A thick, generous slab of boneless rib meat, glazed with barbecue sauce, topped with a fresh apple & fennel slaw, atop a soft white bun. The golden arches ain’t got nothing on this one.
I’m not shy of sharing my opinion. I have gone on record about certain topics I feel strongly about, and one controversial topic is the rib sandwich. I may have been involved in one or two heated online discussions about smoked pork ribs piled atop bread. So here I have the word count to make my stance very clear:
- The traditional ‘rib sandwich’ found in some older Texas BBQ joints is sandwich in name only. It’s a section of un-sliced ribs served with white bread. No garnish, no slaw, no cohesive ingredient ‘glue’ other than perhaps some BBQ sauce. As Daniel Vaughn, BBQ editor of Texan Monthly once put it: ‘note to barbecue sandwich-makers across the state: rib sandwiches where three or four pork ribs with the bone still in them are stacked between two slices of bread does NOT qualify as an edible sandwich for obvious reasons’ .
- We have enough glorious barbecue traditions in the great state of Texas that we needn’t clutch so dearly onto a lesser known menu item that’s been nonsensical since it’s lazy creation.
- By the same logic, the new-fangled tradition of piling a bone-in rib atop a multi-protein sandwich needs to go away. These sandwiches are created mainly for the purpose of attracting internet likes, and are nearly grotesque in appearance. We can’t look away. But just because we’re all staring at the watermelon-sized implants, doesn’t mean they are actually a good idea.
In the current litigious climate that has us holding cups that tell us coffee may be hot, I’m astounded that BBQ joints would even attempt to serve sandwiches that should come with a liability waiver.
And so, I am here to prove that a boneless rib sandwich CAN be a thing, and CAN be even food-pornier in pictures than a gratuitous bone-in shot. (It took everything I have not to make a ‘boner’ joke here, people). So it seemed that the upcoming Fourth of July holiday is the perfect opportunity to bust out a seriously impressive smoking recipe, to truly celebrate the awesomeness of America. Arguably, that awesomeness can be characterized by barbecue, and in particular a shiny, saucy rack of pork ribs.
So I set about to make my vision of a sandwich for the people a reality. A practical rib sandwich, that still ticked all the boxes of delicious. A feasible rib sandwich, which still smacks of grandeur. A sensible rib sandwich, that uses great ingredients to elevate itself to legendary heights of enjoyment.
Most importantly, it’s a rib sandwich that has the bones removed! And thus I submit for your consideration, this mighty Ribwich with Fennel Apple Slaw.
Recipe note: I tested both baby back and St Louis style ribs for this recipe – the shape of the St Louis, along with ease of bone removal with minimal cartilage, made them preferable for sammich making.Print
The Texas Boneless Pork Rib Sandwich
1 x rack of St Louis cut pork ribs
1/4 c Hardcore Carnivore Red seasoning
4 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup BBQ sauce
4 x soft hamburger buns
3 cups Fennel & Apple Coleslaw
- Heat a smoker to run at 225 f. I use fruit woods like apple or cherry when cooking pork ribs.
- Prepare the ribs. Turn them meat side down, and loosen a corner of the membrane with a butter knife. Grab the corner with a paper towel and pull to remove membrane, then discard. Trim the ribs of any excess fat or loose meat.
- Sprinkle some of the seasoning on the back of the ribs, then turn them over and sprinkle the remainder on the meat side. Let the rack sit for 10-15 minutes for a crust to form and the seasoning to sink in. Place the rack meat side up in the smoker.
- Prepare two large sheets of foil, one atop the other. When the ribs have smoked for three hours, place them on top of the double layered foil. Add sugar and butter to the top of the meat, then wrap tightly in foil. Return to the smoker an additional 2.5 hours. (Note: normally, I would cook for only two hours, but because we want to pull the bones clean, we’re taking it a little further).
- After 2.5 hours, carefully unwrap the ribs and discard the foil. Paint the top of the meat with the Stubb’s Original sauce and return to the smoker for 10 minutes so the sauce can set.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker. Cut the rack into four sections. Work to carefully remove the bones from each section. You may have to keep an eye out for bone fragments from where the ribs were cut. You will also need to remove the tougher cartilage in some sections.
- Time to make the sandwich: On top of a bun base, layer the slab of boneless rib. Top with a handful of the apple fennel slaw, and drizzle with additional sauce if desired. Place the lid of the bun on top, and repeat until all sandwiches are formed. Serve immediately.
One St Louis rack of ribs makes roughly four small or three generous serves. If in doubt, cook an extra rack and grab a few extra buns.