Andrew Zimmern's Method For Perfectly Tender Ribs

If you've never cooked ribs before, they can be intimidating – what do you do with all that bone? How do you know if they're done? And most of all, how do you avoid tough, chewy ribs? The best ribs, as many people know, fall off the bone. And they're not just for barbecue! Andrew Zimmern of Bizzare Foods fame can teach us a thing or two about ribs in a decidedly un-bizarre and delicious mashup of pork ribs and sauerkraut (via YouTube).

The first part of his method for this traditionally Polish dish is to brown the pork ribs. Like with many other meats being cooked for any stretch of time, this lends some deep flavor and color via the Maillard reaction. Zimmern heats some oil in a pan and then places the ribs curvy-side down, crisping them until they arrive at a deep brown. Then he adds his other ingredients, including onion, carrots, cabbage, spices, apples, and sauerkraut.

The trick to avoiding tough ribs

Then comes the pro tip: Zimmern cooks everything together in the liquid from the vegetables and a healthy portion of white wine – but he doesn't heat the mixture to a boil. Instead, he keeps everything on a low simmer, which keeps the meat from getting tough the way it would if it was at full boil. The ingredients are covered and left to cook gently for over an hour, yielding tender, pull-apart rib meat. And, wouldn't you know it? His claim seems to be backed up by some pretty solid science.

According to Cooking Light, "Meats that are simmered remain moist and fork-tender, while boiled meats are often dry and tough because the heat of boiling liquid can cause their proteins to toughen." Indeed, Cook's Illustrated reminds us that we rarely fully "boil" food unless it's to cook potatoes or pasta. You can tell the difference between simmering and boiling from the amount of bubbles – in a boil, they'll continually rise to the top and break, but in a simmer, bubbles are small and only sometimes break the surface (via Cook's Illustrated).