Spicy, sweet, or a little bit of both, ribs are a staple in American culture (as they should be). The four main styles of ribs may come from Memphis, Tenn., North Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas, but this month, a group of Fresno and Clovis natives got together for what they called #RibFest2014.
Nearly 60 people gathered this year at the home of Tony and Linda Persons for the 2nd Annual Rib Fest. Six grillers barbecuing in six different ways, competed to win the 2014 trophy and defeat reigning champion, Fresno Bites. Bites won last year with his sweet concoction of brown sugar and honey ribs.
Most local Twitter and Instagram folks who follow Fresno Bites know that the man is a barbecuing machine. There are no vegetables in his photos, ever. Rumor has it, he has at least 10 barbecue grills he uses daily for his family of three. From the looks of it, he’s barbecuing 7.5 days a week!
This year, Bites wasn’t so lucky.
Despite the triple-digit heat, the 2014 rib fest crowd favored spice over sweet. Robert Diaz swooped in last minute with his cayenne-spiced ribs, taking the first place title with his low-and-slow smoking method. Perhaps it helped that he’s also the man behind TOPS BBQ, a local catering company, but hey, good ribs are good ribs.
Here are tips from this year’s #RibFest2014 Champion, Robert Diaz:
1. Rib Rub – Use whatever rub you like, the night before. Avoid a lot of sugars, as they will burn.
2. Sauce – To keep the sauce of your choice a glaze, versus a burnt mess, apply it during the last 15 minutes of the cooking process.
3. Cooking Fuel – Fruity wood works best. Do not use mesquite for smoking foods. Trust me. Otherwise, use whatever you feel comfortable with.
4. Cooking Method – I slow smoke BBQ my ribs for 6-7 hours at 230 degrees. Try to keep the temperature between 230-250 degrees for 2-3 hours. Then wrap tightly with heavy duty foil (maybe add 1/8 cup of apple juice). BBQ for another hour with the temp kicked up to 275 or slightly higher.
5. Cutting – Trim the ribs down to 10-11 ribs per rack. The last flimsy ones cook too quickly and will be dry once the main part is done.
6. Doneness – Check the ribs. Are the bones beginning to stick out? If so, remove the foil and BBQ the ribs for another hour with the temperature back to the starting temperature. Check the ribs. If you can pick them up with tongs on one end and they bend so that they’re almost breaking off, they’re done.
Diaz says if you get stuck or need to cook for a large group of people, give him a call.
7. Restaurant Picks for Ribs (from me, Alisa) – If you’re not into grilling yourself (like me) and don’t have any rib fest-type friends, try Mike’s Grill or order the Louisiana-style ribs at Westwoods BBQ. Just an FYI, I’ve tried all the ribs at Westwoods and none will be worth your while except for the Louisiana version. You may be tempted to spring for the highly-promoted Kobe beef ribs, but stick with the classics.
If you have an itch for something outside of Fresno, believe it or not, you can find it in Los Banos (seriously). I know what you’re thinking: “let’s stop at the bathroom at Starbucks, and leave ASAP, honey!” Instead, pump those brakes, and be sure to make a left on 6th St off the 152 for ribs that taste like candy. Yes, Hot City BBQ ribs taste like candy. You will still be dreaming about them the next day, and even the next week. Like a lot of quality BBQ restaurants, Hot City isn’t necessarily the cheapest, but don’t leave without trying the pulled pork.
Here’s an old school video of me and my 2011 bangs trying out the food and chatting it up with the owners, who are actually from Fresno:
Final Tip: use that Kleenex next to your computer to wipe the drool from your keyboard.