Can't seem to get baby back ribs right (UPDATE)

Discussion in 'Pork' started by ocean82, Dec 12, 2012.

  1. I've only been smoking meats for a year now. I've done shoulders, salmon, chicken, and brisket successfully and I can repeat that success. It's the baby back rib that has eluded my quest for smoking perfection. I have attempted 8 smokes and can't get the tenderness I desire. I'm not looking for overcooked melt off the bone, but I can't even get that. They come out tasting great, but they're always chewy and tough. This is what I do:

    Rig: Horizon 16" classic
    Fuel: charcoal w/ apple and hickory
    Temp: tried everything from 225-275.
    Cook time: 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours.

    I've tried foiling after 2 hours, no foil, 3-2-1, marinating, dry rub only, and all the above temp and cook time combinations. Everything I've read about ribs seems to be dialed in, but I can get the tenderness I want. I know that when smoking, its done when its done, but Ive always been forced to take them off before they pass the twist test. Baby backs taking over 6 hours normal??? What's going wrong??? I'm starting to think its the meat. I get the 2 rack pack from BJs Wholesale. Could that be the issue? Crap meat? I'm going to the local meat monger this Friday for some expensive, but fresher ribs. I'm going to throw them on early and just smoke them until I can twist the bone out.

    Any other advice appreciated.
  2. Sounds like you are doing everything by the book. Can't figure whats amiss. One of the Big Boys will have a sugestion.
  3. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    There's your answer right there. 6 hours isn't out of the ordinary. That's usually about when they get done for me.....Keep the smoker door closed the whole time and don't fiddle around with them...Well maybe start checking them @ 5 hours in....
  4. When I do baby backs I use 2-2-1 @ 275*.  With success with the other meats I am confused why this isn't working for you.  BTW - Horizon 16" classic - nice rig.
  5. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I'm gonna have to go with your choice of meat... Those vac-pac ribs really suck in my book... to begin with they add the flavors they want.. then they pump them with anywhere up to 10% ... For me, fresh is the only way to go...
  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    At 225*F to 250*F, Baby backs do well with 2-2-1 if you choose not to foil then an extra hour is not unusual. Try 2-2.5-.5 or even 2 in smoke and 3 in foil then serve. If they are not tender using the last timing you Smoker temp must be on the Low side...JJ
  7. davidhef88

    davidhef88 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I agree with what JJ said. Have you checked your therms for accuracy?
  8. diesel

    diesel Smoking Fanatic

    Yep.. I agree with JJ.  

    Make sure you are positive about your temps in the smoker.  Then remember if you are looking you ain't cooking.  Keep trying and you will get it.  Temps are very important and it keeps you from opening up the cooker.

  9. First, I can't believe no one asked, Did you remove the membrane off the the ribs? and if yes, I would seriously check the temperature in your cooker with another thermometer or even 2. Good luck. Baby back should be one of the easyest meats to smoke not the hardest. My .02
  10. Hey there.... I too was having trouble with baby backs and picked up some pointers. ont he babay backs try 2-2-1 and then DOUBLE STACK your ribs in the foil, meaning one rack on top of the other in the foil, if your doing only one rack cut they into two sections and then stack those. This seemed to be the trick for me.
  11. fliptetlow

    fliptetlow Smoke Blower

    I use the vac. packed ones from Sam’s club with good success. I to were having trouble getting constant ribs. Mine were always overcooked and fell right off the bone, but always tasty. Tried all the methods and the last time I went low and slow 220 for about 5 ½ hours and only foiled them after they were done and let them sit for about 45 min. Came out very tasty, stayed on the bone nicely and tender.

    24 hours sit time after I apply the rub.   

    Cooking with Oak firewood with Hickory chunks.

    Water bowl inside smoker.

    Spray several times with apple and Jack Daniels mix.

    Going to try some more this weekend.

    Here is a pic of the last batch. 

  12. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I have used the vac packs from Costco or Sams...and have not had a problem yet.  Have a pack in the freezer that is calling my name...they wanna be smoked soon!
  13. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    I've used vac pak ribs of all different brands and never had a problem. They simply tell you when they are done regardless of brand. I don't remove the membrane any more either. It comes off super easy after the ribs are smoked.

    The WSM churns out perfect ribs time after time....

  14. Thanks for the tips.

    - yes, I verified therm calibration with boiling water.
    - yes I always remove the membrane.

    Some have pointed out looking ain't cooking. Every hour I'm spraying them down with apple cider for fear if dry ribs. Maybe that needs to stop. I could really be extending my times out by doing that.

    I'm only going to change one part of the process at a time. I want to narrow down the cause. If I stop opening to spray, and foil 2-2-1, and get different ribs, I won't know what did it. I guess that's more excuses to smoke more ribs!!!

    I'll put up an update and some Q-view this Sunday when I smoke em.
  15. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Depending on type of smoker, time of year and timing, you can add 20-30 minutes to your cook every time you open the door to spritz. I have done it and noticed no benefit to spritzing Pork. There may be some benefit to spritzing Brisket but have not tried yet...JJ
  16. X2 what JJ said. Pork is fatty enough and doesn't require as much spritzing if any, as people think it does. I think one of the biggest problem people have is not letting there meat rest long enough. That can make the difference between good and great product. My pork butts for example I like the rest in a well insulated cooler wrapped in foil for a min of 2 hr or longer before pulling.
  17. pkerchef

    pkerchef Fire Starter

    I do baby backs at all the comps i do and i run the cooker at 275 for 3 hours 30 minutes. Perfect every time. Pkerchef
  18. Here we are. It's been 4.5 hours on the smoker between 225-260. Haven't lifted the lid once....except to check on them now and sure enough, they don't pass the bend or twist test. I'm going to wrap them in foil and let it go for another 2 hours. I'm doing some chicken 1/4s too, so I'm hoping the timing will be good. Unwrap the ribs in 2 hours, put the chicken on and let the ribs and chicken smoke for 1.5 hours until done. 
  19. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Ocean, You can put the Chicken on now letting the ribs go without foil until both done...or...Put the Chicken on at the same time as the foiled Ribs. After 2 hours unwrap the Ribs to test for doneness and firm up if needed. The Chicken and Ribs will come of pretty close to together at this point. Doing what you describe, cooking BB's 8 hours will over cook the ribs making them dry or mushy...JJ
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2012
  20. Normally I would take that advice, had I not already had tough ribs after even 6 hours of cooking. I know that 250 is 250, but damn if it seems like my smoker just takes forever.

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