Pork ribs first timer . . . anyone got a "for dummies" guide

Discussion in 'Pork' started by papoose, Oct 9, 2011.

  1. papoose

    papoose Newbie

    Hello there ladies and gentlemen,

    Ok so here's the deal . . . I am going to make my first attempt at smoking ribs for Thanksgiving tomorrow and what I'm looking for here is a fool-proof guide on how to smoke them.  I'm not really concerned at this point in winning any BBQ competitions but I am concerned about making them EDIBLE lol.

    Now, in reading some threads on this forum I've seen the 3 2 1 or 2 2 1 method mentioned numerous times.  With this info I know it should take 5-6 hours roughly of cooking time and that is all well and good for timing purposes but I also realize that with ribs it's not like brisket or pork butt wherein the meat itself will tell you it's doneness via internal temperature (and that in itself is pretty fool-proof) but rather ribs are all "eyeballed" from what I understand.

    So with that being said, here's what I'm working with:

    Got a Grillpro vertical propane smoker.  I also utilize an oven thermometer inside the unit so I know exactly what the smoker temperature is.  So that begs the question . . . what temperature should I be smoking the ribs at?

    The ribs I have are simply called "pork back ribs" as per the packaging.  Not "spare" or "baby back" just back ribs.  With this in mind, which of the 321 or 221 methods would you recommend?

    Now there is a TONNE of debate as to whether to foil or not to foil.  But again I would just like to reiterate that I just want the ribs to be edible as I am having family over and I would be crushed if the ribs were a disaster.  Is foiling the way to go to guarantee success or . . . you know?

    Now what's the deal on using sauce?  My brother phoned me up last night and he said that he and his wife concocted their own BBQ sauce and were dying to try it.  I have never sauced anything in my smoke, just used rubs.  Should I be saucing whilst the ribs  are on the smoker?  If yes, how often.  If no, when do I use sauce?  And if I am using sauce, should I also rub the ribs prior to smoking or is that a bad idea? 

    Yes these are newbie questions but here's the newbiest of them all . . . do I smoke meat side up or bone/membrane side up?  Yes, that's right, I went there lol!

    In closing I would just like to say that any and all information is appreciated.  It was with the communities help that I was able to pull off very successful attempts at pork butts and briskets and I hope to do the same with tomorrows ribs.

    Thanks in advance and happy smoking!
  2. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Smoking Guru Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    For spares do 3_2_1. For babybacks use 2_2_1

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk
  3. teebob2000

    teebob2000 Meat Mopper

    From one relative newbie to another...

    If they say "back ribs" consider them baby back ribs. Spareribs would be "spareribs."

    It took me some experimentation to get mine to what my family loves.  If you mess up here or there, oh well, that's how you learn (or how I learn, anyhow).  You can nearly always eat your mistakes!

    I use a rack for the first 2 with meat side up, meat side down in the foil for the next 2.  For the last 1, I do 30 minutes meat side up, then brush that side SPARINGLY with my own sauce and flip over, sauce the bone side and cover for 30 more.  They come out with a beautiful saucy glaze and aren't dripping.  My family used to drench them in my sauce, but last time I made them like this, they didn't add another drop!

    I use a mod of Jeff's rub and I also spritz every so often with a mix of 2/3 cider vinegar and 1/3 dark rum.

    If you have serious doubts as to whether one method (foiling, etc) is better or not, make a couple slabs and do them differently!  Then you can judge for yourself.
  4. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Allrighty! You asked, and now you'll get it :)

    Your situation, distilled, is how to make delicious pig-ribs for the first time, not screw-the-pooch, and learn something....right?

    Please be aware that there are as many ways to smoke properly as there are people, and what I am offering is my opinion based upon experience and a lot of happy eaters.

    Turn the ribs over, concave, so you are looking at the "bowl-shaped" area of the slab, with the bony part staring at you. There is a fine, thin sheet of skin/collagen covering this side. With a pointy knife, start prying it up, and using a paper towle for grip, rip this skinlike covering off. It gets tough in the smoker and is not that great. It may take you a few minutes, but in no time you will get the hang of it. My daughter uses needlenose pliers to help her out doing this.

    Opinion here: decide to either rub or sauce the ribs. Often, folks think that both are "too much" and overwhelm the taste of the meat. I agree. Either one is good; my family has decided that they do not like both.

    If you are going to rub, find a good rub and use it. Bad Byrons is a solid tasty standard to go with. There are many recipes here at the SMF for rubs that you can use with much success.

    If you are going to sauce, then put them in the smoker nekkid.

    You are good to go with your propane smoker 'cause you can regulate the heat easily. Preheat and maintain 230 F smoker temp.

    Set your ribs out about 45 minutes prior to smoking knock the chill off. Less work (temperature difference) for your smoker to fight against.

    The 3-2-1 method is popular and great for starters. I have had much better results when I was learning with the 2 - 1 1/2 - 1/2 method, but then I ran my wood burner at about 250F average, not 230 F.

    Decide which method you want to follow and STAY WITH IT for the smoke.

    Smoke your ribs for the first iteration. Place them concave up, the bowl shaped part facing upwards, and the meatier side down.

    Don't peek, don't open the smoker, just let them smoke, no need for spritzing either.

    After the first iteration, take them out and double wrap them with standard foil, or single wrap them with heavy duty stuff. I sometimes added a splash of apple juice in with them. Put them back into the smoker for the second iteration.

    After this second phase is done, take them out, remove the foil, and put them back into the smoker. If you are saucing them, at this time you start to brush them with sauce every 15 minutes or so, both sides, and turn them over as they cook each time too. This final iteration is flexible, cook them until you like them.

    There is the "bend test" in which with tongs you grab an end of the slab. Pick it up. the meat should bend easily between ribs, almost 90 degrees, but not break. They are perfect at this point. The meat will require a "slight tug" to pull it off the bone. This is exactly what I shoot for every time! If they break or fall apart, clearly they are further done, and should be served.

    I hope this helps and you make some outstanding ribs! They are not really that difficult to make, just takes practice and no reason you cannot make great ones the first time, either!

    One extra piece of advice.....I don't know how many you are cooking for, but half a slab per person is what you want. Anything less and you are just teasing them. You may want to pick up more ribs, and don't forget the side dishes, as well as a jolly good attitude the whole time! Have fun!

    You'll be fine, just relax and don't forget the pics to share with us!
  5. Papoose, Rivet is absolutely right, there are as many ways to smoke ribs as there are people.

    That being said, for your first time keep it simple. By the way those are baby backs and do not require as much time in the smoker as spare ribs.

    Fire up your smoker and set it on 225 degrees. While it is warming up, pull the membrane from the ribs and coat them with yellow mustard. The mustard is used to help the rub stick to the ribs. Now coat the ribs with the rub of your choosing and place the ribs in the smoker bone side down. After the first hour and a half, mist the ribs with apple juice every thirty minutes. After about 4 1/2 hours bend test the ribs as stated above. Baby backs normally take 4 1/2 to 5 hours at 225 degrees. When finished let the ribs sit covered in a pan for 15 to 30 minutes.

    Then cut and serve with sauce on the side.

    Good Luck
  6. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Don't forget the Q-view!
  7. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member


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