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failed rib smoking attempt

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
So yesterday, on a lovely Sunday morning, I was at the local market and spotted what I thought was a nice looking slab of St Louis Spare Ribs. I purchased 2.5 pounds ($15 total) and took it home for a rub down. I found a simple but effective looking rub on this site, coated it pretty thoroughly and got it in the fridge for about 4 hours (then went to IKEA and spent way too much money). I wasn’t able to get the smoker (I have the Char-Grill Silver smoker) up and running till 5:50pm, so I knew I would be tight on time because I wanted to test the 3-2-1 method. I figured I would have to modify it somehow which ended up becoming 2-1.5-1.5. I got the temps consistent at 225° using royal oak charcoal and mesquite wood chunks. I smoked them uncovered with just the rub on them for 2 hours, then took them out and wrapped them in foil. I didn’t have any of that bottled butter spread or apple juice, so I melted some butter and minced some garlic in as a substitute. I also added ¼ cup of beer, so it was a buttery garlic beer concoction that I added to the foil. I really have no clue if that is an acceptable substitute or what impact that had on the flavor of the ribs, let me know what you think about using real butter and beer. I wrapped that up tight in the foil and got it in for another 1.5 hours. Took it out, unwrapped it from the foil and coated it in homemade BBQ sauce…then put it back in for the last 1.5 hours. At the 5 hour mark I took the ribs out and I could tell the minute I picked them up with the tongs that they were not anywhere near being tender, they wobbled around like rubber actually. I cut into them and it was just so thick and rubbery, getting to the good pieces of meat was a challenge. The flavor was great but the texture was just too tough and chewy….I tossed half of the ribs and hung my head in shame.

I really have no idea what went wrong, I cooked them at 225° the entire 5 hours and on the right side of the smoker away from the firebox. Multiple thermometers confirmed the temps which remained very consistent throughout. I’m trying to determine if I undercook them by only smoking for 5 hours? How much of a difference could that extra hour have really had? Was it the untraditional 2-1.5-1.5 method that did me in? Just trying to figure out what contributed to the meat being so tough and chewy and what I can do next time to get them falling off the bone. Is it possible I just bought a bad rack, when I got them home there was a lot of fat on them and the bones were not straight but instead curved at an angle through the meat. Also there were small bones or tendons or something going lengthwise through half of the meat, perpendicular to the main rib bones which made it very difficult to cut and eat. Any help/suggestions are appreciated!
post #2 of 17

I think your guess is right, I did the same thing pretty much on my first ribs using the 3-2-1 method.  I went the whole six hours, they tasted great but were tough getting off the bone and chewy.  I just did two racks of spares and three racks of baby backs yesterday at 225-230.  The baby backs took almost 5 1/2 hours and were just a tad bit overdone, they were falling off the bone in spots, the spares took about 6 1/2 hours and were just right.  I think I left the baby backs in the foil too long, plus I tried foiling with agave, brown sugar, butter and a little rub, they got real, real moist ......... and yummy, just needed a little less time.  I guess the point is that I learned right away 3-2-1 and 2-2-1 are guidelines, every slab is different.  Keep at it, you'll get it. Even if they aren't exactly the way I want them I prefer to err on the tender side instead of the "gnawing" side.  :biggrin:

post #3 of 17
Hey, sorry to hear your smoke did not turn out... We've all been there !! IMHO, to me sounds like maybe they were not cooked long enough as that will produce a tough rib for sure ! Keep in mind that spares will take longer to smoke than say baby backs !! Your look like spares to me ! I also look for the meat to "shrink back" from the end of the bones on ribs as well as doing the bend test.... Check out this link... Hope this helps and keep your head up !! We've all had good smokes and bad ones !!


post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
thanks guys, definitely going to use the bend method next time and not rush spare ribs knowing now that they take longer. I appreciate the responses, makes me hopeful for the next smoke!
post #5 of 17
Originally Posted by Iboga View Post

thanks guys, definitely going to use the bend method next time and not rush spare ribs knowing now that they take longer. I appreciate the responses, makes me hopeful for the next smoke!



Yeah, not enough time at temp.   Next time, cook longer, or cook at higher temp, up to 285'ish.

post #6 of 17

I used the 321 method at 225* with my spares also.  After the 2nd hr. the wind picked up and I had a hard time keeping temps above 205*. After the 3rd hr. I was able to stabilize my temps at 225*-240. They were a bit tough but still real tasty. Maybe next time I'll wait for the meat to start pulling away from the bones. 

post #7 of 17
275F. 2:00 hours of smoke, 2:00 to 2:15 in foil. Sauce, set the sauce, slice and eat.

post #8 of 17
I second the bend test advice... Or even just sliding a toothpick or skewer between two bones... That way you can feel the resistance and pull them off the smoker when they are at the tenderness that you like... I have done foiled and not foiled with all kinds of liquids and the time it takes Is always different... So you just have to cook until its done... Timing a smoked meal is almost impossible. In the future, never toss any tough, chewy bbq. Save it because it makes some flavorful chili and will tenderize during the chili cook!
post #9 of 17

I like the tooth pick test better.  The bend test seems to only work on full racks.  Short racks don't bend as well.

post #10 of 17

I agree with pretty much everything mentioned above.  One thing about "smoking" meats is that every piece of meat cooks differently.  You should never cook to time, only temperature.  A good visual indicator that they are probably done with ribs is the bend test, when a tooth pick slides in with little resistance, and when you have a good pull back of the meat on the bones.  Good luck next time!

post #11 of 17

I agree - save those 'mistakes'.  They add alot of flavor.

But $15 for 2.5 lb. is outrageously expensive.  $2.99 or less here.

post #12 of 17
Cooking to temp is a guideline. Cook to tenderness. For example, brisket is normally done around 202 to 203. I just spent 13 hours cooking a small brisket. It never got above 190. But it finally felt tender, so I pulled it and let it rest. It was actually slightly over cooked. The thick part of the flat was right on, the ends were slightly dry. If you have a prolonged stall, you will usually have to pull it prior to 200 or it will be dry and crumbly.
post #13 of 17
To clarify my post from 3/17: bbq is done when it is ready to be done. (Not by time) I can almost always get correct tenderness within 7 minutes or so of this schedule. But I have done it dozens of times and know how my pit runs. It is a good starting point for anyone who wants to try it if their pit runs steady at the prescribed temp and the ribs are about 2.5 lbs in weight (St. Louis cut).

The bend test is probably the best method for testing doneness. Or pulling a rib bone near the middle of the rack and look for slight separation of the bone/meat.
post #14 of 17

When your ribs crack when you pick them up in the middle with Tongs like this  they are done.:drool. No foiling, no opening the lid to look(they will be right where you left them) , and leave the Temp. around 225*F. Thin Blueish smoke will  color them Mahogany and be flavorful and tender.


I leave my lid shut while cooking anything . . . keeps the heat fluctuations minimal and with practice and patience , I get a better finish ;





 and my smoke stays Light and Blue.


 have fun and . . .

post #15 of 17

As others have mentioned, if you are going with a shorter version of the 3-2-1 method, get your smoker temp a little higher, maybe 275 degrees. It sounds like they were a little undercooked.

post #16 of 17

Hey Old School,

That is some GREAT LOOKIN BBQ!!!!
post #17 of 17

Now granted I'm no expert, I've done about 6-8 racks of ribs so far and this method has always treated me well on my Chargriller Duo:


I take the ribs out of the fridge, add the dry rub and throw them in the smoker as soon as the temperature stabilizes around 225-230 degrees.


Smoke for 1 hour, flip, smoke for another hour.


Then, I take them off and put them in foil...add some barbecue sauce, some more dry rub, and pour apple juice or something in the bottom (last time I only had a bottle of Redd's Apple Ale...still worked great!). Wrap the foil up tight and leave them on for 2 hours untouched.


After that, I take them out of the foil and leave them on for an hour tops to firm them back up and get a nice little char on there...I have found that if I leave them on for more than an hour they really start to dry out and get tough.


I like to make ribs when I have friends or family over and everyone has loved them- they do come out nice and tender this way!


Just my two abe lincolns!

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