Serves 3-4 People per Rack., 6-7 hours to cook
When it comes to backyard barbecue, smoked ribs may take home the top prize in royalty . Smoked Ribs are Smokey and sweet, and can bring out the best in smoked meat flavor. There is just something about the sweet and spicy flavor along with the sticky finger licking goodness that makes smoked ribs on a game day are a favorite in my house, and will be in yours too.
Type of Ribs
When looking at ribs, there are two distinct types that are easy to find in the grocery store, spare ribs , and loin back ribs (baby back)
Spare Ribs are taken from the lower section of the rib cage, and will contain more intramuscular fat, which can give more flavor when rendered down properly. They are also slightly bigger than the baby back ribs, which in return means it takes a little longer to cook.
You may also see something called St. Louis Style Ribs, these are essentially spare ribs that have been trimmed down to a certain style.
Despite these slight differences, either type of rib will turn out perfectly on the smoker.
Shopping List for the Best Smoked Ribs
- Ribs, Spare, St. Louis Style, or Baby Back
- BBQ sauce
- Garlic powder
- Spicy rub
- Sweet rub
- Applewood Smoking Chips
- Butcher Paper, Or aluminum Foil
Fire Up the Smoker:
Get your smoker warmed up to 275 degrees for this cook. As always, you want a good clean smoke, so make sure your smoker is all warmed up,stabilized, and you don’t have any nasty white smoke barreling out of your smoker before putting it on.
Trimming your Ribs
Before we can go any further, we have to trim our ribs out of the package. It’s simple to do, and doesn’t require much skill, although your butcher can certainly trim your ribs for you if you were to ask.
Start by removing from the package, and rinsing them with cool water, and pat dry with a paper towel.
Next, place on a cutting board and trim off the small ribs toward the outside, this should help “square up” your ribs giving them a better chance at cooking even and looking better overall when done cooking.
After you’ve got them squared up, its time to remove the membrane.
On the bony side, there is a small film like substance that is a membrane. I like to remove this, and it lets me get seasoning all the way to the bones, and is less chewy when its time to eat them. This is totally optional, and your ribs will turn out just fine if you choose to leave it on them.
To remove, insert a dull butter knife up under this membrane by sliding it along a rib bone from the outside in. You should be able to slide it in without tearing, put pressure up to separate it a little from the ribs, and then cut it a little. You can now grab it with your hands, or a paper towel, and simply pull it off the ribs. This will take practice, and you’ll get better the more you do it. If I run into one thats hard to do, I leave it on. It’s not worth losing sleep over.
Seasoning Your Ribs:
Per my normal style, I always like to build my seasonings on the meat in layers.
For Ribs, I start with my normal base layer that is more savory. Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
In a shaker, or small bowl, add 1 part pepper, 1 part course salt, and about 1/10th part of garlic powder. Mix this all together and you’ve got an all purpose rub I use on almost everything.
Slather your ribs in mustard, starting with the bone side up. The mustard is our binder, and does not give any mustard flavor whatsoever. Something sciencey happens with the vinegar and the meat, creating the perfect bark.
Add a even coat of your all purpose rub.
Pat this rub in
Add an even layer of a spicy rub (optional)
Add an even layer of a more sweet rub, pat it in.
I like to use the sweet rub last, because it typically contains sugars in the rub profile. These sugars will caramelize, giving a very nice visual component to our ribs when they are done cooking.
Repeat this process on the other side (meat side up)
In all honesty, the second and third layers of seasoning are optional, as the all purpose rub will give you a great flavor that resembles Texas style smoked ribs, letting the meat and smoke do the talking.
How To Smoke Your Ribs
With your ribs seasoned, and smoker warmed up, its time to throw it down!
I like to use the 3-2-1 method on ribs. This means 3 hours unwrapped, on the smoker, getting access to all that smoke, 2 hours wrapped up, getting tender in its own juices and secret ingredients, and 1 hour to finish with sauce, unwrapped. This tried and true method has smoked many ribs here, and its almost foolproof.
Unwrapped, 3 hours:
Place your ribs on the grate how you want them to cook. By this, I mean that they will typically look how you’ve got them oriented, so don’t have them warped up on the grill grate. Lay them flat and even.
The first stage of our cook is 3 hours uncovered, getting kissed by smoke, so let it ride. I like to check in on the ribs after 2 hours. If the ribs look like they are drying out a little, give them a spritz of apple juice or water.
Wrapped, 2 hours:
After 3 hours, you should start to see the meat pulling back on the ribs. Now its time to wrap them in foil or butcher paper.
Here is my secret.
Lay foil or butcher paper out on a pan, slice some butter and lay it out where the ribs will go. Sprinkle about a 1/4 cup of brown sugar on top of the butter, and drizzle some honey or maple syrup on top of that.
Your ribs will go meat side down in your butter, sugar, syrup combo, and then you can wrap it up tight.
This will let our ribs tenderize and give us a perfect texture.
Let the wrapped ribs smoke for another 2 hours before checking.
Unwrapped, Finish in Sauce, 1 hour
Go ahead and unwrap your ribs at this point. They should be getting good and tender, and look nearly finished, but we still need to finish them in sauce for another hour or so.
Grab your favorite bbq sauce, and slather your ribs in it.
Place back on grill grate, and smoke at 275-300 for about an hour.
At this point, its a good idea to get your meat thermometer and start monitoring the ribs temperature on the smoker. You want to smoke the ribs to a temperature of 185-190 degrees.
Pull the ribs off the smoker and take them inside, let them rest, lightly covered for at least 15 minutes before cutting.
Serving Your Smoked Ribs
After your smoked ribs have rested, it is time to serve.
To do this, place your ribs on a cutting board upside down, bone side up.
Slice between the rib bones, allowing plenty of meat per bone.
Lay the ribs on a serving platter, touching up the sauce as you display them. I like my ribs saucy and messy, so I make sure each bite will have bbq sauce.
If I’m serving ribs, the go to side for us is Mac n Cheese and other backyard barbecue type side dishes. Comfort foods and salad dishes go great with smoked ribs. Ribs are perhaps the premiere backyard barbecue meat, so whatever your family enjoys will go great with them.
Other Smoked Rib Dishes:
Think Smoked Ribs can only be enjoyed one way? Think Again
Rib meat can be cut off the bone and served just like pulled pork. It may even have more flavor than a pork shoulder. Some of my favorites are:
- Pulled Rib Meat Tacos
- Rib Mac N Cheese
- Rib Enchiladas
- Pulled Rib Sandwiches
Recipe For The Best Smoked Ribs
- Warm Up Smoker 275 degrees, Trim and Season Ribs
- Cook Ribs 3 Hours uncovered
- Wrap Ribs and cook for 2 more hours
- Unwrap Ribs, Sauce, and cook for 1 more hour
- Slice and Serve