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Sep 4, 2008 05:55 PM

Brining ribs for smoking?

I have a smoker, and while I've gleefully smoked lots of chicken, fish, and turkey on it, I've never done pork ribs. I'm about to rectify this sad oversight, but I'm puzzling over the question of brining. I've always brined the fish and poultry, with excellent results. But brining ribs? Somehow that seems wrong, even though I'd be inclined to brine pork loin or chops if I were smoking them. Actually, I'm somewhat tempted to brine the country style ribs, though that might skew the results -- I'm trying baby back, spare ribs, and country ribs, in a smoke off tasting.

I'm leaning towards rubbing them with Worcestershire sauce, letting that marinate for a while, then using a dry spice rub. Sauce on the side afterwards for folks who want it.

Any opinions?

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  1. you don't see a lot of brining on ribs... maybe on those country ribs. I would go with a straight dry rub... some use yellow mustard first then the rub... you don't really taste the mustard after.

    what kind of smoker... what temp will you run at? At normal smoker temp of 225 to 250, remember your baby backs may go only 3-4 hrs, while the spares will go prolly 5 or 6. those country dudes, if there's a lot of chop on them, should be treated more like chops, that is, mebbe 3 or 4 hours tops, without overcooking the chop meat. sauce on the side, or also you might baste near the end of the cook, for a little glaze.

    19 Replies
    1. re: woodburner

      Thanks, really useful advice! I've been thinking about the times, but wasn't sure, so that's really helpful. I've got an electric Char-Broil smoker which doesn't have a good thermometer. I should probably stick a probe in there tomorrow and see what temp it really does run at.

      1. re: woodburner

        Hey Woodburner,

        Did four racks of St. Louis ribs on a 22" Weber kettle last night. Used your fuse method (genius!), adjusted the cooking grate to avoid direct heat, and cooked about six hours. Used a rub, no drip pan with cooking liquid. Ribs were great, but not 100% sure about timing. How do you tell when ribs are done?

        Also, any suggestions for a sauce for those that like wet ribs?


        1. re: Weberdude

          First of all, nice fuse... and great looking ribs!!

          The old BBQ addage is: It's done when its done." There are some guideline times, but depending on lots of things, pit temp especially, you have to go by the meat, not the clock. A lot of people go 3-4 hours on baby backs and 4-6, or more, on spares/St. Louis trims. Some people like "falling off the bone," but a lot of BBQ folks like "tuggable." Not so much falling off, but tender yet requiring a little bite to pull off cleanly. Anyway, ribs will tend to recede from the bone at their bottoms, as they approach the right doneness. For me, when they start to recede from the base of the bone, they get to that "tug" stage, and I'm happy. You need more moisture, I think, like from foiling for a while, to get to that whole "falling off" stage. Not for me. On sauce, its all personal preference. Some like sweeter, some like more tangy/vinegary. That's a whole different discussion... with thousands of ways to go.

          1. re: woodburner

            Thanks, Woodburner!

            Just pulled two pork butts off the Weber to finish in the oven. Smells heavenly!

            Thanks again for all your posts. I've learned quite a bit from you and others on this site and I very much appreciate it.

            1. re: Weberdude

              Glad to hear it! Speaking of ribs and Webers, here's dinner: Beef ribs and chicken, both dry rubbed, then sauced to finish. Beef got K salt, pepper and garlic, plus a tomato-vinegar sauce at the end, chicken got good old Emeril's essence and a mustard sauce. About 2.5 hrs for both. I'm a happy boy... PS sorry about the fuzzy pic...

              1. re: woodburner

                Wow, looks really good!

                I see from the pic that you used indirect heat (no fuse) because I assume you wanted higher heat? Also, the ribs seem to have a bit of char, did you finish the ribs over direct heat?

                1. re: Weberdude

                  Thanks. To your questions: No and no!

                  The fuse is indirect as well as the side baskets. SInce this would take 2.5 hrs, it was not so long and I did not need a fuse. Just replenished some briquettes a couple of times.

                  The ribs stayed where they are. After a couple of hours, they just start to build up a little nice crust. Some light saucing near the end gave some glaze to them.

                  1. re: woodburner

                    By the way, anyone who wants to BBQ beef ribs, I highly recommend the following.

                    Wait for a special occasion, party, etc, and go to your fav butcher, Sam's, Costco, Rest, Depot, and get a whole, bone-in rib roast. Choice grade. If they will do it for you, or do it yourself, keep the rack whole, but separate the rack of ribs from the roast. Make sure to leave a thick layer of meat on the bones. Typically, they will trim tight. Leave 3/4 to an inch of meat on the rack. It's impossible to find this already trimmed this way... that's why you need to get a whole roast. Cook and serve the rib roast for the party. Save/freeze if necessary, the rack of ribs. BBQ them low and slow. See pic. You get a meaty rack of ribs. The results are better, IMHO, if you cook the full rack rather than the separated bones you get at the supermarket.

                    1. re: woodburner

                      OK woodburner, I'm coming over for lunch, dinner, whatever. I'll bring the sides: I make some mean french fries, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, you name it, and I'll be there. ;D

                      1. re: ePressureCooker

                        You are very welcome... bring that pressure cooker so I can see how that thing is supposed to be played! Will it be a far ride to Westchester County, NY???

                        1. re: woodburner

                          About 3,000 miles, give or take a few, but it might be worth it for some of those ribs. ;D

                          You should definitely check pressure cookers out, though, because they are great for BBQers. They make baked beans so much quicker, you can make BBQ sauces in them, and of course, the sides. My sister used hers to pre-cook some beef ribs and then finished them off on the grill. Said they came out really tender and delicious.

                          1. re: ePressureCooker

                            West Coast EPC!!! Well, I'll have to find someone local to try those gizmos out!

                            1. re: woodburner

                              If you can't find anyone local, you know where to find me and I'll talk you through it nice and slow. They're easy. They're quick. They're wonderful. Its ever so nice to have the electric ones cooking away in the kitchen while you go do something else (like attend the grill). You'll wonder how you lived without one. ;D

                      2. re: woodburner

                        Great idea, Woodburner!

                        I read one of your earlier posts about doing a rib roast on the Weber and thought I'd like to try it. Cooking the ribs as you suggest at another time is just one more reason to do it.


                        1. re: Weberdude

                          Yep. As with all rib roasts for me, simply rub with 2 parts K salt, 1 pt rough cracked black pepper, 1/2 pt granulated garlic, and a shake of cayenne. If you want, add some chopped up rosemary. So good...

                          1. re: woodburner

                            Thats all I use, S, P & G & let them sit in the Refrigerator overnight. Then 250 degrees in the BGE with lump until they begin to pull.

                            I get the 9 bone racks from a wholesale butcher friend who breaks hanging meat & bones out steaks for high end restaurants. As you said though, they are trimmed tight and most of the meat is between the bones but still out of this world flavor, just have to watch carefully at the end of the cook as without that heavy cap of surface meat its easy to dry them out.

                            I used to remove the membrane but had a change of heart and now leave it on. Does seem to hold in the moisture better.

                            1. re: Tom34

                              Last two points are interesting... You DO have to watch them to not let them go too far and dry out... and I, too, used to remove/try to remove those beef back rib membranes, but they were thick, difficult (more so, to me, than pork ribs), and I just don't really mind them, for some reason.

                              I think a perfect beef rib is my favorite piece of BBQ, followed by brisket point chopped to burnt ends, followed by brisket sliced, then sausage, then all the pork, then the chicken.

                              Not that anyone asked, or cares, LOL.

                              1. re: woodburner

                                Your wood fuse is brilliant. Tropical storm coming through, so I will try it later in the week.

                                Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

          2. re: woodburner

            Well, if the "dry rub" has salt in it, as most of them do, its essentially a dry brine as opposed to a wet one, right?

            Karen, normally you would wet brine chicken and turkey, and dry brine pork and beef (since they have more water and fat in the tissues, they don't need the additional water, and brining in water might actually dull the flavor of pork or beef)

          3. I don't think we've ever brined ribs before smoking. Ribs typically have enough flavor (plus the rub and/or sauce) that you don't need to brine them. They also usually have enough fat that will flavor the ribs as they smoke.

            I would just go with the dry rub on the ribs and skip the Worc. sauce. We've smoked all three types of ribs and I think spare ribs are my favorite. When done right, they're just as tender as baby backs, but you get more meat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: leanneabe

              Thanks! I had run across a spice rub that called for Worcestershire powder (not sauce -- powder! I hadn't heard of such a thing before), so that's where I got the thought about putting a little sauce on first. But I think you're right, I should skip it.

              The country ribs seem like they should be good since they're so meaty though I know most folks favor the others. Maybe I'll try brining half of them, since they're a little more like a chop, and see how they compare.

              Thanks for the advice!