Getting the great taste of summer in your backyard may not come easy to you. But, with a bit of knowledge and a few tips on how to smoke ribs, you can rule the backyard barbecue. Let us help you. After all, our goal is getting you to the next level of flavor. Keep reading to boost your grill master skills, no matter your current level of expertise.
1. Choose a good cut of meat — one right for smoking.
2. Trim the brisket bone (on spare ribs) and any side bones.
3. Remove the membrane so the seasonings penetrate the meat more fully.
4. Cutaway extra hunks of fat outside the bones. Leave the fat between the bones.
5. Apply multiple layers of flavor: First, use a rub or marinade. Second, choose wood which adds to your flavor. Third, use a mop sauce throughout cooking for flavor and moisture. And, finally, apply barbecue sauce as a glaze in the final minutes of cooking.
• Smoke for four to six hours at low temperatures.
• A gentle stream of smoke, not billowing clouds, is your goal. Black smoke means the juices are burning and tainting your food. Adjust ventilation and the position of the ribs to produce white smoke.
• Stay nearby to attend to the cooking process, apply mop sauce and check the temperature every 45 minutes to an hour.
• Open the lid only when needed so heat and smoke stay inside.
• Ribs are done when meat shrinks back from the end of the bones by a quarter to half an inch. A dark caramelized crust on the ribs says “Let’s eat!”
Use regional wood you can find in your area, or find these hardwoods in most hardware stores.
- Apple: Sweet, fruity and mellow, this wood takes longer to permeate the meat.
- Cherry: Very fruity and mild, cherry combines well with other woods, like hickory, oak or pecan. It lends a vibrant mahogany color to meats.
- Hickory: The most well known, popular and versatile wood, hickory burns slow. A sweet, savory, hearty flavor with a hint of bacon comes from getting it right — too much smoke makes the meat bitter.
- Maple: Light and sweet with a mild smokiness, maple offers the most subtle flavor.
- Mesquite: This intense, unique flavor may become overpowering for large cuts requiring longer smoking times. And, its oily nature makes it easier to burn.
- Oak: Great for the newbie, this go-to wood produces a medium to strong flavor without the risk of overpowering the natural flavor of the meat. It works great for longer smoking times.
- Pecan: Mildly fruity and nutty, pecan wood burns cooler and works well for bigger cuts of meat.
You may also want to try ash, alder, pear, and plum. But avoid elm, cedar, cypress, pine, and sycamore. Their strength destroys the flavor of the meat. Finally, you may choose to use wood chips rather than chunks of wood.
Best Ribs for Smoking
Leaner ribs (like baby backs) work best for fast cooking methods, like straight grilling. Smoking may cook up a tough, dry dinner on leaner cuts. The high-fat content of spare ribs makes them ideal for smoking. However, you are free to experiment.
Choose the Best Ribs
Fresh, not frozen, pink-in-color ribs promise better results. Also, look for uniform size and fattiness in ribs for even cooking. Meat with fatty marbling remains moist and flavorful during long cooking hours. And, the fat melts away after hours in the smoker.
Ready to play with fire, create some smoke and turn up the summer heat in your backyard? We hope these tips inspire you to step behind the grill and take charge. Armed with information and resources you are sure to be ready. For more incentive, sign up for our monthly Grill Masters Club. Additional tips await you on how to smoke ribs, grill and more.
THE GREAT ESPRESSO RIBS
Get creative with this coffee-based baby back rib recipe.
6 pounds baby-back pork ribs
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup honey
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup very strong coffee or a double shot of espresso
Cook garlic in olive oil in a skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, then whisk in honey, ketchup, vinegar, soy, and espresso.
Return to heat; simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat again.
Preheat smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Season ribs with salt and pepper; place in smoker and cook for 3 hours.
Remove ribs and baste with sauce.
Wrap in tin foil, then place in smoker again for 1 hour more.