When we were getting ready for our grand opening at Satchel’s back in 2011, my manager at the time developed a rib recipe which we still use today: slow cooked over hickory with our own Satchel’s rub. No sauce. This “dry-rub” style of ribs was perfected in Memphis, where it is still practiced at places like Corky’s, and is considered by many BBQ aficionados to be the only authentic way to smoke ribs. If you really want to taste smoked meat, then smoke the meat over wood (slooooowly), then eat it. Don’t drench it in sauce. Don’t wrap it in foil. Smoke it. Then eat it.
At the time, I didn’t want to admit that I had grown up eating ribs that were drenched in thick, sweet sauce, tender and falling off the bone. They were a mess to eat, and afterwards, you felt like showering to get yourself clean. I liked those ribs. And I still like them today. But I kept my opinions to myself, and continued to extoll the virtues of Memphis-style, dry rub ribs. When asked why Satchel’s didn’t offer a wet rib similar to the ones I ate as a kid, I would say that it didn’t fit with what we were trying to do at Satchel’s, that it wasn’t our style of rib. But all the while, paraphrasing Galileo at the Inquisition, I kept muttering under my breath, “And yet they’re good.”
So imagine my surprise when our pit master, DJ, started experiment with a wet babyback rib, dripping in sweet, savory sauce, as an alternative to our traditional dry rib. He thought there might be some interest in a wet rib, a sticky, sweet rib that required a handful or paper towels and more than a few wipes. These ribs would easily slip off the bone and effortlessly slide down your throat. I finally had to come clean and admit that in fact, deep down, I yearned for just such a rib.
But I worried. The hard-core BBQ fans, the ones that really drink the hickory-flavored Kool-Aid, see these types of ribs as counterfeits. It’s not real BBQ. Heck, with all the sweet sauce slathered over the meat, you can’t even tell if it has been smoked. The whole thing could have been done in an oven. Or maybe a crock-pot. Worse still, a microwave!
After trying DJ’s final product, a babyback rib cooked over hickory and dripping in a wonderful sweet sauce, I have concluded that he has bridged the divide. The meat tastes of hickory smoke and vinegar and all the things that we love at Satchel’s. But unlike anything else on our menu, it is caramelized in a sauce that will leave you licking your fingers, wanting more. It is the best of both worlds.