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Rib Primer

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
There's been a lot of discussion lately about how ribs should be cooked, should you foil, should you cook 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 based on spares or babyback, should you flip or rotate, bone side down or up, membrane removed or not. I offer the following as a primer, especially helpful for the many new faces that have been coming on the site lately with questions.

Here's nothing more than a suggestion. Take it as such. Membrane removal is assumed.

Assuming you have time, an extra rack of baby back ribs, and the patience, fire your smoker and bring it up to 210 and put your rack of ribs on bone side down. Leave them on for 5.5 hours, no wood, no rub, no spritzing, no flipping, no rotating, no foiling, nothing. Pull at 5.5 hours, temp between the bones should be 185-190, lifting the rack in the middle will have a nice bend to it, the meat will literally want to break away and cause the rack to split, the meat won't be fall off the bone, but will have a slight tug but will pull away clean from the bone. Use that as your starting baseline standard and improvise, change and improve from there.

SOME, not all, people like off the bone ribs. Some think it's overcooked at that point. SOME people like it. What's the point to this? Education. Not to toot my own horn, but i've spoken with someone who based on his knowledge, his accomplishments and success, knows something about ribs or he wouldn't be where he is today. What the above does is gives the average everyday joe, the weekend smoker, and possibly the elite perfectionist smoker, all a level playing field in which to start from and develop their own techniques, thus becoming better. Having a great rub or a great finishing sauce doesn't mean a thing if you don't know what the meat's suppose to taste like as a standard without the additives, remember those things are suppose to compliment the flavor of the meat, not hide or cover it.

What can you expect from the above exercise? Taste, unhidden, pure meat, what the meat is suppose to taste like when it's cooked to a certain temperature. Texture, this is important. During the course of your smoke depending on what type of rig you're smoking on, if you're able to glance (yes, forget the parable if you're looking you ain't cooking for now) periodically at the ribs, for the most part, they'll look dried out. However, AT LEAST two times and possibly a third depending if you take them to 6 hours, you'll find that ribs will actually sweat. It's during this sweat period the muscle opens up and temporarily pushes moisture OUT of the meat. At the end of the sweat period, the moisture is drawn back in. See this, recognize this, then capitalize on this. It is during this period that flavor can be improved upon dramatically by additional dusting of your rub or spritzing of your juice of choice as it will be drawn back in to an extent. Multiple sweat periods improve your chance of dramatically changing the flavor of the meat as long as you take advantage of the sweats. Do this, establish a baseline standard to know what it is you're improving on, then improve on it.

I hope this helps everyone, new or veteran. And I want to point out that this isn't the ONLY way to cook ribs, but merely to establish a baseline standard to know what you're cooking. Honestly ask yourself, when was the last time you cooked/smoked a piece of meat naked to actually know what it was suppose to taste like at a certain level of being done?
post #2 of 27
" Honestly ask yourself, when was the last time you cooked/smoked a piece of meat naked to actually know what it was suppose to taste like at a certain level of being done? "

To answer your question, Yesterday.

I actually took your advice and smoked some spares at 215f for 6 hours No peeking and no mopping Just 6 hours of hickory smoke....I know you said 210f but I chickened out a tad. They turned out just like you said tender and flavourful with just the right amount of bite to them. Believe it or don't I did not peek even once. I used the middle 2 racks of the MES and kept them as near the middle of the racks as I could for a more consistant heat. I was nervous as I opened the MES door but no worries they were really good. The flavour was even better IMO than if I had used foil.

You have made at least one convert. I did put sauce on One rack because the Mrs Gnubee won't eat it without her fav sauce. I caramalized it onto her portion. I sauced one of the small pieces and tried it. Naked is better if you want to taste the meat.
post #3 of 27
I have also smoked ribs as is, and aside from the texture, they were very good. The texture was a little more chew than I like, but nobody else complained.
post #4 of 27
I just happen to have 5 racks of baby back that will be done this weekend.
they will be done no foil. I will post the results with Qview.
post #5 of 27
Thread Starter 


If you read the begining primer post you probably had questions even still. The biggest question/debate that has come up is why smoke at such a low temperature.

The reason we smoke at 210 is this. It's be said, known, or someway, somehow otherwise proven that a majority of the smoke absorbtion is done below a certain temperature, 140. At 140 the absorbtion of the smoke flavor doesn't stop, it's just not as much or as significant throughout the rest of the smoke. Smoking at 210 for 5.5-6.0 hours has a two-fold impact.

1. While the difference between 210 and 225 isn't all that significant and from 210 to 250 is just about as significant, smoking at that low of temperature keeps your ribs below that 140 degree temperature longer, thus allowing more smoke flavor to be absorbed into the meat. How much longer depends on the actual cut, how the ribs were prepared and if you've introduced any absorbtion inhibitors. Yes, certain wet rubs contents can actually slow or even block the absorbtion of smoke to a certain extent.

2. Water boils at 212 degrees. Now, depending on where you live in the world, altitude wise, it could boil at 209 or 214. Here in Nebraska based off several therm boil tests, water boils at 210 for me. Knowing what temp water boils at means you know the difference between smoking your ribs for the entire time and braising them. It can be argued that moisture within the ribs won't boil until the immediate surrounding air mass reaches that boiling point, however, if you look at how long you would normally leave ribs foiled, say an hour with a splash of juice, you'd also see that it starts boiling relatively quickly after being put back in. This is an area that once you have established a baseline, a few degrees one way or another is all it takes to fine tune your own tastes.

Also note, that smoking at a lower temperature allows the smoke to penetrate deeper. The last rack of baby back ribs I smoked at 210 degrees were smoke ring pink all the way through.
post #6 of 27
I love smoking at lower temps also, I guess I learned that from slow roasting my prime rib, which I never take the temp above 215.
the only thing I really smoke a little higher is poultry. and that is just so the skin isnt tough. keep the good advice coming Le.
post #7 of 27
Interesting post, I'm trying AGAIN today to make some good ribs. I'm going on two fronts, have some beef back ribs AND a rack of pork ribs. Gonna load that little brinkman to the hilt and see what happens. I've already seasoned them but really enjoyed this post on the time and temps :)

Question, I thought most took ribs to about 200 for 'fall of the bone' texture?
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
It honestly depends on the person cooking the ribs. You can get fall off the bone ribs if you leave them foiled longer than 2 hours if you're doing the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method. Or you can get them fall off the bone in about 4 hours if you foil from the start but then you lack the smokiness flavor that we have come to love. Like it's been said, it's all up to the individual person's preference, what I'm trying to provide is a baseline standard so everyone has a pretty good idea of what ribs cooked within tight tolerances should look, feel and taste like. From that understanding, to each their own to build upon that knowledge.
post #9 of 27
Well . . . about 3 months ago. biggrin.gif I did one rack naked because my 8 year old daughter does not like the spiceyness of the rub. Also did one rubbed but didn't foil either one as I was experimenting along those lines too.

Good smoked ribs don't need a rub or sauce. That's just icing on the cake! PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif

post #10 of 27
This is great advice. I personally love the flavor of meat, if it is cooked correctly. I agree that the rub and other stuff is icing on the cake. I personally try to smoke with the temp between 200 and 220. I live at almost 6000 feet in elevation, so water turns boils a little lower than 212 here as well.
post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 
Let us know how they turn out. I'd be interested to know if I was anywhere close on anything I said if you did it the way I suggest.
post #12 of 27
Your original post said ". . . no wood, no rub, no spritzing . . ."

If there is no wood, where is the smoke/smoke flavor coming from?
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
Unfortunately, I honestly don't have an answer, but it's going to happen anyway, this much I do know as I've done it myself, which is why I wrote the primer to begin with.
post #14 of 27
I missed the part about no smoke, I smoked mine, What the heck is the point without the smoke? You lost me somewhere.PDT_Armataz_01_05.gif
post #15 of 27
Thread Starter 
LMAO, the point of no wood is no added flavors other than what is derived from the most basic combination of the meat and burning fuel. Unless of course all you're using is a stick burner. Then that can't be helped.
post #16 of 27
I was smoking some spares a cpl of months ago and it was real hot and real humid. Now I've noticed that when it's real humid out I can't seem to get my smoker up to temp has anybody else found that to be true? My CG was only running about 200 to 210 that day. I had the ribs on for 6 hours no foil no boil and no spritz they were rubbed with seasoning though. I thought to myself these dang ribs won't be done. However when I checked on them after 6 hrs they were done alright and they were the best ribs I ever produced in 15 years of smoking.

Now with that being said helljack6 is right on the money with his advice. Nice post and you have defiantly converted another one as far as heat goes.

post #17 of 27
I have not tried the "bare naked" approach yet.... BUT... I do keep all my temps between 200-225. I can get my CG to go to 250, but takes a lot more fuel to keep it there, it likes to run right about 205-215 for a 6 hr run.

I usually put a rub on, but after that no peeky (other than 1x), no spritz, no foil. The chamber does open 1x at 3 hrs to put in a pan of Dutch's beans biggrin.gif. I do love how tender the low heat makes em! My wife doesn't like the bark as much as I do, so I take on rack and foil it while it rests after I pull them off. That little bit of foiling does the trick for softening the bark a bit for her.

Will have to try a "naked" rack next time just to see how we like em! Thanks for the tutorial. biggrin.gif
post #18 of 27
Just curious also, if there is no wood for smoke, how did u get a "smoke ring" all the way thru the ribs? Not arguing, just a little confusedicon_question.gif
post #19 of 27
I think he meant no added wood such as chips or chunks and that the cooking would be done with charcoal or sticks as opposed to gas or electric.

Again, there are so many things that are personal preference. I have had excellent ribs that were tender and juicy running the UDS at 250° to 270° the whole time. I don't think temps below 225° or below 212° are eny sort of "silver bullet". More than one way to skin a cat though.

post #20 of 27
Thread Starter 
Guys and gals, i'm not sure what most of the confusion here is. So let me try to clear things up a bit.

This thread, was meant to be a beginner Rib Primer. To give those that are new somewhere to start, and those that have been smoking since the end of time who are looking for new ideas, a baseline to fall back on instead of having to go completely back to scratch, that's all.

I didn't say it was the right way, or the wrong way for that matter. Yes I encourage everyone to at least try it, but that's it.
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