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.

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.) 

Today’s Angry Rant

Part One

Dear Unwashed Hippie Mob waiting for an unknown concert outside the Greek Amphitheater,

As you wander in your stupefied haze in search of tickets, please refrain from spilling into the street or I will run you over with my gas-guzzling V8 while sitting in my seats made from the skins of slaughtered cattle.

Part Two

To UC Berkeley, purveyor of the EIGHTY FIVE DOLLAR parking ticket:

Save yourself the phone call — I just mailed my last and only alumni donation to your Parking and Transportation division’s citation payment office.

Part Three

Dear people who refuse to use a turn signal:

Please — for the love of unwrecked cars and safe, sane streets — move your hand the two inches it take to use your blinker and let us know what you’re doing.


Yours in sanity,

Gender Stereotypes

Women like talking about their day, men don’t:

[As part of the study] researchers measured levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in the saliva, four times a day.

These cortisol profiles provided biological backing for a familiar frustration in many marriages. The more that women engaged with their husbands in the evening, talking about the day, the faster their cortisol dropped. But the men’s levels tapered more slowly when talking with a spouse.

The article continues on to note “A previous generation’s solution: ‘cocktail hour’.”