Serves 8 to 10
There’s a reason barbecue is the go-to analogy for all things regional: barbecue varies wildly region by region. Since Frank Underwood would likely gravitate toward ’cue resembling that from his hometown of Gaffney, South Carolina, it made sense that Freddy’s ribs would feature the spicy, tangy “Carolina Red” variation of the state’s many barbecue sauces. Unlike the more famous “Carolina Gold,” the red iteration adds tomato puree to its tangy, mustardy sauce base. That, in concert with a relatively standard (but nonetheless delicious) dry rub, produces ribs that must be eaten to be believed.
Verdict: While real barbecue can only be yielded by virtue of a real smoker, a delicious approximation can be achieved using either liquid smoke or an extremely complicated and fussy wok-smoking method. All three methods are listed here, and all three produce barbecue that’s nothing short of exquisite.
- 3 full racks pork spareribs (about 10 pounds total)
- Dry Rub
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground mustard
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika, or 1 tablespoon smoked paprika for oven methods
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin (omit for oven methods)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- Barbecue Sauce
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups tomato puree, or 1½ cups ketchup for oven methods
- ¼ cup packed dark brown sugar, or ¾ cup for oven methods
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground mustard, or ¼ cup yellow mustard for oven methods
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Smoker Method
- 1 pound hickory and oak wood chips
- 1 cup apple juice, in a spray bottle
- Oven Method: Liquid Smoke
- ½ cup smoky bourbon
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- Oven Method: Wok Smoke
- 1 cup mixed hickory and oak wood chips
- ½ cup smoky bourbon
Pat the ribs dry and remove and discard the membrane. Put the ribs on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dry rub ingredients.
Coat the ribs liberally with the dry rub, making sure to cover every nook and cranny. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or ideally overnight.
In a large saucepan, combine all the barbecue sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk to combine, reduce the heat, and cook at a bare simmer until thick and syrupy, about 1½ hours. The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead; let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat before using.
Prepare the smoker with the wood chips according to the manufacturer’s instructions (or your favorite time-honored family tradition). Stabilize the heat at 225°F. Arrange the ribs in the smoker as desired, close the lid, and smoke for 2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is tender but still holding on to the bones. Every 30 minutes, baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce and spray with the apple juice. Remove the ribs from the smoker, wrap in aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the ribs, transfer to a plate, top with more barbecue sauce, and serve.
Oven Method: Liquid Smoke
Preheat the oven to 250°F. Place an extra-long sheet of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet and top with a wire rack.
Place the ribs on the rack. Stir together the bourbon and liquid smoke in a small bowl and drizzle the mixture over the ribs. Top with another long sheet of foil and wrap the ribs and the rack, crimping the edges to create a tight seal. Bake for 2 to 2½ hours, until the ribs are tender but not falling apart. Unwrap, baste with the barbecue sauce, and bake, uncovered, for 1½ hours more, basting with more barbecue sauce every 20 to 30 minutes, or every time the ribs look sticky and lose their sheen. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, increase the oven temperature to 500°F and bake until a crust forms on the ribs. Remove the ribs from the oven, brush with more barbecue sauce, slice, and serve.
Oven Method: Wok Smoke
NOTE: Only attempt this method with proper ventilation in your kitchen.
Preheat the oven to 250°F.
Line a deep wok with four sheets of aluminum foil, leaving a 6-inch overhang all around the edge. Add the wood chips and heat over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke, about 5 minutes. Set a rack on the wok, place the ribs on top, and cover with another sheet of foil, crimping the edges tightly with the overhanging foil so no smoke escapes. Reduce the heat to medium and smoke the ribs for 10 minutes. Remove the wok from the heat and let the ribs smoke for another 20 minutes.
Place an extra-long sheet of foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the rack with the ribs to the foil. Drizzle the ribs with the bourbon and continue the recipe as instructed in the Liquid Smoke method.