Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Easy Smoked BBQ Pork Ribs

Of all the BBQ arts, ribs are perhaps the most ubiquitously loved and feared item on the menu. Nothing is quite so fine as the perfectly smoked rib, patiently pampered, and delicately seasoned. Tender, and complete in it’s flavor profile. While in the same breath, few things that come off a grill are as miserable as a poorly cooked rack of ribs, tougher than shoe leather, and not all that much better in taste. Ribs are a litmus test of your grilling prowess, and for that reason alone, they are a revered subject in the BBQ community. So for those who have not yet attempted a rack of ribs on the smoker, here is how to bring your game to the next level.

Insert a butter knife between a bone and the membrane on the back side, and near the end of the rack of ribs. Pry up the membrane there enough to get a hold of it with your hand. These things are as slippery as a bar of soap in the bath tub, but if you grip it with a paper towel, you can aptly tame the beast. Grab tight and pull, peeling it off down the length of the rack. The membrane is on there tighter than a tick to a hound dog, but if you do it right, it comes off in one, easy, stroke. If you do it wrong, you’ll live I guess. Anyways,the reason you have to peel it off is two fold: firstly, it’s a son of a gun to chew on, and secondly, by removing it, you increase your ribs capacity for smoke absorption and rub penetration, as neither can breach the membrane. So do your very best to remove it. If you just can’t make it happen, the old pit master trick of scoring it in a checker board pattern will loosen things up enough to eat it. It’s not the BBQ ideal, but we can turn our heads if we must.

Next, some pit masters like to wipe it down in vinegar at this point, to open the pores of the meat. While others will slather the rack in mustard, to form sort of an adhesive agent for the rub. Rubs, like most things BBQ, are an art. There is no right or wrong thing here, just go with your grill master gut. I used to do the mustard thing for quite some time, and despite what newbies tend to think, you cannot taste the mustard. It’s job is purely to hold the rub. Lately here tho, I’ve been forgoing the mustard idea altogether, and just slapping on the rub on right away, and that works too. But the main idea here is to get your favorite rub on the ribs. Dash it all over, and don’t skimp. This is the single biggest influence of flavor for your end product. Do it right.

While doing all this prep, the smoker should be warming up and stabilizing.  For this instructional, you should dial in your cooker for the smoking ideal, 225 to 250 degrees. This is your magic temperature range for the low and slow gospel approach to true southern BBQ. I believe in it, and sing it’s lofty praises. As for a water pan or not, I have done it both ways, and have come to the conclusion that it matters not for the moisture of the ribs in this application. The water pan may be useful however in acting as a heat sink, to help you lower the temperature in your cooker. Every smoker is different, and it’s your duty as it’s pit master to learn how to run your grill efficiently. At any rate, once you get it up to temp, go head and toss on your smoke wood of choice. Here too it is art, so follow your inklings. We love apple or hickory wood, but since maple trees are abundant around here, we tend to favor their aroma from time to time too.

Once your smoker has stabilized, or in other words holding your desired temperature, and the bellowing smoke has settled down into something of a thinner affair, it is then time to lay your rubbed up rack gently in the smoker, bone-side down. Put on the cover. The hardest part is done now. Now, and at last, you are liberated to do as you wish. These are the moments BBQ people live for. For the next 2 1/2 hours, you are free to saunter about the house, doing what ever it is you do in your house when meat is cooking quietly. I would suggest taking up residence in your big leather man chair, with a lovely beverage at hand, and a Stallone movie on play. Either that or tranquil nap pit-side, smoke wafting, with the Black Capped Chickadees flirting at your bird feeder, and the warm sunbeams melting over your rose bushes. These are the poetic moments of the smoke, and the binders of your memories whence the food is gone, and the coal is out. This is why, by choice, you go low and slow. Simply to extend the beauty of the moment, for the moment’s sake. What a joy it is to take your foot off the accelerator pedal of life, and coast amid it’s treasured ambiance. This is your time to revel in the cook, and glory in the smoke patron to the scenic path. This is why we do what we do.20120930_180302_edit0

After 2 1/2 hours, then begins the Texas cheat. Say what you will about foiling your meat, it works. Yes, it’s more macho I suppose to do it without foil, but the success rate of ribs foiled is too staggering to ignore. So cheat. Then end result is quality BBQ ribs, which after all is what we are after in the first place. Wrap your ribs in foil with a good splash of apple juice for good measure, and place it back on the smoker for another 2 hours. This is where the magic happens, and where the fate of boot leather ribs is thwarted. What happens is a steam bath of sorts. It’s like sending your ribs to the spa for a good pampering. Steaming in apple juice, or what ever drink you have on hand really, will loosen the meat, moisten the meat, and flavor the meat all at once. It is your secret weapon for perfect ribs.

Finally, after a couple hours, go ahead and remove them from the foil, pouring it’s drippings back over the meat. Let them continue their journey to excellence back where they started, on the grate. For the next half hour, liberally baste them in your choice BBQ sauce. Or if your feeling daring, let your rub speak for itself.  Let them firm up a little. Let them gain their composure. And then, whence your slobbers can stand no more, plate them up, and take them to your people. And watch their heads turn, and their tongues fall out. The aroma of victory will follow you. And the cheers of your people will wash over you as they sample your spoils. And you will have successfully, with out any doubt, passed your BBQ litmus test. Amen.

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Low & Slow, people. Low & Slow.

8 responses

  1. Excellent post on rib prep, having done the whole competition BBQ thing, this is pretty close to what I did to make competition ribs. I would soak mine in DR Pepper for about 30 45 mins then lather them in some bacon drippings, then applied my home made rub. After the Texas Crutch I would take a half jar of my gregsauce sweet and mix it with a half jar of gregsauce hot and add a cup of orange blossom honey then “paint” the ribs with that mix and let them set on the grill for about an hour and slowly let the fire die down. I loved the big sauce grins on peoples faces after consuming the ribs….we kinda looked like the joker from batman…..

    January 13, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    • Very cool. Odd, Dr. Pepper seems to be a favorite used by many, but I’ve only used it in the foil stage. Never tried it as a marinade, tho I bet that would work pretty good too. Bacon drippings…Man! You know your stuff old chap, and it’s a pleasure to have you on board here. We love your stories!

      January 14, 2013 at 10:22 am

  2. Ah, My favorite guilty pleasure!:D

    January 24, 2013 at 3:36 am

  3. I am inspired! I will be looking for a smoker to use here in Ecuador. I am sure I can convince my marisco (seafood) eating buddies to try some good ole’ Texas style ribs! Mmm, Mmm!

    January 27, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    • Wow, you inspire quickly! Yes, men like ribs, no matter where they live. They will likely slobber at first sight of your spoils I’m sure. By the way, welcome on board. Let us know how your first smoke goes!

      January 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  4. Mouth is watering! Cant wait to try this technique out! I live in Greece but have spent fair amount of time in the south (US) and LOVE ribs! Interesting how in a country with such a voracious appetite for meat and pork being the winning pick ribs, as we know them in the US, are never consumed here. Just imagining your ribs with a side of greens and some cornbread…………..mmmmmmmm! Thanks for sharing.

    February 11, 2013 at 1:24 am

    • They don’t eat ribs in Greece? Wow. Well I wish you luck then on introducing them there. You will become an ambassador for the rib community – do us proud!

      February 11, 2013 at 8:31 am

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