The gorgeous state of Tennessee is known for several attractions: the Great Smoky Mountains, the Nashville music scene, and most importantly, Memphis barbecue.
But, what is Memphis barbecue exactly? How is it different from just plain old barbecue? We’re so glad you asked.
Memphis is one of the few Southern cities that can truly claim its own unique and widely recognized barbecue style. They have been famous for their ribs since the early 1920s, when John Mills, a barbecue legend, wooed visiting celebrities (like Bing Crosby) with his famous pit-cooked slabs.
When it comes to Memphis barbecue, it absolutely must be of the pork variety, whether it's pork ribs, pork shoulder, or the whole hog itself. The other factor that makes it Memphis: the dry rub. Traditionally, Memphis barbecue is rubbed-down before cooking with a dry rub made with a variety of spices, herbs, and sugar.
The Difference Is in the Dry Rub
In case you couldn’t tell, Memphis-style barbecue stands out among the rest.
The secret to this famous style is unquestionably the dry rub. If you’ve ever enjoyed true Memphis barbecue, then you know that the “go-to” dish is Memphis style dry rub ribs.
Unlike the barbecue you’ll find in other parts of the country (that are probably drowning in sauce), Memphis pitmasters dress their ribs with nothing more than dry rub that lets the perfectly-smoked meat take center stage. In this process, the ribs are coated with a rub made from savory ingredients like garlic, paprika, onions, cumin, and similar spices, then they’re cooked in a grill or smoker until they are utterly melt-in-your-mouth tender.
The Memphis dry rub style is uniquely flavorful and significantly less messy to eat than other barbecue.
So, how is it that this sauce-less style makes for such flavorful BBQ? With a dry rub, there is a reaction between the spices and the surface of the meat, forming a delicious crust which the pros call “the bark.” RawSpiceBar’s Memphis Style Dry Rub is specifically formulated to add unique flavor and a proper crust to your meat, unlike anything you’ve ever had.
Cooking these Memphis style ribs is simple: Rub our Memphis rib rub all over the ribs and cook slowly over low heat, basting in between, until they're done. And, when you’re inevitably asked, “What’s your secret?” you can answer like the professionals. “It’s the dry rub, man.”
Ingredients1 oz Memphis dry rub
2 tbsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c. distilled white vinegar
1/4 c. water
1 rack baby back ribs or St. Louis Cut Spare Ribs
- Whisk together vinegar, water, brown sugar, salt, and 2 tbsp Memphis Dry Rub in a small bowl. Set aside. Brush ribs liberally with mixture just before putting on the grill.
- Set up grill for indirect heat with enough fuel for 6 hours of cooking at a low setting, or 200F - 225F. Cook ribs for 3 hours, away from the heat, brushing liberally with vinegar mixture every 30 minutes.
- Carefully remove the ribs and lay on one sheet of tin foil and add a liberal amount of vinegar mixture so it pools in the bottom of the foil. Wrap the ribs and add another layer of foil to lock in steam. Return to grill away from heat for another 2 hours.
- Remove ribs from foil for the last hour, continuing to brush with the vinegar mixture every :30 minutes.
- Transfer ribs to a cutting board and brush once more with the vinegar mixture. Liberally dust ribs with RawSpiceBar's Memphis Dry Rub and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice ribs and serve immediately.