Smoked Baby back Ribs
What better to start a barbeque blog with than Smoked Baby back Ribs! These are perennial favorites at cookouts, tailgates, Sunday afternoon football parties and just about any time. My oldest daughter thinks I make the best brisket (that’s another post), but my youngest daughter will kill for one of my ribs!
Baby back ribs are the easy to prepare and cook in a relatively short amount of time (+/-6 hours as opposed to 20 hours for a 13 lb. brisket). I like to throw 6 – 8 racks on at a time with different rubs to keep it interesting but you can do as few as 1 rack – keep in mind that most packaged ribs have 2 or 3 racks per package.
The first thing you want to do is open the package, rinse the ribs in cold water and pat dry with paper towels – don’t be skimpy on the paper towels you want to get all the water off the ribs prior to seasoning.
Next you need to remove the membrane located on the bone side of the ribs – I have read some blogs and heard various grill masters state that this is not an important step but I feel it is if you want to get the most tender ribs possible. The way we do this is by turning the ribs bone side up, and starting at the “narrow” end take a knife (butter knife will work fine though I prefer a paring knife) and work it under the membrane between the second to last and last rib (see picture below)
Once you’ve gotten the membrane started, grab the end with a piece of paper towel and continue to pull the membrane off (see below)
At this point the membrane should just pull right off. The hardest part is always getting under the membrane in the beginning.
Next let’s make our rubs:
I prefer dry rubs as opposed to sauces or marinades for most of my smoking. Baby back ribs are no exception. I do however like a wide variety of rubs, some sweet, most savory and spicy. You will notice I use “parts” as opposed to measurements – I do this because I find it easier to scale (either up or down) – simply choose your “part”, is it a cup, tablespoon, 1/2 cup? I like to use 1/8 cup as my “part” so 6 “parts” is 6 1/8 cups or 3/4 of a cup – .125×6 (.125= 1/8).
Here is a Memphis dry rub that I like to use:
6 parts firmly packed dark brown sugar
6 parts white sugar
3 part paprika
2 part garlic powder
1/2 part ground black pepper
1/2 ground ginger powder
1/2 part onion powder
1/2 part rosemary powder
Here is my personal favorite perfected through trial and error over many years:
**SPOILER ALERT!! This one is very spicy!!
6 parts corse black pepper
3 part garlic powder
3 part onion powders
1 part paprika
1 part chili powder
1/2 part cayenne
Here’s one on the sweeter side:
6 parts brown sugar well packed
3 parts garlic powder
3 parts onion powder
1 part mustard powder
1/2 part cummin
1 part ginger powder
You may notice that I do not add salt to any of my rubs, that is because I salt the meat separately. I find I have better control over the amount of salt and the distribution. Salt is very important in the preparation of meats because it actually penetrates deep into the tissue and helps start the process of breaking down the muscle to help make the meat tender.
So let’s flavorize the meat!
If you are new to smoking or have been doing it for 100 years, you know the biggest problem with dry rubs is that they do not stick to the meat and simply fall off during the various stages of preparation. Here, in these very pages, I will impart to you a “grill master” secret that you must promise to bring with you to the grave!! – well, not really, cause it’s not a secret – more a trick – and I’d feel weird asking you to take some sort of super secret oath! This step reminds me of the way my grandfather (a mason), used to prep field stone as he was building walls or fireplaces. He’d take a little ‘slurry’ and brush it on the stones to help the mortar stick better. We are going to do the same thing, but instead of using mortar, we’ll use … mustard. Yup, you heard me, mustard, the plane yellow type, no fancy Dijon or brown mustard, just good old fashion Frenches (or your brand of preference). We need to coat the ribs liberally with mustard to create an adhesive surface to receive the delicious rubs you just made. I like to use a deep disposable aluminum pan to perform this work, less mess and you throw it away once you are done (although, I rinse mine out and use them to transport the cooked ribs from the smoker to the butcher block.
Here is what your ribs should look like after you have lathered them with mustard
Once you have completely covered every square inch of your ribs with mustard, it’s time to start applying your rub. I always try to apply the mustard with one hand and keep my other hand clean for grabbing and sprinkling the rub. Be very liberal with your rub, don’t skimp – remember, they are going to cook for 5-6 hours, you want the flavor to remain as the fat drips off.
This is what your ribs should look like after you have applied the rub
Now it’s time to prepare your smoker…
Set your ribs aside – your choice whether you put them in the refrigerator or not.
I own two smokers, a Weber Smokey Mountain and a Dyna-Glo 36″ offset. I like the way my Weber cooks ribs because of the inline water pan. The Dyna-Glo works well too but needs more attention to temperature and location of the ribs.
To prepare the Smokey Mountain (or any cylinder style smoker), fill the bottom with charcoal – yes, the type of charcoal does make a difference, I like to use a maple base charcoal for an even, long burn. After the charcoal has been disbursed in the ‘fire-box’, give it a liberal dousing of lighter fluid (yes, I use lighter fluid, it’s quick and easy – the only thing you need to make sure of is that you let the coals burn long enough to burn off the accelerator’s odor – about 15-20 minutes). While the charcoal is heating up, go get your meat. Once the coals have turned a dusty white and are glowing red, fill the water pan with hot water. Stock the fire box with your choice of ‘smoke wood’, I prefer Apple, Cherry, and Hickory, but any hard wood will do.
TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK – THAT IS THE QUESTION…
It is totally up to you whether you pre-soak your hardwood or not. I’ve done both and haven’t found a difference so it is really up to you.
Once you have added your hardwood ‘smoke’, drop your water pan in place and close the lid. Let the smoker heat up to 225-250 degrees farenheit. Take the lid off and quickly place your ribs on the cooking area. I prefer bone side down so the fat and juices flow down through the meat, but again, totally up to you. I use a rib rack to get more ribs on the cooking area.
Once you have your ribs on the grill, cover and make sure the temperature stays at around 250 degrees. The wood chunks that you added should last for about 2 hours which is all you need for the flavor, but I like to add more about half way through, just because.
**SPOILER ALERT another trick to make your ribs “FALL OFF THE BONE”
Baby back ribs need to cook for 5-6 hours. In order to get them to the most moist and tender, follow this simple numbers rule – 3 hours on, 2 hours wrapped, 1 hour on for “fall off the bone” ribs every time! What do I mean? Easy…
start your ribs off as normal and let them cook at 250 for 3 hours. At which point you take them off the heat and wrap each rack individually in tin foil and put them back in your smoker as quickly as possible. You then cook them for an other 2 hours, at the end of which, you remove them from the tin foil and place them back directly on the smoker grill, where you let them stay for the final hour. Be careful when transferring the ribs from the tin foil to the grill because they may begin to fall apart on you at this point.
Once your ribs have reached the 5 hour mark, remove them from the smoker and let them sit, covered, for about 15 or 20 minutes to allow the juices to disperse through the meat. Cut between each rib, plate, and serve. Voila! It’s that simple.
I prefer my meat dry, no sauces, but if you want to add your favorite bbq sauce, before your cut your ribs to serve, place the whole rack on your grill and lather each side with your favorite bbq sauce, then cut and serve. You can find my bbq sauce recipe on the recipe page of this website.
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I hope you enjoyed my first post. Please let me know what I’ve done right, and where I can improve. I appreciate your feed back!