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Report on Aldi Baby Back Pork Ribs

REPORT ON ALDI BABY BACK PORK RIBS: Tasty but slightly tough. Could it be the salt solution or the cooking time and temperature?
My dry rub is as follows;
First I toasted some mexican pepitas, let them cool, then ground them up with chili powder, oregano, thyme, paprika, kosher salt, mustard powder, granulated onion and garlic, and pepper. I was a bit pressed for time so I only let the rub cure on the ribs for an hour. I set my big green egg at 250 degrees and smoked them for about 3 hours with natual lump charcoal and soaked hickory chips. I bought my big green egg smoker/grill about a month ago so I'm still experimenting with rubs, cooking time, wood chips, etc. The ribs turned out very flavorfull but slightly tough. The Aldi ribs were packed in a 10% salt solution. Why were the ribs tough? Should I lower the temperature and smoke longer? I covered the ribs in tin foil for the last 40 minutes of cooking. Any advice?

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  1. the salt didn't have anything to do with the toughness. If anything it has the opposite effect. I think you just needed to smoke them a little longer.

    I think 250 to 275 is the perfect temp for smoking ribs, so you are good there.

    I would avoid any ribs packed in a salt solution, however. They won't make them tougher, but they will make them mushier and overly salty.

    At about 250, I find my baby backs take a good 4.5 hours to get sufficiently tender. If I were you, I'd smoke without any foil for 4 hours. Then check them. If the meat has pulled away from the bone, put them in foil and back into the BGE for another 30 minutes. After the 30, check. If they are tender (poke it with a toothpick), take them out of foil and put them back on the smoker for about 15 minutes. (This last step ensures you don't have soggy bark on the ribs, which can happen in the foil). If you are going to sauce while on the smoker, do during this last step, after you've removed the foil. Otherwise, you can just glaze as soon as they come off (my preference).

    Also, with baby backs especially, you don't have to use foil if you don't want to. They may take around 5 hours, but they'll be great. Just smoke them at 250 doing nothing but waiting until they are tender.

    Good luck!

    1. Great advice there. Sounds like they just didn't cook long enough. It may upset some, but you can also add a few ounces of apple juice (broth, etc...) when you foil them, which will definitely help with the tenderness. Watch them in the foil though, as they will go from unyielding to falling apart quickly. Once tender, finish them as suggested by Adam. Mmmmm.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BackyardChef

        I appreciate all your help. From now on, I'll buy my baby back ribs elsewhere and salt solution-free. Yeah, the salt soaked meat like I bought at Aldi and occasionally from other stores, has a slimy texture too.
        I sounds like I need to smoke the ribs for about 4 to five hours. How about if I cook them at 275 for 3.5 to 4 hours? I'm trying to reduce cooking time when really I should wait until I have more time. Keep in mind that my thick ceramic Green Egg retains moisture really well...much better than the conventional smoker or grill. Will this combo of time and temperature make for tender ribs? It seems like I'm always smoking ribs on a weekday and not on the weekend when I have a lot of spare time for smoking. Hmmm, I was wondering about using apple juice...how about a light vinegar like apple? When?

      2. Oh, and I DEFINITELY would avoid meat that has been 'pumped' or had solution added. It does nothing good and makes you pay for water weight. blech.

        1. The BGE holds temps incredibly and is a moist environment, so the foil isn't really needed, but it will help to shave time off your cook and improve tenderness. It's not the only way to get there, but it is a way.

          I'd use juice for the foil and the cider vinegar as part of a mop, which you could use after the first 1.5 hours or so. You could then spray or mop once an hour after that. I think 275 for about 4 hours should get you pretty close to where you want to be.

          2 Replies
          1. re: BackyardChef

            Good advice from all, I agree with all of you guys, the smoke time vs. temp was too short by about an hour.

            Most smokers try for the "magic 225°” to cook most things like ribs, pulled pork or briskets. This is what I set my Cookshack smoker to for just about everything I cook, luckily though ribs can tolerate a higher temp/shorter cook than a brisket for example.

            This summer I competed in a rib cook-off at Mickey Finn's in Libertyville and placed 4th, but I didn’t have the luxury of my typical 4-5 hr cook time at 225°. So instead, I ended up going for a 3.5 hour x 250° and everything came out about as good as it always does.

            One thing I think is key is to use a brine for added moisture, and your right; the pre-packed saline stuff like noted above makes for mushy ribs. Plus if you add in a salty rub, go Memphis Style or try to brine them you'll get salt pork. I found that the most consisant babyback ribs I can get are from Sam's Club.

            I personally don’t use a mop on my ribs since it requires opening up the cooker to many times to be useful, but for offset smoker guys this is less of an issue, on a tight sealed smoker like BGE or a Cookshack opening it too often causes heat loss, and increases your cooking time every time you "peak" especially before the 3 hrs mark. Instead, try putting a can or pan of liquid, apple/cherry/grape juice, wine, water, beer (heard of it all) my preference is apple juice in the cooker and leave it alone to steam. The foil (Texas Crutch) or braising technique is used on the competition circuit with allot of success and the guys who beat me out this year foiled his, but it can make for a mushy (fall off the bone) rib if foiled there too long. As you probably know, boiling ribs is a disgracefully popular practice here in Chicago and I don’t respect anyone who does it.

            Here are some helpful links to help you master your smoker:

            Great site on rib cooking and ribolgy from a local Chicagoan who is both responsive to questions and pretty cool: http://amazingribs.com/index.html

            Dr. BBQ also is a BGE guy and has some pointers and cookbooks for you to check out: http://www.drbbq.com/

            And lastly, one of the best bbq forums on the web is the cookshack site, they don’t discriminate for other brands of smokers they just love to 'Q, and can offer tons of advice and recipes: http://forum.cookshack.com

            Good luck, and maybe someday we can “smoke” the peace pipe of our pizza wars over some real ribs.

            1. re: abf005

              what brand cookshack do you have? I was looking at an SM350 for a commercial enterprise I was about to set up a year or so ago. Whole thing ended up not happening, but was really close to making the purchase.

              Anyhow, back to the original poster, the biggest thing to remember is, simply, don't take them off until they are done. You can help things out by upping the temps (275 is just fine) or foiling or something else, but the ribs simply need to have enough time for all those connective tissues to break down and stuff. Test it with a toothpick. There should be virtually no resistance to the toothpick going into the meat (between the bones, of course). The ribs should have a deep, dark mahagony color and the meat will be pulling away from the bones. Once you see that and the toothpick goes in easily, you are good. If you want to test further, with your tongs, bend the rack. They should be able to pretty easily fold right on eachother. But, if they fall apart when you try it... you know you've gone a little too far.

              Anyhow, good luck and keep up with that BGE. They are great cookers.

          2. There's also a Big Green Egg forum which is very active and a great source of info--

            http://www.biggreenegg.com/wwwboard/w...

            1. this may be obvious, but you remembered to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs, right?

              And I don't smoke above 225-240 degrees, and it takes closer to 5 hours in my barrel smoker

              1. I have a Smokette SM009 w/cart, although I love it, it's kind of small, I really wish I had stepped up to an SM50 or just waited the two months for the AmeriQue to come out, now that AmeriQue is one awesome smoker!

                Now the while the CS is a great cooker for briskets & butts, I found that my ribs tend to get a little dry in it. So I still use my Masterbuilt which I modified for rib cooking specifcally. I prefer the digital temp controller and the water pan, plus its taller inside so I can hang up to 10-12 rib racks at a time.

                Membrane! Good point! Although in my experience, I've noticed that the restaurants that left on, it turned into a paper like annoyance on the back, my guess is it would probably block the moisture and smoke from passing though the meat and make the ribs less tender, but that the pitmaster must have some other concept in his mind for leaving it there.

                Good points all of you on doneness, on the Cookshack forum the saying goes: "It's done, when it's done". As we all eventually learn, smoking meat is not a speed sport that's for sure!

                1 Reply
                1. re: abf005

                  I always remove the membrane. Some folks say that it helps hold in moisture, or something. I've never found that to be the case, and think it only is an annoyance when eating the ribs. My hunch is that most restaurants leave it on to save time and energy.

                2. Yes, I always remove the membrane. At first it was a bit intimidating. I realized how easy it is to remove it.