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Sous Vide: BBQ Pork Spare Ribs

Pitmasters are usually skeptical about synergizing sous vide with "low and slow" smoking models. Let the results tell the story.


Pork Spare Ribs, St. Louis Cut, 1 side, approximately 4 lb/1.9 Kg.

Flour, approximately 1 oz/30 g.
Egg white,1 each.
Kosher salt, approximately 3 Tablespoons.
Ground black pepper, 2 teaspoons.

Salt free rub:
Cayenne Pepper, 1 teaspoon.
Garlic Powder, 1 Tablespoon.
Onion Powder, 1 Tablespoon.
Paprika, 4 Tablespoon.
Sugar, 1 Tablespoon.

Brisk BBQ Sauce:

Tomato paste, 1 can, 6 oz/170 g.
Water, 6 oz/170 g.
Corn Syrup, 6 fluid oz./180 ml.
White vinegar, 6 fluid oz./180 ml.
Sugar, 6 fluid oz./180 ml.
Worcestershire sauce, 3 fluid oz/ 90 ml.
Garlic powder, 1 Tablespoon.
Salt, 1 Tablespoon.
Ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon.

Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Heat rated sous vide bags.
Sauce pot, minimum 2 quart/2 liter.
Kitchen tongs.
Flour shaker/sifter.
Infrared or probe thermometer.





Serves 3
Level of difficulty 3

The picture above shows an entire side of pork spare ribs. Because of the unique characteristics of sous vide, the rack can also be divided into smaller pieces, packaged separately and processed without altering the time/temperature guideline. This gives you more storage and preservation flexibility–if the seal is not broken, refrigerator shelf life is extended, like a sealed carton of pasteurized milk. Once the seal is broken, the product should be utilized within four days.


Stage the spare ribs into dedicated vacuum bags. Seal and sous vide process at
140 F/60 C for 24 hours.

While the ribs are processing, make the rub and the Brisk BBQ Sauce using the listed ingredients. Set both aside.

After the 24 hours have elapsed, submerge the package(s) in iced water until they reach 70 F/21 C. Refrigerate at 40 F/4 C until use. This protects your refrigerator and its contents from temperature contamination–refrigerators are not designed to or capable of cooling hot foods in a timely manner. After cold shocking, the ribs can be kept sealed and refrigerated in this pasteurized/preserved/tenderized state for at least a week.

Day of service: 

Submerge the refrigerated package(s) of spare ribs in hot water for five minutes to fully melt the gel. You can use hot tap water (125 F/52 C) or the sous vide bath if you are processing something at the time. Cut open a corner of the bag and harvest the juices into a microwaveable container. Microwave process the reserved juices  for one minute. They will begin to boil, turn from pink to gray and form a sort of raft on top–this is coagulated albumen and myoglobin. Stir and process again for 15 seconds.

Put the colander above the sauce pot and line with a moistened paper towel–we moisten the towel so that the juices do not cling to it. Pour the boiled juices through the colander.

Once clarified, the juices are the equivalent of a reduced consommé–clear and packed with flavor. The picture below represents the juices from three racks of spare ribs. These juices can be substituted in any of our recipes that call for water or stock.

Measure out 2 oz/60 ml of the clarified juices and add to the Brisk BBQ Sauce.

Preheat the oven (or smoker) to 350 F/176 C.

Finish removing the rack from the packaging. Lay the processed rack on parchment or butcher paper. Pat dry with a clean towel or paper towel.

Dust lightly with the flour on the top side and shake off the excess. Use a fork to scramble the egg whites in a bowl and spread on top of the flour, which will disappear. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle generously with the rub–you can put as much or as little on as you want because there is no salt in the rub!

Roast for 45 minutes in the oven preheated to 350 F/176 C.

Remove the ribs from the oven and coat with the Brisk Barbecue sauce.

Return to the oven for 15 minutes.

Here’s how they came out!

The protruding bones are a telltale sign of tenderness.

Or with all the fixings–pork and beans…these really have pork (bacon) in them!

Coleslaw–I put some julienne apples in this one…

The full bore party platter–wet with scallions and pineapple–a crowd pleaser.

Norm King













All cooking processes convert collagen to gelatin--the difference between tough and tender. Pork has less collagen than beef but the muscles surrounding the rib cage work enough to demand a patient processing interval, at least by conventional standards.

What distinguishes sous vide from the slow and low barbecue method is the ultimate internal temperature of the protein. Simply put, the higher the temperature, the greater the damage to the meat itself. Conventional methods usually target at least 190 F/87 C in order to tenderize spare ribs. Sous vide turns this methodology upside down and achieves tenderness without the internal temperature of the meat ever exceeding 140 F/60 C.

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