How to salvage salty ribs
March 13, 2018 7:43 AM   Subscribe

I cooked some pork spare ribs with this dry rub yesterday, and they were tasty, but really salty. They're also not as tender as I'd like, so to solve both issues, my wife suggested cooking them with rice, but I don't want to ruin the rice and the ribs. [Tag-along question: also looking for good, not sweet rib rubs and recipes]

My first thought would be to toss the ribs in with dry rice and boiling away, but I'm afraid that it would all go poorly. Am I overthinking this?

As for the tag-along question: my wife is not fond of sweet BBQ and sauces on meat, but trying to search for recipes without sugar or honey doesn't seem to work so well, so I'm turning to the hivemind. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To leach out the salt you will need to bring the ribs to a gentle boil and then add the rice. If you were just trying to make a rib and rice dish you would parboil the rice and add the ribs to it and finish steaming them together (which actually sounds kind of delicious.) But I think that option won't be as effective at reducing the saltiness. But I could be wrong.

There is no reason why any flavor combination you like with pork wouldn't work with ribs, just remember they need to cooked at low temp so that fat renders and collagen dissolves.
posted by JPD at 7:52 AM on March 13 [1 favorite]

Hmmm, for your overly salty and not tender enough problem you need to hit them with moist heat. Its probably too late to braise them but maybe toss them in an oven in a roasting pan, on a rack, with water in the pan (but the ribs not touching). Seal the thing up tight with foil and bake them for an hour at maybe 350 - they should get more tender from the steam but it really depends on how far past "a little too salty" they got. Id be inclined to take the meat off the bones and find some use for it where it got mixed with a grain or carbs or more veg to dilute the saltiness.

As far as non sweet bbq sauces, there are so many! google eastern north Carolina bbq sauce - the aren't sugar free, but this recipe calls for 2 T of brown sugar to 2 cups of apple cider vinegar,and you could start with less and see how it tastes to you.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:54 AM on March 13 [2 favorites]

yiiiiiiiikes that original recipe you posted has SO MUCH SALT IN IT

This rub recipe as-written does contain a bit of brown sugar but is not really sweet; the sugar is in it to help cure the ribs for improved texture and flavour. You could try dialing down the sugar a bit if it's still too much, but the accompanying sauce isn't sweet at all. The comment section of the article outlines how to do these in the oven, and it works reasonably well if you're not smoking or grilling these!

You can easily halve the quantity of rub, if you need less, but once mixed the rub will keep in a jar for whenever it strikes your fancy.
posted by halation at 8:10 AM on March 13

An old cook's trick to absorb salt is to add peeled and cut potatoes to a soup or sauce, and then fish them out before serving. This works very well for things like split pea soup, even tomato sauce. I would try to adapt this concept for your ribs. If you roasted them on a bed of peeled potatoes (peeled so more of the flesh is exposed to absorb the salt and covered tightly to allow moisture to soften the fat), the salty fat should drip onto the potatoes while they cook. I'd roast at low-medium heat, like 275 or 300 for about an hour and a half depending on how much more cooking the ribs need. Don't cut the potatoes too small, or they will fall apart and look weird, not hearty enough to be a sturdy accompaniment to the ribs. You want pieces at least the size of whole walnuts. Season with pepper, herbs, whatever you think will go with the ribs, but obviously, no salt. If the ribs are not so beyond salty as to be nearly inedible, this should work. If you take the foil or lid off and raise the heat toward the end (after the meat is meltingly soft) you can crisp up the surfaces and have crisp but shred-y ribs and salty-crisp potatoes.

The advantage of this method is that you can start with uncooked potatoes and cook them in the process, rather than re-cook rice which might get mushy with extended cooking.

If the ribs are inedibly salty, I'd suggest cutting them to expose more surface and using them as seasoning meat in something like homemade baked beans, which need a lot of salt for tastiness.
posted by citygirl at 8:16 AM on March 13 [6 favorites]

I swear by Mike Mills's Magic Dust.
posted by mkb at 8:28 AM on March 13

Lemon juice or perhaps even beer.

Put your oven on a relatively low heat. Cover ribs in tin foil. Every 10-20 mins spray some beer on the ribs and turn them over and over. Should make them sticky and reduce the saltiness.
posted by 0bvious at 11:03 AM on March 13

If it was me.
I would boil some dried beans: black eyed beans, butter beans, haricot beans, red Nigerian beans, whatever - until soft enough to eat but not too soft. Then add the ribs and let them boil together until the beans are mushy. Then taste, and if still too salty add a couple of chopped up potatoes. No more salt at any time. If the taste is passable cook until the meat falls off the bone and the beans are just about to catch on the bottom of the pan, adding more water as necessary. Add a tablespoon of sun dried tomato paste and two handfuls of whatever chopped fresh herbs you fancy. Parsley? Cilantro? What goes with pork? Don't give it more than 10 minutes further cooking, stir through and serve. Pepper to taste. Oh, if the ribs aren't fatty add some oil after the beans are first soft. You want an unctuous beany porky potage that might be ok with plain rice.

Well, that's experimental and my cooking doesn't always turn out delicious. But that's what I would do if I had your problem, except that I'd also add a bag of spinach, chopped up, at the same time as the tomato paste and cook the whole thing for five minutes longer, because butter beans and spinach together in a stewed meat thing are nice.

If you have a pressure cooker it won't take two hours.
posted by glasseyes at 12:54 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]

I would go ahead and try the rice. Boil 2 cups water add rice and ribs, cover and turn the heat down until the rice absorbs the water (about 10-15 min). That should do it for you...
posted by sexyrobot at 2:06 PM on March 13

To answer your second question, I enthusiastically recommend looking into Carolina vinegar barbecue sauce. I use this recipe often, and it’s a huge hit with my partner and guests alike. Zero added sugar. There may be other mustard-based barbecue sauces that suit your needs as well.
posted by lieber hair at 1:06 AM on March 14

Yep, add an acid - they counteract each other. Vinegar-based or lemon-based sauce is a good bet.
posted by capricorn at 3:10 PM on March 14

I had enough ribs that I tried them two ways: cooked in a pot of rice, and with potatoes. Rice was quicker, and I think did a better job both reducing the saltiness and softening the pork, but cooked with potatoes worked, too, though I ended up cooking them twice, each time for over an hour, because I started re-cooking them so late the first time.

Next time I over-salt meat, I'll try re-cooking them with beans, and with an acidic additive.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:49 PM on March 15

« Older What is a good gift for my baristas?   |   What better way to say "I love you." than with the... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments