i've done that before on my offset. i got REALLY..uh...tired...from the night before and had to get up a cook ribs in a "Recipe Cook-off" with my team. i didn't have any rub made and i had to get the smoker going right when i woke up. i put a little kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and a tiny bit of garlic powder. slapped on a fair amount of light brown sugar and let it melt as i was tending the fire. pretty "naked", but really good.
the ribs i did this past saturday had excellent smoke FLAVOR, but if i can't deliver the appearance, then we miss out on using my ribs at the comp. the only other solution i have is to find some green(er) wood and see if that will give me my results.
the more i think about it the ribs that looked the way the should, i did do something different. i got the chimney going. wehen the coals were ready, i grabbed the ribs out of the fridge. poured lit charcoal (lump) into the coal ring and assembled. put on some more wood and immediately through the ribs on. let the WSM come up to 200 (on lid therm) and dampered down. WSM took about 20 more minutes to get to 225 and from there i let her creep up to 230 - 245. i think it just hit me. i've been cooking every thing in the 235 - 260 range lately (i'm the bisket and butt man at the comp) and that's how i've been doing my ribs as well. maybe the higher temp on the ribs is getting the outside done before smoke has a chance to penetrate!?
one more thing, i've gone to the clay saucer method as well. i hate having to deal with the nasty a$$ water after a cook. the one team member that has done our city Chamber of Commerce bbq cook off says that i'm gonna have a hard time dumping the water, so i decided to try that alternative. i had my smoke ring problems before the clay saucer method, though, so i don't think the absence of water is creating my troubles.