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Smoky Spicy Pork Ribs: Perfect for Campying

So, I went camping this weekend. Well, campying is the technical–and more accurate–term, I suppose. (Campying = the usual hiking, boozing, card-playing, and sleeping in tents with snappier than usual repartee and impromptu pop sing-a-longs.) This trip was brought to you by bourbon and the letter L (LaRoux and Lady Gaga). And, as with most such engagements–whether camping or campying–I was granted full menu control. (Bwahahahaha…)

Having come to the whole cooking outdoors thing as a fancypants adult (no Boy Scouts for me, thanks so much), I had no experience or expectations when I first started packing up the coolers for camping weekends several years ago. I just assumed that everyone threw charcoal briquets into their fires–ain’t no way this fruit is cooking on wood alone–and that since we had a car, we should avail ourselves of all possible opportunities to bring real food and not freeze dried nonsense suitable for astronauts and serious adventurers.  As a result, we tend to eat rawther well despite only having a NPS-grade fire ring at our disposal.

That said, there are limitations to what I’m willing and able to bring to the picnic table under such circumstances. I do a lot of stuff ahead, and everything has to be packable (really, I mean smooshed into a cooler), and it has to be fairly stable at room temperature. This last point is critical, as I don’t really want to be killing anyone–by accident at least. So, no chicken–EVER–and I usually only deal with raw meat on the first night when I know it’s been safely ensconced on ice for the drive out to wherever.

These ribs are great, then, because they’ve already been fully cooked and I don’t have to worry about them festering away all of Saturday while we’re off conquering the majestic peaks of Shenandoah. In addition to getting me my food safety awareness badge, however, these are some really tasty bits o’ pig. And stupidly easy. Feel free to adjust the dry rub to suit your fancy–salty, peppery, spicy, and red all seem to be de rigeur but the proportions and any additions are up to you. Also required, it seems, are the garlic powder and onion powder. I generally sniff at such things, and actually had to go out and buy both for the ribs, which were delicious, so I suppose I will just have to get over it.

Campfire Ribs
Serves 6

2 racks baby back pork ribs
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs onion powder
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tbs salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
BBQ sauce, homemade or bottled

Preheat oven to 200° F. In a small bowl, combine the dry seasonings. Set aside. Cut four 2′ pieces of heavy duty foil and stack handily on the counter.

Cut the rib racks in half; you’ll end up with four pieces about 9″ long. Rinse the racks and blot dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture over the ribs–tops and bottoms–dividing it evenly among the four pieces. Wrap each piece tightly in one of the foil sheets and place the wrapped ribs on a rimmed baking sheet (or two). Bake for 6-7 hours.

Remove from oven and let cool a bit. Open the foil packets carefully just enough to drain out accumulated fat and other liquids. Rewrap the ribs, put them in a zip-top bag, and put them in the fridge to chill completely.

En plein air, with your nice, smoky fire all ready, unwrap the ribs and heave them onto the grill. Cook (or, really, reheat) for a couple minutes each side, flipping them twice (carefully–they’re rawther tender at this point). After you’ve turned them twice and they’ve started to go all browned and sizzle-y, brush with bbq sauce and flip once more to caramelize the sauce–don’t keep them on the heat much longer after the sauce goes on.

Demolish with bare hands and don’t shower afterwards. Gaarrrr.

Notes & Variations: Obviously, this also could work in the backyard. You could go direct from oven to grill, but spreading the prep out has several benefits–the ribs will be less floppy as they go on the grill if they’ve been chilled which is nice. Doing ahead also means your oven won’t have been on for 8 hours prior to dinner and you will thus either be a cool and collected domestic goddess or distracted by OTHER disasters–but the ribs will be fine. So, yeah, do ‘em ahead of time. It’s a good thing.

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