Ribs 101


This is not a recipe, as smoking ribs is more a tecnique than a list of ingredients and steps

Ribs can be marinated in the fridge overnight or you can do like me and just put on a good dry rub an hour or so before smoking them. It is all a matter of preference.

Typs of Ribs

Full Slab Spareribs.

Spareribs are the normal rack of ribs, and are less expensive than other cuts of ribs. St. Louis style ribs are trimmed spareribs that have the brisket bone and skirt (diaphragm) removed. Kansas City style ribs are trimmed even more closely than the St. Louis style ribs, and have the hard bone removed. I personally prefer the untrimmed full slab spareribs to other styles.

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs, sometimes called loin ribs or back ribs, are shorter and smaller, and leaner and meatier than spareribs, as well as costing more per pound. Because they are leaner than spareribs, they are a bit less forgiving of mistakes.



Remove the Membrane before Smoking Ribs

Removing this membrane allows the smoke to penetrate the meat and give the meat more flavor. To remove the membrane you simply lay the rack on a hard surface with the bone side up and starting at the corners you will see a thin plastic looking substance...starting at the corner use a fork or something sharp to get it started (I use a philips head screwdriver)then use a paper towel to grab it and pull it off in one clean sweep. OK...well I admit it really is not that easy but with a little practice you can get quite proficient at it.



Low and Slow is the key to Ribs

It is a real shame that I have to mention this... NEVER PRE-BOIL RIBS. Boiling will make the ribs tender but they will be short a whole lot of flavor. One sage Pitmaster summed it up best by stating:

"Boiling ribs is an excellent way to guarantee that the taste of your BBQ sauce won't be marred with the flavor of pork..."

Smoking spareribs is a slow process and should never be rushed. Always cook the ribs low and slow as in 250 degrees or less for at least 6 hours. The ribs must be allowed to reach around 180 degrees if they are to be tender.


Rib Rubs and Sauces

In reality if the ribs require sauce to taste good then the cook needs more practice smoking ribs. I do not serve sauce on my ribs and I definitely do not baste the ribs with sauce while they are smoking. I serve sauce on the side. Nothing wrong with sauce but it should be a compliment to the meat not a replacement for lack of flavor.

I use a dry rub which I massage into the meat about an hour before smoking and that is the extent of extra flavoring. Seldom does anyone ever ask me for sauce and If they do I gladly give them some. There are literally thousands of recipes for sauces and rubs online, so I'll not go into that here.



When are they done?

One way to tell if they're ready is with a thermometer. For this you need a digital instant read thermometer. This works pretty well, but it means opening the smoker a few times, and I don't like doing that because it lets all the heat and smoke and humidity escape and getting the temp back under control can be tricky if you are not using gas or electricity.

Some like the toothpick method. You poke a toothpick into the meat between the bones. When it slides in with little or no resistance you have a done

Another technique is to grab ahold of the tip of a bone somewhere near the middle. If you twist, it should start to break free of the meat. This means the collagens in the tough connective tissues have melted and turned to gelatin. rack of ribs.

The bend test. Some cooks pick up the slab with a pair of tongs in the center and bounce them slightly. If they are ready, the slab will bow until the meat starts to crack and break.

The twist test. Another technique is to grab ahold of the tip of a bone somewhere near the middle. If you twist, it should start to break free of the meat. This means the collagens in the tough connective tissues have melted and turned to gelatin.


Glazed Ribs courtesy Sandra Aylor

Obviously the typ of smoker you use will have a direct impact on the specifics to smoking the ribs, but that's another show...


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