The best thing that ever happened to me was moving from lily white Kentucky when I was a teenager to Birmingham, Alabama. It was like taking a magic carpet ride to a land a million miles away both culturally and psychically.

Alabama is the land of plenty with white country folks, Greek immigrants a couple generations away from their homeland, African Americans, Italians, and Lebanese all stirring the pots in kitchens both humble and grand.

As a serious eater, I took to my new home with aplomb. Plumbing out all the local restaurants for their delicacies became my hobby which I quickly turned into a paycheck from the local rag.

While I loved all the exotic foods I’d never been exposed to, it was the soul food that powered me on a daily basis: Oxtails, Collard Greens, Smothered Chicken, Fried Pork chops, Whiting Fish Sandwiches, Skins and Pieces (Chicken Wings simmered with skin on potatoes) the list was endless and I was determined to winnow the finest from a city whose offerings were seemingly endless.

At culinary school, the foods I was so enthusiastically eating every day were looked down on by the administration. I’d lobby to have a class centered on soul food, and be summarily shot down in favor of the cooking of a French man who’d been dead for a couple hundred years.

Though I never won any of those battles I did manage to become a respectable soul food cook. Here’s one of my favorite recipes: Smoked Country Style Pork Ribs


10 lbs, Pork Ribs, Country Style (the ones cut from the blade end of the pork loin)

Salt, Kosher, Sea Salt or another good kind of non-iodized salt

Pepper, Black, Fresh Ground if possible

Charcoal, 18 lumps (Hardwood lump works best but Kingsford will do the trick)

Hickory, 6 Chunks, baseball-sized, soaked in water for at least a day-soaking the wood is controversial to put it mildly but I’ve always gotten good results from this method


* Generously salt and pepper the ribs, use lots of both til you have a good crust all over the meat

* Build your fire (this site presumes a certain knowledge of barbecue basics such as arranging your coals into a pyramid etc)

* When your charcoal is almost completely, gray give your smoker a little shake and let the embers settle

* Put soaked wet wood on top of embers

* Arrange meat on grating on opposite side of fire, open vent all the way over the ribs

* For first hour, let smoker cook at full heat with vent all the way open

* For second hour, close vent half way

* For third hour and onward close vent 90% of the way

* Your fire should give you about 4 hours of heat, 100’s of factors contribute to the longevity of the fire so your results may be shorter or longer

* At the 4 hour mark your ribs should be fork tender, if they’re not, place them in a big baking pan and finish them in the oven (at no more than 200 degrees) til tender

I cook 10 pounds at a time but you can cook less if you’d like. The first day I eat them as barbecue with Archibalds (from Northport, Alabama) sauce. The second day I eat them as carnitas tacos on El Milagro tortillas. The third day I like to use them in a stir fry.

There is no fourth day.

Bon Appetit y’all

Related: RL Reeves Jr’s above recipe deemed unpublishable by Meatpaper

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