We have easy to remember time guidelines when cooking ribs, 3-2-1 for spares and 2-2-1 for baby backs. But all smokers and slabs of ribs are different so cooking strickly by time is limited. Here are a few things an experienced rib smoker will look for before moving to the next step.
The first number in our guideline is the number of hours in a 225 degree smoker, uncovered with just a rub and maybe an occassional spritz. We want the ribs to start drying out, develop a nice color and begin to see some pull back of the meat from the tips of the bone before moving to the next step. The ribs are firm and flexible.
Color is affected by the type of smoker and wood you use. Electric and gas smokers will not normally develop the same depth of color as wood and charcoal smokers. Extend this stage for drier, smokier ribs but be careful of making them tough. Reduce this time for less smokey ribs
Ribs ready to move to the next step "Foiling"
The second number is the amount of time the ribs spend wrapped in foil.
Place the ribs on a large enough sheet of heavy duty foil to completely seal them, add you favorite foiling juice (if desired) and crimp the edges to retain the liquid and steam. Double wrapping is recommended to ensure a tight seal. An aluminum pan tightly covered with foil also works well. Return to the smoker or oven.
The foiling stage helps tenderize and moisten the ribs and is completed when you have obvious pull back of the meat from the bone and the ribs have reached the desired tenderness. For more tender ribs extend the time the ribs are in the foil. For more pull back when you bite into them reduce the amount of time in foil
Ribs ready to be removed from the foil and returned to the smoker or grill for the third step
This is a good stopping point if you want to finish the ribs the next day. To save the ribs leave them wrapped in the foil and refrigerate. They should be fine for a couple of days if kept cold
In the third and final stage we remove the ribs from the foil and return them to the smoker or grill. When first removed from the foil the ribs tend to be very moist and flexible. In the final stage we are going to dry and firm them a bit. This is when many of us add our favorite BBQ sauce. Only experience will tell you how much sauce to use. Remember, if added too early sugar based sauces will tend to burn, if added too late sauces will not set properly. When done, the ribs have been cooked to your desired tenderness and moisture. The sauce should be firm and caramelized with some crispy bits but not burned.
Almost done, prior to saucing
Money shot of great ribs.
You can serve them or store in an ice chest wrapped in towels.
This Wiki was written with the assistance of the Moderator Team and is intended as a guide for the new members of Smoking Meat Forums. Many of us are still trying to achieve the same type of rib perfection demonstrated by ECTO1's Qview but don't give up. Keep at it, ask a lot of questions on the forum and practice. We love looking at your Qview and answering your questions!
Thanks again ECTO1 for the Qview!