Posted September 27, 2010

Chef Thomas Dunklin’s Carolina BBQ Ribs & Grilling Tips

Eat + Drink

They say all good parties start in the kitchen. But we like to think that, during football season, they start around the grill.

Chef Thomas Dunklin of Portland’s Red Star Tavern & Roast House has sparked a lot of appetites with his nuanced meaty fare. So when he shared a few grilling tips we were drawn like moths to the flame.

Spice It Up
“I normally make my own spice mix out of paprika, cayenne, thyme, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. I may add cumin or rosemary when cooking lamb or chicken. Sometimes before grilling, I brine meat, soaking it in a salt, sugar, spice, and water mixture for 12 hours; it helps retain moisture and works really well with pork, beef, and veal. If you go with store-bought spice mix, I recommend Stubs.”

Bring The Heat
“Direct heat (centering meat right above flames) is mainly used for steaks, burgers, chops, and other quickly-cooked items. To get those charred grill marks, the fire has to be hot and you need to place the meat on the grill at a ten o’clock position, turning it after a few minutes to a two o’clock position. Indirect heat is primarily used for sausages, brisket, ribs, and other slow-cooked meats.”

Grill Call
“As far as which grill to buy, the classic Weber can do direct and indirect heat nicely. And it’s the perfect size for a small party. Also, Char-broil makes a good indirect-direct heat model and it works well for a larger gathering. As far as accessories go, use tongs, never forks.”

Clean Up Your Act
“My cleanup tip? Have the people you’ve cooked for do it! You should be relaxing and drinking a beer, satisfied with what you have accomplished.”

Ready to grill? Try Chef Dunklin’s recipe for Carolina BBQ Ribs (serves two).


2 slabs pork spare ribs
1 cup cure mix (recipe below)
2 cups Carolina mustard sauce (recipe below)

Cure Mix
1 1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup cayenne
2 tbsp. onion powder
3 tbsp. garlic powder
4 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup brown sugar
(Combine and mix well.)

Carolina mustard sauce
2 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup Steen’s cane syrup
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. cayenne
1 cup brown sugar
(Combine and mix well.)


1.     Rub the cure mix on the pork spare ribs, cover, and let sit for 12 hours.

2.     Light up your grill using hickory and oak wood.

3.     When the grill’s temperature reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit, add ribs to the cooking chamber (make sure temperature doesn’t exceed 275 degrees Fahrenheit and consider putting a pan of water in the chamber to trap moisture).

4.     Slow-cook ribs using indirect heat for 6-7 hours, until ribs can fold into a “U” shape and are very tender, nearly falling off the bone.

5.     During the final minutes of cooking, lightly brush on the mustard sauce.

6.     Enjoy!

For more information on Red Star Tavern & Roast House, call 503-222-0005 or visit


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