs from the oven and place meaty side down on the grill. As you’re doing this you can take your serving tray (a nice big platter, or a wooden cutting board if you’re going rustic) and place it in the oven to warm it up.
  5. On the grill, cover the bone side with BBQ sauce and grill with the cover closed until the sauce starts to thicken and stick to the bone. Turn over and repeat, saucing the meaty side of the ribs with a delicious covering of BBQ sauce.
  6. Remove and serve. If you want to make things easy for your guests, you can use kitchen scissors to cut into 1-2 rib pieces. Serve with a bowl of warm BBQ sauce on the table.

What Makes A Great Company?

I recently stumbled across an article, albeit a bit old, that highlights four things that make a company a great place to work. I’m posting it here because it pulls together and provides structure to a lot of thoughts I’ve had on the subject.  The four attributes are:

  • A strong positive culture, firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose
  • Real chances to grow professionally
  • The opportunity to work with people you like and respect
  • Work that requires you to stretch your brain and skills

There’s two observations I’d add.  First, different attributes are going to be more important to different people.  The idea of working with people you like and respect – especially fun, engaging people – is incredibly important to a friend of mine.  It’s important to me as well, but speaking with her helped me realize that things like a strong positive culture firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose and work that forces me to stretch my brain and skills are more important – and that I tend to think that the former follows the latter two.

Second, the idea of fulfillment (rather than simply obtaining sustenance) through work is a relatively new phenomenon, at least in it’s breadth of applicability.  When the majority of the population was engaged in subsistence farming, or even in repetitive assembly line tasks in the union heyday of yore, I don’t think people used the four criteria above in determining what was a great place to work.  Instead a great place to work was probably “somewhere that lets me feed my family on a fairly consistent basis.”  It’s worth pausing to think how incredibly lucky we are to live in a time where we can afford to consider things like “a strong positive culture, firmly grounded in a meaningful purpose” in selecting a place of work.


Over Veteran’s Day weekend Lisa Ng and I went backpacking in Desolation Wilderness, a mountain cathedral of “carved granite, alpine forests, and pristine peaks.”  On the shore of Lake Aloha in the serenity and solitude of the Sierra backcountry we both love I asked her to marry me.  Despite dragging her out in the cold of late Autumn, she said yes!

There’s a lot of changes over the horizon for the two of us.  I recently accepted a new position with AT&T in Atlanta as Director of Strategic Pricing for our Consumer Insights business – AT&T”s business to externally monetize what we know about our customers.  So come January I’ll be picking up my life and moving it to Atlanta, into a condo that I just purchased.  Lisa will be teaching as SF State for one more semester before following me to Atlanta, where we are excited to explore a new part of the country and embark on many new adventures together.

Yahoo Shuts Down Astrid

Not content with merely providing users with a portal that sucks, Marissa Mayer has taken to trolling the mobile sphere, finding good companies, and closing them down.  Yahoo recently acquired task management software Astrid.  Now I love Astrid, and while I was a little nervous about potential changes Yahoo might make, I was hoping for the best when I first read the news.  So what are Yahoo’s exciting plans for Astrid’s four million users?

Over the next 90 days, Astrid will continue to work as is, and we will no longer be accepting new premium subscriptions. To make future changes as easy as possible, we’ll be in touch with users shortly to share how to download data.

That’s right folks, Mayer is going to shut ‘er down.  Absolutely no attempt will be made to retain those users or convert them to Yahoo’s portfolio of suck.  Acquire the team, shut down the product, and leave the users hanging – thanks Marissa!

Samsung Galaxy S4 WiFi Auto-On

I just got my new Galaxy S4 last week after over two years of living on an HTC Evo.  The Evo was a good phone, but ultimately aged poorly – becoming slow, lacking new OS features, and a short battery life that became increasingly irritating.

With half of its built in memory already used for new whiz-bang features that I don’t really need (e.g. eye-tracking scrolling that never really works), I’m thinking the S4 may also suffer the same flaws.  In the mean time, however, the most noticeable thing is that Google and Samsung have raised the creepyness factor a notch.  The phone knows where I live (by tracking my location), and even has a “feature” where it automatically “remembers the locations where you spend the most time and turns on Wi-Fi when you are near those places.”

This is called “SmartMode” and it’s my new pet peeve (there’s not enough documentation to tell whether it is a Samsung or Google “feature”).  What’s interesting is that it doesn’t just turn on WiFi for locations where you have previously connected – it turns it on anywhere you have high dwell time.  So for example if you are in your office, and your office doesn’t have WiFi, the S4 will turn on WiFi anyways.  No matter how many times you turn it off, it will turn it back on seemingly every five minutes.

To disable go into Settings -> Connections -> Wi-Fi -> Smart mode.

“No Dogs or Chinese Allowed” – Bringing Discrimination Into the Modern Era At America’s Elite Universities

The New York Times has a nice debate about the fact that while the percentage of Asians in the general population has steadily risen, the percentage gaining acceptance into the elite Ivy League universities has hardly changed at all.  To receive equal consideration by elite colleges, Asian Americans must outperform Whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 280 points, Blacks by 450 points out of 1600 on the SAT.  To me, the point here is that racial discrimination is always wrong – even if you give it a sweet name like “affirmative action” or “holistic application review.”

The chart below – which compares Asian-American population growth, Asian-American admissions at race-blind CalTech, and admissions at the elite Ivy League schools, provides strong statistical evidence that something squirrely is happening.  Borrowing the Supreme Court’s “two or three standard deviations” standard, I think it’s irrefutable that there is some sort of discrimination happening.

Ron Unz, who prepared the above chart, writes:

After the Justice Department closed an investigation in the early 1990s into charges that Harvard University discriminated against Asian-American applicants, Harvard’s reported enrollment of Asian-Americans began gradually declining, falling from 20.6 percent in 1993 to about 16.5 percent over most of the last decade.

The last 20 years have brought a huge rise in the number of Asians winning top academic awards in our high schools or being named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. It seems quite suspicious that none of trends have been reflected in their increased enrollment at Harvard and other top Ivy League universities.


Postscript:  It would appear that the “No Dogs Or Chinese” sign alleged to have been at Public Park in Shanghai, China is apparently a myth – the sign actually put it much more politely as “The Gardens are reserved for the Foreign Community.”  The image above is actually from the Bruce Lee movie Fist of Fury, which depicted the sign at the entrance to the park.


Yes, please:

It would be nice if people started with the presumption that the world is not run by an evil conspiracy, and then required strong evidence to falsify it, rather than the other way around.

I think this every time someone talks about a government or large corporate conspiracy.  Having worked for both the government and a large corporation, I can tell you that at the end of the day both are staffed by people.  Normal, ordinary people who would response to an ethically outrageous conspiracy the same way as you, your friends, or any of the normal people to whom you spin your conspiracy theories.  No organization has managed to cull together 1000s of evil, cackling geniuses, all equally committed to carrying out and keeping secret some grand scheme to deprive you of your liberty or happiness.

The United States Marine Corps

Marines are a little off.  There’s a certain intensity, a certain feel you get when interacting with a Marine that sets them apart even from their peers in the other services.  Much of this comes from their structure as a bottom-heavy light infantry force, but a lot of this is from their original created purpose:  amphibious assaults.  The thing is, when you get off a ship onto an enemy beach, you quickly find yourself committed in a way that you don’t want to be if things go poorly.  “Do or die” isn’t just a nice motto – it’s traditionally what has actually happened in most amphibious assaults.

Of course, much of this is reinforced by their bottom heavy structure – it’s much easier to maintain harsher standards at the bottom ranks when your pyramid narrows more quickly.  Either way, Marines tend to have a special intensity that the New York Times captures well in their window into the Marine Infantry Officer Course.  The course begins with the Combat Endurance Test:

After a lieutenant completed each leg of the test, the captain said, there would be another instructor who would explain the next task. The test was timed, but the lieutenants would not know how much time was allowed for many events, or over all. This uncertainty was intended to force every student to go as fast as he could, never knowing how much energy and food to conserve.

Outside, Major Cuomo walked the trails in the heat, watching the lieutenants and occasionally offering encouragement. He explained what the course’s role meant to him: providing enlisted infantry Marines, who bear the brunt of war’s risks and privations, with officers they deserve.

He pointed at a lieutenant ahead, his uniform blackened by sweat and dirt, headed uphill. He appeared to have entered a slow-motion mental zone. He was weaving on shaky legs, but progressing.

“There could come a time when the Marines in a platoon will look at that man, and say, ‘I don’t know where he came from, and I don’t know what he knows, but we are in a big mess and he is going to do the right thing right now and make this right,’ ” the major said. “That man needs to be up to that task.”


At another point, the lieutenants found themselves at an obstacle course, which they had to complete multiple times. One officer lagged, staggering. He stopped, continued, stopped. It did not look as if he would climb the last lap’s last rope. But he did. He shuffled past Major Cuomo, fell to a knee and vomited repeatedly. At one point he dropped to all fours. Medical staff watched him. It looked as if he might pass out, but a few minutes later he was standing. A captain pointed to another card.



In Defense of the Oxford Comma

From a WSJ article on grammar in the workplace:

Leaving it out can change the meaning of a sentence, Mr. Kamenick says: The sentence, “The greatest influences in my life are my sisters, Oprah Winfrey and Madonna,” means something different from the sentence, “The greatest influences in my life are my sisters, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna,” he says. (The first sentence implies the writer has two celebrity sisters; the second says the sisters and the stars are different individuals.)