It’s beginning to look a lot like rib season. Ribs, along with homegrown sweet corn, have become an official food of summer hereabouts.

It’s beginning to look a lot like rib season. Ribs, along with homegrown sweet corn, have become an official food of summer hereabouts.

Summer barbecue competitions present a range of rib-cooking styles, which, of course, have become long-standing arguments over which is best. I was in a bar in North Carolina and listened to a confrontation over ribs that turned to insults.

The fight takes two general sides: Grill the ribs in the barbecue sauce or put the sauce on after the ribs are cooked.

Strong and saucy

Cooking the ribs in the sauce creates those incredibly sweet morsels of tender meat. But here’s the problem: If the sauce is strong, and most are, you cannot taste the meat. You might as well put the sauce on hot dogs. They’d taste the same as the pork.

Anyway, sauce-cooked ribs always are fall-off tender, almost no chewing required. Even the bones are sweet and usually gnarled like dogs. Some taste like candy. In fact, that’s what they are, candied pork. This makes them very popular, especially among kids if the sauce isn’t too hot.

To do it, parboil your ribs for 10 minutes. This removes some of the fat. Drain and add your secret barbecue sauce and chill for at least 12 hours (this marinade is your tenderizer). Then grill, mopping on plenty of sauce as they cook. And, of course, serve with warmed bowls of yet more sauce at the table. Whew.

The Texas way

The other way, known as Texas-style, involves grilling the ribs in a dry rub and adding barbecue sauce only when they are done. The dry rub is the tenderizing marinade here. No fat is removed, as it is in parboiling, and this results in juicier ribs.

Your dry rub penetrates deeply into the meat. Good ones are simple (usually 4 to 5 ingredients) and impart a subtle flavor. The goal is not to overpower the ribs. Let the pork be pork.

Rub the meat on all sides, making sure the fat gets a good dose. Then bag and refrigerate overnight to let it work. Grilling should be as slow as possible. Sweep the charcoal to a corner of your covered grill and place the ribs on the opposite side. Add soaked wood chips (hickory or apple are great) and cover. Fifteen minutes before serving, mop on the barbecue sauce.

This will take about 15 minutes a side.

On a gas grill, cook on the highest rack level and try to maintain a temperature to 300 degrees. For smoking, place soaked wood chips in an empty tin can, label removed, and put it on a low rack over the flame. Cover to build up the smoke.

Depending on the grill, this can take up to two hours. You’ll know they’re done when they are crusty and the meat moves freely on the bone.

Then serve with your favorite barbecue sauce or a variety of them (hot, medium, etc.) Allow your guests to decide how much. Some probably won’t want any red stuff at all. These are the people from Texas.

TEXAS DRY RUB

2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon lemon pepper mix
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons chili powder (sweet) or one of chipotle powder (hot)

Mix the above in a plastic food bag. Sprinkle and rub into the meat on all sides the day before. Refrigerate overnight in the bag.

Send food questions to jim.hillibish@cantonrep.com