I love smoked baby back ribs. Here is a fairly simple, straightforward recipe for making them. Enjoy!
Ingredients and Equipment:
Grill set up as a Smoker. (Read this post before smoking the ribs. It will tell you how to set up the grill, achieve the temperature you want, and maintain that temperature for your entire cook.)
Rib Rack (A rib rack is helpful if you are doing more than two racks.)
Baby Back Ribs. (Read this post before buying any ribs if you have not done it before or do not feel very confident in how to shop for them.)
I use plain yellow mustard.
For this cook, I used two different commercial rubs. (I was smoking 4 slabs of ribs and did not have enough of either rub.) The Simply Marvelous Cherry Rub is my favorite rub for pork.
I LOVE the Simply Marvelous Cherry Rub. Everyone I know who has ever tried it loves it too. The Corky’s rub is a great Memphis-style rub that I also really like.
Remove the membrane from the bottom of the ribs. You want to do this, because the membrane is tough to bite through and does not allow the rub to penetrate into the meat. I start on the “skinny” end of the slab and peel away a small amount of membrane. If I cannot do this by hand, I use a knife. Once I have enough membrane to grab on to, I grab it using a paper towel and pull it off the slab. It usually comes off in one piece.
In the photo below, the membrane is partially removed. (The knife if there for contrast so you can see the membrane more easily.)
Once the membrane is removed, slather the ribs with a generous amount of mustard. (You will not taste or see the mustard in the final product.)
The slather will help the rub adhere to the meat and promote the creation of “bark,” i.e., a crust on the smoked meat. Some people use oil instead of mustard. The thought is that there are fat soluble flavors in the rub, and the oil will enhance those flavors. I use mustard, because the pork has fat that will render during the cook, and that fat in the pork will do the same thing as oil.
Dust the ribs with the rub and gently press the rub into the ribs.
The application of the mustard and the rub needs to be done on both sides of the ribs.
After applying the mustard and the rub, refrigerate the ribs for at least 1 hour.
Now, I have two points to share with you. First, Some very good cooks put their rubs on the night before a cook. Other really good cooks put their rubs on right before smoking the meat. Still other very good cooks do it somewhere in between. My point here is don’t obsess over it. As long as you refrigerate for at least one hour, you should be fine.
Second, when you are grilling, e.g., steak, you want to have the meat at room temperature for at least one hour, but usually two, so that the meat heats up before you put it on the grill. The thinking is that every degree the temp of the middle of the steak rises before you grill is a degree you do not have to achieve on the grill. Hence, you will get the internal temp you want before you burn the outside of the steak. Smoking works differently. Once the meat you are smoking cooks sufficiently on the outside–long before it is done–it will not absorb any good flavors from smoke. Therefore, you want to prolong the smoking process as long as possible. This is done by refrigerating the meat right up until the time you put it on the smoker.
When you are ready to smoke, put the ribs over the drip pan on your grill. (I smoked these ribs at 275-300 degrees.)
Every 20 minutes, check the temperature gauge on the grill. I will not open the lid as long as the temperature gauge is between 275-300 degrees. (Remember, if you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin’.) When the temperature gauge does start to drop, do three things:
–add about 20 more coals;
–rotate the ribs on the rack, moving the ones in back to the front and vice versa;
–spray the ribs with a mixture of 50% apple juice and 50% apple cider vinegar. (This will keep the ribs moist and add good flavor.)
Here are the ribs after 1.5 hours.
Here were the ribs after 3.5 hours.
I took them off the smoker after 4.5 hours. I sauced them 10 minutes before removing them. I did not sauce them in the rib rack.
How did I know the ribs were done?
In cookbooks and on the web, you will find many methods for determining whether ribs are done. The method I used here is the “bend test.” I picked up the slab with my tongs, lifted it up, and bounced the slab lightly. If the ribs start to crack and it feels like they will break in half, the ribs are done. On the other hand, a little crack means the ribs need more time.
I did not get a picture of the bend test on this cook, but here is one that illustrates the concept well.
Below, you can see that I achieved a little bit of a smoke ring on my ribs. I don’t obsess over smoke rings. I don’t always get them.