Baby Back epic failure.

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hooked on smoke

Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Aug 24, 2013
Southern California.
A local market had baby backs on sale for $1.98lb. The first two days I went to buy some they were wiped out at two of the nearby stores. I showed up when they opened the next day and there were three Racks left. I grabbed what I thought were the best look two racks, limit two per customer. I was ready for some killer baby backs.
That Sunday I removed the skin, rubbed them down as the gravity was heating up to 250. Into the smoker they went for 2-1/2 hours, wrapped in foil with squeeze butter and some apple juice. Put them back for 2 hours then unwrapped and lightly brushed with bbq sauce and back in for an hour. Well I thought they looked pretty darn good but, they fell apart and were dry. Bummer! I did have a water pan and used Royal Oak lump with chunks of pecan and cherry. I didn't feel too bad only having payed about 4.50 for a rack but was really looking forward to nice ribs. What did I do wrong?? My St. Louis ribs come out great every time now. Are they that much different from baby back ribs?
Sorry I was so disappointed that I didn't take a picture of the final product, it was not a pretty sight.
I have one more rack but don't want to waste it. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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Hard to say from a distance, but two things. I wonder if your smoker was actually cooking at 250. And baby backs are leaner than spares.

I also think maybe at 5.5 hours you took them too far. I cook at 275 and my baby back cooks don't run over 4 hours.
5 1/2 hours might have been ok with no wrap, might give that a try. Otherwise I agree with Jim. Once they are wrapped start checking after an hour and keep an eye on them. When I wrap I don’t think I’ve ever gone past 4 hour total time, they fall apart past 4 hours at 250-275. Most rib methods are based on 225 so if cooking at 250 you need to cut an hour off the time at least. Probe for tender and never cook to time alone.
Yup... 2 hrs wrapped was the beginning of your problems... especially at 250 (if that's what it actually is at grate level)... As SmokinEdge SmokinEdge said... Start checking them after an hour... Whgen I used to wrap mine would go no longer than 1.5 hrs ... And then you went another hour unwrapped...
They are usually good to go when they come out of the wrap.. just sauce and put back in for 15-20 cminutes... long enough to set the sauce...
I'm a spare rib guy, but I used to smoke BBs because my wife preferred them to spares. Results were inconsistent whether I smoked them unwrapped, unwrapped/wrapped/unwrapped, or wrapped start to finish. Then I started treating them like a pork loin followed with a probe and bend test for doneness. That worked,, but they didn't taste 2-3x better than spares based on cost. They were generally ready in 2.5 to 3.5 hours at 225-250°F

In the end I convinced my wife to love spare ribs. They're cheaper and more forgiving. Any temp, toss on unwrapped, probe for tenderness. Higher temp = faster smoke.
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Sorry for your disappointment. But it can happen to anyone me included as it did Monday, I usually always do St Louis style or even whole racks. Baby backs as said are thin and lean.

My wife is a fall off the bone type of person. If I do baby backs which is not often for her I do 2-1-1. So I smoke for 2 hrs, wrap for 1, then uncover and sauce. The last step, they can be done right away or take the last hour. Depends on pit temp.
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As others have said, baby backs are much different. The first thing I do is trim all the loin meat off and save it for another cook. The loin meat doesn't like an INT above 150 or it will be beyond dry...... next since they are thinner now, I smoke them @ 235 for 3 hours then baste them with a mop and let them go 30 mins more....the INT should be about 192-196 ish, then pull then and rest at temp (145 in the house oven) covered for another 30 min.... So a total of 4 hours tops, including the rest time. At 250 I would say 3.5 - 3.75 hours (with the rest) tops........


As an fyi my fav ribs are the ones off a rack of pork cut (ie baby backs with a whole bunch of loin) and they are pulled at INT of 145 and rest up to INT 150 tops and they are like butter!


3rd example of a "rib" at less than INT 150....
Another problem I've had with wrapping bbybk's is that after two hours unwrapped at 225 and one wrapped, the internal temp will be right at 200 and they will be tender and ready to come off EXECPT that the bark has melted due to the steam treatment in the foil.
No problem right, but after 15 minutes unwrapped to set the sauce, the moisture venting from the steamed meat will evaporate off and the internal temp will drop down to 170 by the time the sauce has begun to set up.
My conclusion is that the time it takes to set the bark again will quiclkly dry out the meat and if you continue to rely on internal temp they will cook to dry as a bone before the temp rises back to the ideal 204 area.
I'm thinking of opening the foil just enough to do the final saucing and then get them the heck out of the smoker as soon as the sauce sets enough to handle them to prevent overcooking,
When I use the 2-2-1 method with baby backs I cook at 225. Anything higher and they will get overdone. As others have said, not enough fat in them to stay moist past a certain point.
I am done flying blind without measuring IT, ribs included. Instant read digital therms are like $10 now. Also, I smoke mine a few days in advance to around 195-200F (knife and fork temps I call it) then sauce and sear on a hot grill day of serving. The flavor that adds makes it. No other way IMO.
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5 or 6 years ago when "enhanced pork" was readily available, baby back ribs were a prime target for this product. They had a longer use-by date, and the injected liquid did make them moister, although the texture could be tighter. Branded in large letters, something like 'Moist and Juicy', or 'Moist and Tender', while in the small print you could see what was actually injected and what percentage. As 'Natural Pork' slowly came back, some BB ribs were marketed as 'Extra Meaty' and had a noticeable strip of loin meat atop the ribs.

On the last BB ribs I cooked, I sort of contoured that strip of loin meat, and wrapped around hour two for maybe 1 hour, then let the bark set-up for 30 minutes.

This side view shows the effect of trimming down that loin meat.
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