Friday, April 13, 2007

Rendezvous BBQ Ribs Report

Ok, I have finally had the ribs at Rendezvous in Memphis. For years I have been challenged when I claimed the ribs from the original Corky's location were some of the best ribs(outside of my own) that I have found. Have you tried Rendezvous they say and I have to admit, no I haven't.

That era is over and I can now definitively say that Rendezvous ribs don't measure up...not even close.

There are two key attributes to a properly cooked BBQ pork rib and if the ribs fail either of these they are not, by definition, BBQ ribs. Being a life long Southern boy and a BBQ aficionado and a BBQ master in my own right, I know ribs.

First of all a properly cooked rib has to be slowly cooked over an open fire that has at least some hardwood as one of the fuels. Hickory is the standard and anything else is just making do. I've used applewood and other hardwoods but hickory is the best. One of the results of cooking the ribs over an actual hardwood fire is that the meat develops a thin red coloration just under exterior called a 'smoke ring'. If your ribs don't have this distinctive thin red coloration just under the crust then they really haven't been cooked over a hardwood fire. Rendezvous ribs have no 'smoke ring' and you can't taste any of the distinctive bite that real smoke from a hickory fire brings to the party. Sorry!

Second, the proteins in the connective tissue surrounding the ribs(and in any Southern BBQ) must spend so much time at just over 117 degrees to break down into that luscious jelly like substance that replaces the need for fat in the meat. Holding the ribs at this temperature requires very slow cooking at temperatures between 200 and 250 degrees for hours and hours. This slow cooking also removes the superfluous fat from the meat and breaks the connection to bone. If the meat on the ribs isn't moist but not greasy and doesn't pull cleanly from the bone then the "low and slow rule" hasn't been followed. Rendezvous failed on this test as well.

It was, overall, a disappointing experience and I can only imagine that they are a victim of their own success. I would suspect that a thousand or more people troop through the place on any given night and the wherewithal is just not there to do it right. Too bad that so many people leave Memphis thinking that these are the standard for Southern BBQ ribs.

The bottom line is that the best ribs I have found in Memphis are at the Corky's out in Germantown (the original). You have to do them yourself if you want them better.

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