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Where Wet-Naps Fear to Tread

Barbecuing ribs is in your bones.

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At some point in your summer,  you'll stop whatever you're doing and realize you need to season, cook and eat the ribcage of an animal, right away.

"Grilling," says Carey Friedman (above) of Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ, "is high heat, and barbecue is low and slow. People try to hurry it along, but good barbecue takes time."

Before you can get started, however, you need a great piece of meat — preferably an all-natural St. Louis-cut rack of ribs, according to Tanya Cauthen of Belmont Butchery. It's a meatier, more flavorful cut than the baby-back ribs you see on chain restaurant menus.

While the fire gets going (or someone else changes the propane tank), generously coat both sides of the rack with a dry rub. What spices should be included? Salt, for one, but after that, it's all a matter of taste.

Friedman says the best barbecue is "so personal; it's always the kind you grew up with, so you should cook what you know." Sauce comes later, after the ribs are done, and again, experimentation is key, but Friedman admits that before he began making his own, Sauer's was his go-to sauce at home.

After about six or seven hours of indirect heat (around 225 degrees), your ribs should be done, and the best way to test them is to cut the middle rib out of the rack and taste it. If you can bite through it easily, it's done, but if it falls off the bone, your ribs are overcooked.

"Ribs are an art form," Friedman says. "They should bend but not break."

Don't have enough stamina or enough beer to last until the ribs reach the optimum tender succulence? Belmont Butchery has precooked seasoned ribs in the prepared case for about $7 a pound, so all you need to do is throw them on the grill for another 20-30 minutes. Call ahead, though (422-8519); nothing can substitute for the smoky decadence of summer ribs if someone else already beat you to store. S

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