This week, I’m showcasing the humble country-style rib for a few reasons. Firstly, this particular recipe is my favorite pork dish to eat. It’s perfect for summer grilling, and it’s my first choice when the weather is just too hot to bother with the oven and I don’t want to stand over a stove. Secondly, country-style ribs are usually a cheaper cut of pork, so this recipe is a good one to keep on hand. Inflation isn’t getting any better, and probably won’t for some time. Thirdly, it’s a beautiful example of what a good spice rub can do for meat.
Country-style ribs are cut from the pork loin, and are boneless. They contain a mixture of light and dark meat, and are well marbled. However, you will want to do some trimming for this dish both to prevent flare-ups on the grill and because the larger chunks of fat don’t cook as well or come out as tender. See the note at the end of the recipe.
This recipe does require a brief brine for about 30 minutes (if your ribs are already thawed). If you keep your meat frozen, like I do, you can combine the thawing and brining in the same step — simply dissolve the salt in the water, put the frozen ribs in the water, and put in the fridge to thaw in the morning for dinner that night. This recipe is adapted from Meat Illustrated, by America’s Test Kitchen.
Pinchos Morunos (Serves 3-4)
- 3 tbsp. salt for brining
- 2 lbs. country-style ribs, trimmed (See note.)
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- lemon wedges for serving
- 6 minced garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger (See note.)
- 2 tsp. minced oregano (fresh or dried. I usually use dried.)
- 2 tsp. paprika (smoked is best)
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more, to taste)
- bowl for brining
- metal or bamboo skewers (I use metal ones. If the fire is too hot, I’ve had my bamboo skewers just burn away.)
- Dissolve 3 tbsp. salt in 1.5 quarts cold water in a large bowl. Submerge the ribs in the brine and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While the pork brines, prepare the spices, garlic and ginger. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, 1 tsp. oregano, paprika, coriander, salt, cumin, and pepper in a small bowl. It’ll look like a paste.
- Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Empty the bowl of the water and dry.
- Cut the ribs into one-inch chunks. Put the chunks back into the bowl and toss with the spice paste.
- Thread the meat chunks onto skewers. Don’t crowd them. Leave a tiny gap between each piece.
- Prepare and start your grill. If charcoal, make sure the grate has been hot for 5 minutes at least prior to placing the skewers on. If your grill has a thermometer, use it. I usually grill these around 450F.
- Place the meat skewers along the edge of the center part of the fire (the hottest part). Cook about 10 minutes.
- Flip the skewers (using long-handled tongs), and cook and additional 4 minutes. You’re looking for a decent char and the temperature of the meat should be around 150F before you pull them off. If after this set of 4 minutes passes and your pork isn’t done, flip once more and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Repeat this until the pork is done.
- Rest the skewers for 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the skewers into a serving bowl. Toss with additional oregano and serve with the lemon wedges and a nice big salad.
- Fresh ginger is essential here. Don’t substitute dried ginger. Your pork won’t have the same bright and lively flavor.
- I do my rib trimming when I’m cutting the meat into the chunks. I make sure to leave the thin bands of marbled fat, and cut off the pieces of “hard fat” you’ll feel. A boning knife helps here if you have one; otherwise ensure your utility knife is quite sharp. You can choose to leave about 1/8″ of the hard fat if you like, but much more than that and you may accidentally burn some of your pork with flare-ups caused by dripping fat and the remaining cooked hard fat isn’t particularly palatable anyway.
- Feel free to add more oregano upon serving. I do.
- This dish also reheats well the next day for lunch.