How to get "fall off the bone" smoked ribs?

Discussion in 'Pork' started by darthsudo, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. darthsudo

    darthsudo Newbie

    I did my second attempt at ribs on the smoker yesterday (Camp Chef pellet grill) and managed to only get 1 of the 3 racks of spareribs to the "fall off the bone" consistency.  I was trying the Texas Crutch 3-2-1 method.  Here is essentially what I did:

    1.     The night before: removed the membrane and applied a liberal amount of rub, plastic wrapped and placed in fridge overnight

    2.     Set to "Hi-Smoke" (225) and placed 2 racks on bottom, then 3rd above on the top jerky rack

    3.     At 3 hours, I wrapped all in foil and poured in 2 cups total of 1:1 apple cider and apple cider vinegar (1 of the bones punctured the foil on 1 of the bottom racks and spilled out some of the juice - I double wrapped it and added more juice.  The 3rd rack did not get as much juice as the others)

    4.     About 1:45 after wrapping, I added some quartered potatoes to a middle jerky rack

    5.     A little over 2 hours after wrapping, I unwrapped (I noticed 1 of the bottom racks, I think the 1 w/o the puncture in the foil, had noticeable condensation on the top inside foil)

    6.     1 hour after unwrapping, I checked and it looked like the meat was separating, so I pulled the ribs and wrapped them in foil on an cookie sheet, then a towel and placed in a soft cooler to transport (removed about 1 hour later to eat)

    The 1st rack we ate was I believe off the top jerky rack in the smoker.  It was tender, but not "fall of the bone".  The 2nd was off the bottom, and must have been the one with the puncture.  It was a little more tender than the 1st.  The 3rd we left in the foil for about 4 hours until I divied out the leftovers.  That 1 fell apart when I tried to cut it (with a very sharp knife).

    I think my mistakes were:

    1.     Not throwing away the foil with the hole in it and starting over on that rack (too much steam escaped)

    2.     Not rotating the ribs from the top rack to a bottom rack part way through (I need to test, but it probably isn't as hot up top)

    3.     Not using enough juice on the ribs on the top rack

    Any thoughts on the above theories?  What might I be missing?

    Should I have left the ribs on longer until the meat was more visibly separating?

  2. pit 4 brains

    pit 4 brains Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    All the above. 

    I would recommend removing as many variables as you can. By the pics it looks like you are smoking untrimmed spares. Thats good. Spares are easier to smoke than backs as far as I'm concerned.

    !. Don't foil. Yet

    2. Yes, you need to know where the temp zones are in your grill. 

    3. Don't add anything to the mix, especially juice. Ribs will take care of themselves unless you get back ribs that have a lot of loin meat on them.. Those can be difficult to get right. 

    Fall off the bone is usually considered over done. What you really want for the perfect bite is "pull off the bone" where you need to sink your teeth into the meat and with a little pull, the meat comes off freely (I think it's the carnivore in us that likes it). The bone pull at the end of the ribs will be a good indicator of this.

    Trimming the spares to a St. Louis cut will help a lot too. You end up with a nice, even rack of ribs and a lot of "boneless flap" meat that you can toss on the side to enjoy while the ribs are getting done. The flap meat is also dynamite in some beans.
  3. tulsajeff

    tulsajeff Master of the Pit Staff Member Administrator OTBS Member

    I'd say the first thing to check is the temperature of the cooker in various places such as front, back, left, right and center on all racks to get an idea of where your hot spots are.

    It is also possible that the internal probe in the cooker is not reading accurately and you were cooking at a lower temperature than what is portrayed.

    Use a probe thermometer that has been tested in boiling water or ice water and is found to be reading correctly to check the temperature.

    Pit 4 Brains is absolutely correct in that fall off the bones ribs are considered way overcooked but if you like them that way, it's still perfectly ok to go against the flow and do them the way YOU like them[​IMG]..

    I like them overcooked about as well as I like them cooked competition style but then I've been called an odd duck before[​IMG]  
  4. smokinal

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

    As said above FOTB is considered overcooked, but the majority of people like them that way.

    It's just a matter of cooking them longer. Leaving them in foil with  some juice a little longer will quicken the process.

    The IT for FOTB ribs is 200-205. The same as for a butt that you are going to pull.

  5. darthsudo

    darthsudo Newbie

    Thanks for the input. It's the wife that likes the ribs to disintegrate when she touches them, so she is my biggest critic. It damages my ego when she would rather get her ribs from a chain, LOL...

    I will try simplifying and removing variables. It makes it easier to troubleshoot when there are less things to change.

    I have the dual probe Maverick and will use it to see how the temp varies in different places. The extra racks are new to me so I need to confirm the temp on the different racks.

    I haven't been using the probe on the ribs, because I didn't think there was enough meat to get an accurate reading, but I'll give it a shot next time to see what IT I'm reaching. On the spares, hopefully I'll find a meaty enough section.

    All my other meat I've been wrapping and resting for a period after removing from the smoker. How about with ribs? What do you guys suggest?
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Amazing how threads pop up after you just did something.  My wife and daughters love FOTB ribs.  They wanted them this past weekend.  All it takes for juicy, tender, FOTB ribs is rub, meat, heat, and time.  I don't spritz or peek while they are cooking.  I don't remove the membrane, but put it toward my heat source. 

    I chucked two 6+ lb untrimmed racks on the 240F smoker, chamber temp dropped into the 170s.  I didn't do a thing and the temp slowly climbed back up to 240F over the course of a couple hours. 

    At six hours I probed for temp and tenderness.  Nope, not ready

    At 7.25 hours I probed for temp and tenderness.  Nope, not ready, but getting closer.  Sauced, because that's how they like them.

    At 8.5 hours I probed for temp and tenderness.  203-205 IT.  Probe slid in between the bones with absolutely no resistance.  Removed from the smoker, covered, and rested about an hour, then served.  Membrane was tender and thinner than tissue paper.  Wife and kids went absolutely nuts over the ribs.  I smiled, using a fork and knife to eat mine, pretending it was pulled pork. 

    One of my daughters is at a conference in town this weekend.  She went out to dinner with colleagues last night, and was still raving about the ribs. 

    Smoke to your audience and you'll be remembered.   
  7. I am surprised the 3-2-1 Method isn't getting you super tender results.   As others have stated maybe your getting to hot in the smoker?   When I do Ribs I make it a bit of a process.   Day 1 I soak them in Pineapple Juice,  Day 2 Use your favorite  rub and let  them and let them sit all day.   Day 3 Smoke,   but I baste with Coca-Cola.    A lot of acid going on makes them real tender.  

    keep an eye on your meat temp as well.  I always foil at 165 and when I do I add a good bit of Coke to the foil poutch and you done around 190-200
  8. tallbm

    tallbm Master of the Pit

    I followed Al's unwrapped cook by temp approach and found that 198F for spares was great and quite tender bite off the bone.

    I took the baby backs to 202-203F and they were on the line between bite through and fall off the bone. The bones wouldn't wiggle out but you could use a fork and pull on the bone with your hand and get the bone out quite easily.  I could pick up by the bone and eat off the bone without the meat falling off.  Again, it was right on the verge!

    I would imagine that 205-207F would give you pure fall off the bone where you may need to use two pairs of tongs to remove from the smoker or they may break up immediately.  
  9. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Which is EXACTLY what I did.  I knew going out to the smoker that the only way I'd get them off the smoker in one piece was with two sets of tongs.  I was SOOOO tempted to take them off at 7.25 hours when the temp was 198F, but the ribs were for the wife and kids, not me. 
  10. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    So spinning my ribs to 205 might not work????    [​IMG]
  11. darthsudo

    darthsudo Newbie

    It looks like this is as simple as just getting the ribs to the correct IT.  I read somewhere along the line that you couldn't get an accurate reading with the probe, because there just isn't enough meat, so I hadn't even tried.  I get great results with the other meat I smoke by using the probe, I will give that a shot next time and let y'all know how it goes.  Thanks everyone for your thoughts!  Very helpful, as always...
  12. geekxx

    geekxx Newbie

    FWIW I was taught at a bbq class to use 3-3-1 for fall off the bone tenderness. 3-2-1 gives you pull off the bone, while 3-1-2 results in chewier ribs.
  13. darthsudo

    darthsudo Newbie

    That sounds like great advice. I think I'll need to plan 7-ish hours in my smoker to get the tenderness we're looking for. Thanks!
  14. normonster

    normonster Fire Starter

    OK good, well there are at least two of us then.  :)

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