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Using an electric smoker?

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I have some in-laws coming over in a few days and they have requested some extra-tender "falling off the bone" ribs. I already have a few racks of baby back ribs and I was thinking about throwing them in my electric smoker. I am familiar with the 3-2-1 (or 2-2-1 with baby back) method. I was planning on giving a lit rub before hand and then smoking for two hours, then brushing with apple juice to add some moisture and then in the last hour coat it with a sweet bbq sauce about every 20 mins or so.

Is there a better way about cooking some really tender and delicious ribs that would be better, or any specific objections to my plan?

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  1. In general, I think you are on the right track. I personally would add time at the beginning where it is just being smoked, and reduce the foiling time by half or more.

    For baby backs, I do something more like 4 hours smoked naked (well, with a great rub, but not in foil), then about 30 - 45 minutes in foil, then back out for the last 30. At that point, you can add any sauce you want. Or, just glaze it the last 10 minutes or so. Or, don't glaze at all, but when it comes out brush it with a finishing sauce. No biggie which way you do.

    Just remember, you want to maximize the time it comes in contact with smoke so you get real smoked ribs. Time in foil = braising, essentially. It can be really helpful if you want tender ribs. I just think it should be in some moderation.

    Good luck!

    1. Really, most of the smoke will be absorbed in the early time. Smoke absorption follows an exponential distribution in time, if that makes any sense to you.

      I only have a Webber grill to BBQ on, so I don't really have the luxury of temperature control like you do on a real or electric smoker. Whenever I make ribs, it's pretty simple actually. The beans and slaw are more trouble than the ribs, when you get down to it.

      Since I use indirect heat on a Webber, I have to cut my rib racks in half. You might have to do the same, depending on the size of your smoker. I always buy loin back ribs - basically the same thing as baby back, I suppose.

      Edit: Don't forget to remove the membrane before you start cooking!

      All I do is slather them with some yellow mustard and dry rub (sometimes make my own, but store bought is okay too - I like Rendezvous dry rub from the Memphis restaurant). Then once my coals are ready in my chimney starter, I put them all on the left side of the grill while the ribs go on the right. Can throw in some hickory chips too. It takes about 2.5 hours, depending on outside temperature (Webbers are awesome, but don't retain heat well). Just be sure to rotate them. I'd guess it's cooking at about 325F or so. Since you're using electric, I'd knock it down to 225-250F and, like you said, shoot for about 4 hours.

      I've never found dryness to be an issue, so I don't bother basting or saucing them at any point while they're cooking. I just have some warm sauce on the side when I actually eat them. If you really want wet ribs though, you're just as well off bringing them indoors and finishing them off in the oven with some sauce for the last 20-30 minutes or so (a smoker is basically just a smokey oven). Remember, most of the smoke is absorbed in the early time. More smoke at the 4th hour isn't going to make much of a difference.

      4 Replies
      1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

        Thanks for the advice, and the exponential does make sense - except if it absorbed the most at the beginning wouldn't it the absoration curve be an exponential decay curve

        1. re: pneubecker

          the absorption concept is really up for debate, I think. (food scientists, please weigh in here). Absorbed, to me, suggests osmosis. And for that to occur, smoke would need to be liquid. It's not, so I don't think it is being absorbed into meat.

          Now, I know some of smoke is liquid droplets, I suppose, but I think it's negligible (but maybe not? again, I'm no chemist). The only other possibility to have smoke flavor actually absorbed is if the smoke particles that are deposited onto the meat are water soluble, and thus could be eventually absorbed into the meat via osmosis..

          I think the concept that meat only takes on smoke flavor for a certain period of time is confused with the fact that the smoke ring in meat only happens for a certain period of time while the meat is at certain temperatures. But smoke ring doesn't equal smoke flavor necessarily.

          But if meat only took on smoke for 2 hours, then it would be really hard to over smoke. And trust me, I've done that one and it is bitter and unpleasant. I think meat most definitely acquires more smoke flavor the longer it is in contact with it.

          Just my 2 cents.

          - Adam

          1. re: adamclyde

            I bet the "bitter and unpleasant" part was due to creosote...and I think the '2 hour' thing is really just relative to formation of a smoke ring, but is not tied to the contributions of smoke to *flavor*.

        2. I obviously don't know what type/brand of electric smoker you have but I have a Brinkman. I have checked the internal temp and it holds right at 225 degrees. I rub my ribs and smoke for a minimum of 7 hours, sometimes 8, depending on the ribs, the outside air temp, the altitude, ect.. I want to pick up the ribs with a pair of tongs and be able to pull the ribs apart with minimum effort. Sometimes I spray this with apple juice, sometimes not. I NEVER sauce while cooking, I leave the sauce on the table so the individual can decide how much sauce is applied. These are always perfect and this method is foolproof.

          1. I saw my smoker on qvc and bought it from lowes best $200 I spent. I went to a smoke house with friends and they said their ribs sucked compared to mine. The method I do is on baby backs I pull the membrane of the meat. If you do it right it pulls right off it makes a difference. I then use mc cormicks pork rub. Its spicy but good. I rub it all over. I cut my racks in half, if i do more than 3 racks they all dont fit. I try to let it sit for 12hrs plus. about 2hr before cooking i bring them out the fridge and get up to room temp. I plug in the smoker about 30min before i place the meat in. I do 220f I smoke for 4-4 1/2 hrs pull out quickly and place in foil and cover with bbq sauce. I wrap and they go back in for another hour. they fall off the bone and I cut the ribs down to single ribs I normally have a large group over. Enjoy