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Beginners guide: Smoking Ribs

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    Beginners guide: Smoking Ribs

    Ribs are probably the favorite and most associated type of "Q". Spare ribs ("spares") are my go-to but the smaller, meaty baby back ribs are also great (and take less time).

    Ribs are fairly straight forward to smoke and spares using the Texas Crutch method take about 5 hours. Baby Backs can be cooked in 3. In prep pictures I'm using baby backs but it will be the same.

    The Texas Crutch. 3-2-1. 3 hours smoked in the chamber. 2 hours wrapped in foil. Last (1) hour sauced and wrapped. Rest and server. I run the smoker at 220-240 avg. for ribs. I use oak splits and charcoal briquets. Rest at least 15-30 minutes before serving. Ribs will be ready when the meat is pulled back off the bone at the ends, and if you lift the rack, you can do the "fold test"...a cooked rack will fold by itself and the meat almost break off. If you cook over you will start to toughen the meat so try to keep it in the range I described above.


    Prepping the ribs

    Step 1. Remove the rib membrane. Trim fat.
    Baby Back ribs seem easier to the removal of the membrane along the back. Pry something like a knife in there to separate then firmly grab with a dry paper towel and pull in one stroke. Spares can be trimmed into the rectangular "St. Louis" style or bought that way. If you can't remove all the membrane or fat (it is difficult at times) try trimming and scoring the back with a sharp meat knife.


    Step 2. Apply an oil
    Peanut oil is a very neutral flavor great with pork, Southern in tradition and Q, and will help the rub grip. Many spices (hot) are only fat or alcohol soluble so your cayenes, chilli, etc. will flavor greater with an oiling.

    Step 3. Apply Dry Rub.
    Liberally cover with dry rub. My dry rub recipe is mainly (1/3) brown sugar, garlic powder and paprika, then hots like cayenne and chilli and savories like mustard powder, and other spices.

    Step 4. Cook.
    Heat up the smoker to a about 220-240 for spares or you can go higher at 250-300 for a shorter baby back cook. For spares use the 3-2-1 Texas crutch and rest and serve. Baby backs:The cook should last 2.5-3 hours, and then remove wrap in foil and rest. If saucing, wrap in foil and sauce 1 hr -1/2 hour prior to end of cook.

    This is the amount of oak splits I use for one rib cook.

    Happy Q-ing!
    Last edited by Destro; 05-29-2016, 01:15 PM.

    Hmm that looks so good.
    There are literally infinite ways to smoke ribs and or meat. Its all good. I am currently without a smoker. (Looking for a good one.) My preferred method is to slow smoke with Apple and Hickory wood along with kingsford charcoal to maintain a temperature. Wood is for flavor and charcoal for temp. Sometimes it is a balancing act for sure.
    I start with a dry rub. I have a set recipe but usually go with what I have around. If possible I rub overnight but usually in the morning. Start the smoker with charcoal then when everything is up to temp and coals are white I add wood then the meat. I usually never go over 200 degrees (or try not to). While meat is smoking I make a sauce. I usually start with fresh tomatoes, brown sugar, onion powder(sometimes fresh onion) something herbal(oregano, basil, rosemary, all depends on what I am smoking) something spicey and a few other odds and ends. Sauce is thin to brush on meat in later stages of smoking.
    After meat is cooked they are removed and covered with foil in big baking pan to rest while I cook down the sauce and strain out solids. Serve with whatever makes you happy.
    Brisket is my next one...
    Destro and everyone else enjoy your bbq. Happy Holiday and god bless our vets.


    • Destro
      Destro commented
      Editing a comment
      Yes, there are many variations and other steps but in traditional Q the method I described is a traditional way to go and keeping it simple for beginners (below 200 is a bit low IMO for ribs and will take much longer but will work of course. The winningnest pitmaster Myron Mixon actually smokes his ribs at close to 300).

      I will also point out that wood is not just for flavor, but the cherished smoke ring that you get in BBQ is from a chemical reaction to the smoke. The smoke's chemical reaction with meat helps break down the collegans and tenderize the meat (which is why many cuts for bbq are traditionally tough, like brisket. BBQ was a way to take cheap, tough cuts of meat like brisket and butts and tenderize it for the common people).

      Other steps include moisture, a water pan in the chamber (lasagna tin pan works great), using liquids when wrapping (peach or apple juice is common on the Q circuit) and spritzing the ribs with juice or water (most competition pitmaster do this). But whatever gets you a tasty result is all that matters. Enjoy!
      Last edited by Destro; 05-29-2016, 02:05 PM.

    Great write up, thanks! I had stainless pliers I kept in the kitchen to grab that inner rib membrane.. Sometimes it peel in sheets, others shredded on me..
    Have a great Memorial Day.
    Hunter, NRA Life Member, NYS Deplorable


    Pro Political Term Limits
    Anti High Capacity Mag Limits
    Fuck Andrew Cuomo's Suck my Ass Act


    • Destro
      Destro commented
      Editing a comment
      The membrane can be a byatch. Like you said sometimes it works with you in one sheet, other times not so much. I've tried pliers but when my hands get slimy from the meat it gets slippery. The paper towel works best for me...with a kung fu grip.

      Have a great Memorial Day yourself!

    • John060404
      John060404 commented
      Editing a comment
      I agree! Using a paper towel and a little muscle seems to work best at getting the membrane off in one sheet! Have a great Memorial Day!

    You guys got me Jonesn for ribs!!!


      Awesome thread! I can't wait to try it...Thanks Destro!
      If Sonny had EZ-Pass, he'd have survived that hit...


        I like using a butter knife with a nice round edge or even a spoon to get under the membrane and help to peel it, I find sharp utensils end up cutting it and making it more difficult to pull off.


          Its all good. I tend to really baby my bbq. Usually sitting over it and tending to it. Just want to clear this up. I am aware of the chemical and physical reactions between the smoke and the meat. Infact different woods impart different flavors and react much differently with different meats and cuts.
          Watch Diners Drive Inns and Dive and check out John Mulls Meats in Las Vegas. He boils his ribs. They are marinated overnight under pressure then boiled. Last half hour on the BBQ. Add some sauce and you have some of the best ribs ever. Had some last week.who would of ever thought you should boil ribs.
          Destro you have some great techniques for smoking. I have smoked over a campfire with a tin foil tent.


          • Destro
            Destro commented
            Editing a comment
            Boiled ribs. That's like decaf to coffee elitists LOL.

            Look there are tons of different ways that work (same as with cooking and some experimental techniques). That is all good and fine. But then there is also recognized traditional Q, which is big in the BBQ world. The territorial styles are very fascinating, how N. Carolina does things differently South/North of the state (they're very adamant about it, whole hog, vinegar base etc.) Texas style, Memphis and St. Louis, Georgia bbq, Kentucky style. It's a way of life down there and I appreciate the history and Americana, just like I do with bourbon (both have a lot in common).

            Then when you get into the competitive Q world (the stuff you see on shows like the popular BBQ Pitmasters) there is also a lot of tradition and accepted or required methods. I focus a bit more on the purist side of things, though whatever works is great (hey, I've been to WD-50 in New York and had some bacon foam). :P
            Last edited by Destro; 05-30-2016, 01:29 PM.

          Awesome write up man. I am really getting into some smoking. We have some friends that have a garlic allergy. That makes it really hard to season anything. There is garlic in just about everything. But I found one that is awesome. Very savory. Good kick to it. I love it. I'll update this post with the link.

          One question. Is there a membrane on St. Louis ribs too?
          Last edited by Idiocracy; 05-30-2016, 08:06 AM.


          • Destro
            Destro commented
            Editing a comment
            On of my cousins husbands had a peanut allergy. I use peanut oil on all my ribs. Nice thing is he turned out to be a really arrogant condescending yuppie, I was ready to pour some of the stuff on top of his balding geeky head.

            Yes, the membrane is on any type of rib. The St. Louis style are just spares cut to a rectangular shape.

          Good stuff. Looks delicious.


            I have a rack of beef ribs and a small brisket going right now.


            • Destro
              Destro commented
              Editing a comment
              You know what. I've never smoked a brisket. Probably the 10-12 hour cook that has turned me off (and I often drink during my cooks so yeah). I feel like I have to, at some point.

              But brisket is a great example of what Q started as. It's a tough cut of meat otherwise, but using slow and low smoking it is tenderized and made an accessible meat to the people. In the Jamestown colony they smoked and made pulled pork, because many had wooden teeth and the soft tenderized meat was easier to eat, plus they made use of the whole hog.

            Some before pics. I let the rub sit overnight.
            You do not have permission to view this gallery.
            This gallery has 2 photos.


            • Destro
              Destro commented
              Editing a comment
              Nice, but you're posting briskets in a beginners RIB thread. :P

            One more thing to add that would help us is any local updates on where to buy ribs. It's sometimes hard to find decent ribs in local supermarkets especially around this season.

            Uncle G's (i use Smithtown) always has pork butts and shoulders that are great and often baby back ribs (no spares)>

            Stop N Shop carries vacuum sealed spares this time of year (quality and availability varies).

            Fresh Market in Smithtown had a sale on Baby Backs for 3.99/lb

            Vacuum Packed by the way can be frozen and thawed and last much longer, though the quality depends on the brand.

            Last edited by Destro; 05-30-2016, 01:44 PM.


            • SteveM
              SteveM commented
              Editing a comment
              As long as you have a tax ID for the business you should be fine. When my mother had a consulting business(not food related) that was all she needed. I believe you can also get just a day pass to check it out. The Melville location has a better meat selection than Bohemia but the are currently renovating the Bohemia location so hopefully that will change.

            • TTSkipper
              TTSkipper commented
              Editing a comment
              I believe you can join KCBS and you will get a day pass you can print for RD.

            • TTSkipper
              TTSkipper commented
              Editing a comment
              Forgot to add I have had going luck finding both baby backs and spares at Shop Rite in Uniondale I have not tried any other locations but I will probably stop at the New one in Levittown this coming weekend.

            The reason I decided to smoke today was because I knew that you would be posting and i had pre-post envy.

            I tried a new rib rub this time that includes Turmeric (saw it in a Myron Mixon recipe). I am also trying the 3-2-1 approach so we will see how it goes. They should be coming out in 10 minutes.

            I mostly smoke chicken since 3hrs seems to be the limit of my patients.

            Good eating.


            • Destro
              Destro commented
              Editing a comment
              Hahha. Enjoy my compadre.

              I too have used tumeric in my rubs (very healthy stuff btw). Yeah, when I'm drinking or hosting while I Q longer cooks can be a hassle especially when tending a fire. Sausage is the easiest and most forgiving and chicken/cornish hens and baby backs can be smoked in 3 hours.

              Good eating to you as well!

            Some more add-on info for beginners on ribs/bbq:

            Moisture techniques:

            - Water pan in the chamber; put a shallow lasagna tin pan or similar in the chamber by the firebox side and fill with water. The steam will help keep the ribs tender.
            - Spritzing; a water bottle filled with juice and sprayed over the ribs here and there helps too. You can use any fruit juice (apple is commonly used) apple cider, beer, whatever combo you come up with.
            - Foil wrapping with a liquid; during the foil wrap portion of the cook, before you sauce, many pitmasters put in a liquid like honey or even "liquid butter" is used on the Q competitive circuit.

            Visual terms:

            bark - is the "crust" you get on the exterior - a combination of the dry rub and a little char
            smoke ring - the pink smoke ring you will see when you cut the meat is from the chemical reaction that the smoke makes with the meat. This is a coveted sign of BBQ.
            dry ribs v. sauced ribs- dry ribs simply means ribs cooked with only a dry rub and not sauced at any point.
            mahogany - a common color term used in competition to the coloring that ideal ribs should look like.


              My smoker should be arriving tomorrow. Can't wait to start smoking. Destro what is your opinion on brining?