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Report: Smoked Ribs

We had some time in our house this weekend and so we decided to smoke some ribs. We ran to the butchers (10 min before they closed) to get a rack of ribs. We had never smoked anything before. We definitely could've been a little more prepared!

We got home and my husband pulled out the instructions for our grill. It came with charcoal holders specifically for when you are cooking with indirect heat. We had thought ahead enough to purchase some hickory wood, so we got that soaking as well. Meanwhile I was working on a rub for the ribs. I put some Tony Chachere's on there because it seemed to have a lot of the same stuff rib rubs do, and then some sweet paprika and chili powder. We let the ribs sit out while the coals heated up, and then when they were ready we threw the ribs on.

They smoked beautifully. About a 1/2 hour before they are ready to serve my husband asks me to pull out the bbq sauce. I discover we don't have any bbq sauce. So I search chowhound for recipes, but we don't have any ketchup either (I know, we are condiment challenged) so a lot of the recipes were out. We ended up choosing one that was 2 c. vinegar and 1 T. brown sugar and some other spices. As you can imageine it was tart! So, we add all the brown sugar we have in the house, and it becomes ok. We put that on the meat and it actually tasted quite good!

We were pretty happy with the turn out, but we definitely could've been better prepared.

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  1. I'm actually cooking ribs tonight. I have a really dinky gas grill, so I have to cut the slabs into smaller pieces. I only light one side of the grill and put some wet woodchips in a makeshift aluminum foil dish on that side and keep the flame down really low. I also use a "mop" about every 20 minutes... a little worcestershire sauce, water, black pepper and cider vinegar. So far, my best effort took about 3 hours. I probably won't cook 'em that long tonight, or we'll be eating at midnight.

    I've also been working on my dry rub ... as you can tell, I LOVE ribs. White and brown sugar, onion salt, garlic powder, dried thyme, dry mustard, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper (just a little), black pepper, Lawry's season salt. No set amounts, although it's got more sugar in it than anything else and quite a lot of run-of-the mill chili powder. When it tastes good just licking it off your finger, then it's perfect. These don't even need sauce, but I usually put some on the side.

    Boy, am I getting hungry, and I just had lunch!

    1. what kind of ribs are you all using? baby back or spares?

      MalinDC, how long did it take you? I find if I smoke around 250 degrees, spares take me around 5-6 hours. Baby backs around 4-ish.

      Sounds like they turned out well!

      For what it is worth, I don't think you need bbq sauce afterwards. If you have a good rub, you can just eat them dry, or, if you do like them a bit wet, use a glaze - like apricot and chipotle or something (I just find stuff in the fridge to make one) then as they come off of the grill/smoker, brush them liberally with the glaze and they are done! Good stuff.

      1. I use both, depends on what's on sale. I think any pork on the bone is going to taste good cooked this way. Hopefully for my next weekend rib cooking I'll keep them on at least another hour.

        1. I think we used spare ribs, and they took us around 3 hours. The fire was probably a tad hotter than 250, we didn't have a good way to measure that.

          I will have to do this again to try a glaze and the rub. Yum!

          1. I would recommend putting a rub on the meat overnight before even putting them on the grill to smoke.....
            I do my ribs low and slow....about 4-6 hours, with hickory wood chips, or these hickory pellets i found at Canadian Tire (just pop them in foil...no soaking necessary)....Keep the grill at 200 degrees. Also, spray the ribs with canola oil to mositen the meat and allow the rub to form a crust.... mmmmm
            I got alot of good info from this site on how to smoke ribs....
            check it out
            follow all the links for different rub recipes, or make your own.
            The sauce should go on the last five minutes, increase the heat, and just heat the sauce until it starts to caramalize.....
            I just use sauce that I purchased from ribfests that occur across the GTA...they are delicious....If not diana's brand is decent.

            5 Replies
            1. re: pancake

              sometimes if your rub has lots of salt in it, applying it the night before can kind of cure the meat, resulting in a sort of hammy texture and taste. It's not a big deal with something like pork butt, since it is so big, but with ribs, which are so narrow, I don't like the texture. That said, if you haven't experienced that or noticed it, then it doesn't matter!

              Regardless, anything with smoke is better.

              1. re: adamclyde

                I usually pre-season my ribs overnight and haven't noticed the "hammy" qualities you describe. I'm not as hardcore as some, so I just use Penzeys medium chili powder mixed w/ brown sugar. I like how the rub deeply penetrates the meat. Of course, now you've got me thinking that I should buy two racks next time and do a comparison...

                We have experimented w/ ribs in the oven and prefer 200F for 4-6 hrs. using the uncover-cover-uncover method. Next time I want to try finishing on our gas grill. We do like to baste w/ sauce towards the end of cooking, just for a thin, sticky lacquer. We have dreams of buying a smoker one day...I had an awesome smoked chicken that a friend once made!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  it all depends on how much salt is in that rub. the rest of the ingredients don't cure it - just the salt. It (salt) has a very different effect on pork than it does on other kinds of meat.

                  As far as penetration - this relates to our other conversation on dry v. wet brining... I think (think is operative here) that the only thing that would truly penetrate is stuff that is water soluble - so salt, sugar, etc. I don't believe most spices or chile would get any more penetration into the meat than it would if it had been applied just a little before. That's my hunch, at least.

                  Go for a smoker... you'll never look back. They complement your charcoal or gas grill perfectly... and are so easy! the reason I sprang for one was I was tired of tweaking my technique on my grill to replicate a smoker. Finally figured I'd just go and get one. Been a happy man ever since.

                    1. re: adamclyde

                      Tom - I got a Weber Smoky Mountain as my first smoker. It's awesome, virtually no maintenance, good capacity, charcoal burning and can handle just about anything you throw its way. With the help of a friend, I'm in the process of building a custom trailer-pulled smoker made from a 250 gallon water tank. Should be able to feed upwards of 300 people. It's huge.

              2. Pancake, thanks for the link! I agree, it really improves the ribs with the rub on overnight.

                I tried a new store-bought sauce... Sticky Fingers Kentucky whiskey. Pretty darn good. A little smokey, not too sweet--Memphis style. I'll have to try their other sauces. Found out it's a restaurant and they sell all sorts of goodies.


                Did you know there's recipes on the web for vegetarian ribs ... made of wheat gluten? Just goes to show that some vegetarians really miss their meat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: houndgirl

                  No prob......
                  yeah i think they sell that brand of chips in the USA and I remember them being so tasty........
                  I'll have to look out for the sauce.....maybe needs to be mixed with something else to dull it down a bit

                2. I've got a Kamado ceramic griller, so I do a lot of smoking. For full racks, I'm fond of the 3/1/1 method: smoke for 3 hours at around 200 degrees, wrap in foil for an hour, then another hour unwrapped. Fall off the bone tender. There are many variations on the technique, and they all depend on how tender/firm you like your meat.


                  1. NO SMOKER NEEDED.......

                    Your gas grill can easily substitute.......
                    All you do is wrap soaked wood chips and non-soaked wood chips, at a ratio of 1:3 in foil.
                    Heat one side of your grill to high, place the foil above the heat until it starts smoking.
                    Put ribs on the side of the grill where there is no heat, and close the lid. Adjust heat to maintain 200-220 degrees. Cook them under this indirect heat for about 4-6 hours. The foil pack should be smoking. Replace throughout as required. I found these cool hickory pellets at canadian tire that do not require soaking and they are not so strong......hickory wood seems best. I usually do two rounds of smoking.
                    Then sauce ribs at the end, and turn grill up and caramalize them......yum.....just like in a smoker.......well pretty close at least...

                    1 Reply
                    1. I agree with Adam about the smoker-- nothing like it. While there are ways to 'imitate' the flavor, the first time you try a piece of meat cooked low and slow over a wood-fueled fire, you'll never want to turn back. I also tend to keep sauce on the side.


                      1. I made my own rub and left it soak in for about 4 hours. I cooked my baby back ribs at 275 for about 3 hours...man, they were fantastic.
                        Definitely recommend buying a smoker. Haven't touched my direct gas line fired Huge Weber Grill since I bought my XL Big Green Egg. It's a smoker, grill, pizza oven, etc. It's made of heavy ceramic and maintains constant temperture's for overnight or quick smoking/grilling quite easily. Check out BIGGREENEGG.COM for customer feedback. Technology is based on 3000 year old Japanese clay ovens.

                        1. Pork ribs smoke extremely well with fruit/nut woods (apple, peach, pear, cherry). You can't oversmoke with applewood, but you can with hickory, oak, or especially mesquite. If you're not careful, your meat will end up tasting like a beercan ashtray.

                          Also, what's sold as "brown sugar" in the stores is actually just white cane sugar with a little molasses in it. Turbinado sugar has a much higher burning point. There are those who don't recommend sugar-based rubs at all, and reserve the sugar for a final sauce. But if you're cooking low and slow anyway, this isn't really an issue. It's more of an issue with indirect cooking in Weber kettles.