How to smoke ribs

Ribs, everybody wants to make some and a lot of people are not sure how.  Well like most meat low and slow will give you a juicy and fall off the bone tender result.  But with ribs there is something special that needs to happen.  I like typically like to stick with larger cuts of meat but no man could claim to be even a novice of the BBQ without having ribs tucked away firmly in his belt.

Rack of ribs

Like most chunks of meat I smoke the ribs started out the night before with a trimming, which I historically do a less than professional job at.  From there I wash the ribs and pat them dry with paper towels and then rub them.  Typically rubbing is a two part process.  The first is to coat them in mustard or some other liquid to help the rub stick and the second is the rub them with your rub.  How much is up to you, ribs have a delicacy to them that is easily over powered with too much rub.  Once this is all done is into the fridge in a sealed container to think about what they have done.

Freshly rubbed spare ribs

The meat (ribs) in the picture above were rubbed with two different rubs.  After a nights worth of sitting in the rub or a couple hours if that is all that is available I get the smoker ready.  I boil some water in my kettle for my water pan to speed up the preheating process and get my wood for the day ready.  Once the smoker has reached that magical temperature of 225°F it is ready for some meat.  So I lube my grate with some oil, its a habit and then throw the meat on and let the smoke start rolling.

Ribs just on the smoker

When smoking ribs I use the 3-2-1 Rib method, which is not my invention but seems to work quite well and is easy to remember.  The first stage is to smoke the ribs for about 3 hours.  The time is not nearly as important as is the appearance at this point.  Once the meat begins to pull away from the bone and has pulled back about a 1/4 inch it is time to move onto step two.

Ribs at the end of stage 3

Once your ribs are looking like these it is time to move on to step two.  Stage two is kinda hard to swallow at first, I mean I just wanna continue to flood my ribs with smokey flavor but its time to pull back for a few.  In stage two its all about time, take the ribs off the smoker and wrap them in foil with a little apple juice.  I am not sure how much apple juice I use it depends on the meat and what looks good.  You could certainly substitute some other liquid here the goal is just to provide the ribs with some moisture while they are in the foil.  Throw the ribs wrapped in foil back on the smoker for two hours and let the magic happen.  During this time the ribs are soaking up the juice and getting their fall of the bone tender status.  There is no need to supply smoke during this period.

Ribs after stage 2

After two house in stage two remove the ribs from the foil and place them back on the smoker grate and get the smoke rolling again.  It might be time to check that water pan too.  The ribs should look like those above at this point, shrinkage has occurred and they looking kinda mushy.  That is where the final stage of the 3-2-1 method comes in smoke them until they reach 172°F in the thickest part of the meat.  This should take an 45 minutes to an hour.  If you would like to add BBQ sauce during the last 15 minutes on the smoker is the time to do this.

Ribs cooked to perfection

Once the ribs are done pull them off the smoker and let them rest for 15 minutes on the counter.  During this time the juices will redistribute and you will be glad you waited.  Serve and enjoy.

The 3-2-1 method assumes you are dealing with spare ribs.  If you find yourself with baby back ribs you will be looking at something more like the 2-2-1 method, just be sure to be more attentive to the meat an hour earlier with baby backs.

As with most other pork I prefer to mix apple and hickory for my ribs, gives them an excellent flavor.