Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Smoke Baby-Back Ribs

Everyone has a special way to cook ribs.  Some methods are better than others, and some are just downright "odd!"  I was horrified to learn that in parts of the Midwest, they boil them in water before simmering them in cheap BBQ sauce in a crock pot for hours.  Some people grill them, others bake them, still others swear that a rotisserie is the trick.  Me?  I prefer to slow-smoke them!  It may not be the "universally correct" answer, necessarily, but it will certainly earn me an A+ on the rib test...

If you have a smoker, and you're ready for a "no short cuts" approach to slow smoked BBQ ribs, then read on!

You Will Need:
  • As many racks of Baby-Back ribs as you can fit on your smoker
  • Rib-Rub (more on this later)
  • Yellow Mustard
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Apple Cider
  • 1 Tbsp Adobo Sauce from a can of Chipotle Peppers 

First things first, go outside and start your smoker.  It needs to be fully pre-heated to 225 before you lay on the ribs, so... get that going!  Also, this is going to take 6 hours so get some beers on ice and find a comfortable chair.  Let's Prep!

Before you prep the ribs, you'll want to get your sauces ready.  Mix a generous glob of honey with a hefty squirt of yellow mustard.  Stir it and set it aside.  You just made honey-mustard for a fraction of the cost so pat yourself on the back and have a beer!  Mix a Tablespoon of honey with an equal amount of adobo sauce, stir it into 1 Cup of your favorite BBQ sauce.  Stir it and set it aside.  Mix about a Cup of Cider Vinegar with a Cup of Apple Cider and pour it into a squirt bottle for spritzing.  Set it aside.

You'll need about a cup of dry rub for three racks of ribs.  Personally, I don't like to buy store bought rubs.  They're expensive and even if you find one you like, it may not be on the shelf next time so... you might as well learn to make a rub that you like.  Here's mine, feel free to tweak it to match your own taste:
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1/2 Cup Sea Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Coarse Ground Pepper
  • 1/2 Cup Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Onion Powder
Ok, NOW you can finally take the ribs out of the pack!  Rinse them and pat them dry.  There's a membrane on the back side of the ribs and debates rage about whether to remove it or not.  I consider three facts when it comes to the membrane: 
  1. It will not break down during the cooking process.
  2. It tastes just like paper.
  3. It will inhibit smoke and heat from penetrating the back side of your rack of ribs.

It is for these reasons that I choose to remove the membrane.  Use a sharp filet knife to flick this membrane loose on one side or the other, and grab it with a paper-towel.  Now, pull!  Pitch it in the garbage or give it to the dog, but rest easy and smile, knowing that it's no longer on your menu!

Slather both sides of your ribs with your honey mustard.  Make sure you have enough for the dry-rub to stick to.  Once you have both sides coated, and your dry-rub mixed, you can shake on the rub!  Be generous!

Once your ribs are rubbed, wrap your rubbed ribs in a layer of plastic wrap.  I roll mine up on top of each other, as shown here.  Get them wrapped up nice and tight, and leave them to rest on the counter for about an hour!
Don't skip this step!  The rub and the mustard are getting to know each other and they're making a marinade together.  The salt is waking up the meat a little and it's all starting to come together at this point.  Shhh.... let them be.
Ok, once your cooker is up to temperature, and you have a nice thin line of blue smoke puffing out of your stack, it's time to lay out the ribs.  Lump charcoal burns a bit cleaner than traditional charcoal, and the bark of many hardwoods can burn off with a bitter white smoke that can taint your meat.  I like to use good clean, well seasoned, pecan or oak for my ribs, with the bark peeled off.
Lay your ribs out on the smoker, close the lid, and LEAVE THEM ALONE for two hours.  No peeking!  Have another beer, take off your apron, sit down in a comfortable chair, put your feet up, set a timer, and take it easy... two hours.  GO!
When two hours is up, it's time for a spritz!  Spray them down well with your bottle of apple/vinegar.  Now, close the lid to your smoker and leave alone for another hour. 
During this hour, pour about two cups of apple cider into the bottom of a foil half-pan.  When this third hour is up, transfer the ribs to the pan, spritz them again, and put the lid on, or wrap the pan tightly with foil.
Return the pan to the smoker, ribs, lid, and all, for two hours.  Keep the temp at a steady 225.  Have another beer, things will get exciting soon...
After these last two hours are up, you should definitely see the rib bones starting to peek out!  Take the ribs out of the pan and lay them back onto the rack in your smoker.  Brush a nice layer of your honey-chipotle bbq sauce all over them and leave them in the smoker for a final (6th) hour.  During this hour, the sauce should "set" to a nice glaze.
At the end of this last hour, you should have some shiny sparkling amazing looking ribs!  It's all over but the slicin' !!
Slide the racks onto a cutting board and draw a sharp knife keenly, between the bones.  Delish!

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