Fall apart spare ribs - as seen on TV

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Smoke Blower
Original poster
Jan 3, 2006
Lovelock, NV
Howdy all!

Okay, I just want to know how to do it. I've been smoking meat for about a year and half now, and I've developed a flavor we all love, I just want the meat to be as tender as the rib cookoff ribs always are. What's the secret?

I'm using a New Braunfels smoker with the side firebox, where I use charcoal for heat and hickory and apple wood for smoke. I rub my ribs with what I like, then I smoke them for 6-8 hours, using about 3 hours of actual smoke. After an hour or so, I mop with apple juice, vinegar, beer, or some mix thereof. I don't wrap with foil - should I?

I don't foil wrap my pork shoulders, and they fall apart, so what gives?


and thanks!

if you want them fall off the bone you should use foil

use the 3-2-1 method 3 hours unwrapped 2 wrapped in foil, i like to add a little apple juice and glaze the ribs with honey for this time, then 1 hour unwrapped, if you sauce apply it the last 30 minutes of the cook

the last hour will let the ribs firm up some, try them after the 2 hour mark, they should be falling apart, if thats what your looking for skip the last step

this should be done at 225-250
I don't really want them to fall of the bone, I just want them really tender. The ones I've been doing have great flavor, but they are just a bit chewy.

DT, Crazyhorse is right, try the 3-2-1 method. See my earlier post under pork, the "3-2-1 method, a controlled experiment" post. The first 3 hours cook the meat and give it the smoke flavor. The second two hours of braising tenderize the meat and the last hour crisps the meat up for a perfect outcome. I cooked 3 racks of lion back ribs Sunday and they were to die for. I used Apple wood and did the 3-2-1 thing.

Aubrey Page
OTBS #007
Hey Toad (sorry for shortening you name, I couldn't help myself :mrgreen: )

Lots of good advice here, I like to give my ribs a good slather of yellow mustard and then a good sprinkling of rub, wrap them up in plastic and put them in the fridge over night. The next day while I'm waiting for the temp to come up on the smoker, I pull the ribs from the fridge unwrap the plastic and give the ribs another sprinkling of rub. Then I use the 3-2-1 method as outlined. I usually just put the sauce on the side and let the guest sauce the ribs themselves. I will sauce part of a rack if I have guests that like the caramelization of the 'que sauce on the ribs.

Best of luck in your quest for the perfect ribs.
I cook spare ribs all of the time. Matter of fact they are my favorite thing to Q and one of the most often request items by those I cook for...

It sounds like your cooking your spares long enough, but at what temp? If they are not tender in 6 - 8 hours, I would be willing to bet that you are cooking at too low of a temp.

Skip the foil and all of that misting and try bringing the temp up to at least 250° as measured at the grate... About the only thing your doing by misting that often is to let the heat out of the pit and extending your cooking time... If you must mist/spray or mop your ribs, then at least limit the number of times you do so... mist/mop when you start checking for doneness since the pit will be open anyay...

Now, do you know how to tell when then ribs are done? It is really easy... After about 5 hours or so (estimating 4lb - 5lb pork spare ribs size prior to trimming) start checking the racks... A few ways to do this... Take a pair of tongs and pick up the rack in the middle... If the rack is very limp and the meat want to tears away from the bones they are done... Another way is to grab two bones near the middle of the rack and give a tug, if the meat starts to pull easliy away from the bones, they are done... and finally, another way is to take a toothpick and poke the meat between da bones... if the toothpick goes in and out with very little to no resistance they are done...

How I do it is by using a gloved hand and pick up the rack and check as mentioned above about using tongs...

When I deam the ribs done (and I often cook in quantities of multiple cases) I wrap the individual racks (or even two or three at at time if cooking in large volume) in heavy duty foil and place in a dry ice chest for about 1/2 to 1 hour) to rest or hold until serving time...

I'll often glaze with Danny Gualden's rib glaze (a mixture of mustard, brown sugar, and cider vinegar just prior to foiling)... umm umm good...

Also, I just rub the ribs just prior to placing on the smoker, after years of trying various methods, I have found no benefit to rubbing the day or night before, but your mileage may vary.

Hope this helps and if ya have any more questions, let us know...

One more thing, on that smaller smoker of yours, you might have to swap the meat around a time or two to give those racks closest to the firebox a bit of a break from the direct heat poinding them on the "got" side of the cook chamber...

Hmmm, perhaps it is my temp. I try for about 230 maybe a bit more. I started mopping a few tries ago, and it left the ribs with a nice bark that we liked. Maybe I need to get two or three racks and have another experiment. I could wrap one, mist one, and leave one the heck alone!

Can't wait to try again, it's tough eating all the mistakes!


P.S. I thought 150 was about the temp when things started to dry out - what temp does that happen?
While I have never attempted to take the internal temp of ribs, I take pork butts and shoulders up to 200° and briskets around 195° with out them drying out...

While 230° cooker temp is fine, give it a try at 250°... This temp is still low enough to allow for proper rendering of the fat and fast enough to cook the meat, but not dry it out...

You're correct about eathing those mistakes!

Just one more thought. Lots of good information here and by following it, you should have some outstanding ribs. Just one more idea though. It hasn't been mentioned here but I assume that in preparation, you have removed the membrane on the back or bone side of the ribs. If not, say the word and we can expound on that process in detail.
Yes, I do indeed remove the membrane - makes a bigger difference than some people think. And I also rub my ribs down with yellow mustard and sprinkle them with whatever sounds yummy at the time. I think next time I'll do two racks, one that I'll 3-2-1, and the other I'll just let cook itself.

Thanks again for all this info, now I just need the ribs!

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