First time smoker

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Fire Starter
Original poster
Feb 21, 2006
Oregon Coast
This weekend will be my first attempt at smoking. I have some beef back ribs, and I'm wondering about the best way to smoke them. Any help, tips or tricks will be greatly appreciated.

I've read about the 3-2-1 method, and I think I'll give that a try, but I still have a question.

Do I brine or do I rub? I'm not entirely sure what a brine is, or if I need to use one with my ribs. Any heads up on the different uses for brines and rubs will be a great help. From what I've read, you use the same types of spices and herbs for both brines and rubs. The difference seems to be in the amount of liquid, and the amount of time before cooking. So, for beef ribs, do I use a brine or a rub?

Thanks for the help!
Vix, you can ask 10 different people that question and you'll get 10 different answers.
Rubs and brines are used to add flavor to the meat. Check out the Rubs and Brining topics in the Smoking Meat Links on the left side of the page.
A simple brine consists of 1 cup sugar, 1 cup salt to each gallon of water used. You can further enhance the flavor of the brine by adding fruit juices, wines, herbs and spices. Brining ribs is a personal preference. I prefer not to brine but instead I will mop/spray my ribs about once an hour before wrapping them in foil. Before sealing the foil I will pour some of the mop/spray liquid on the meat before sealing the foil.
As someone new to smoking, you'll want to try ribs with and without brining and see which method YOU like best. You may want to keep a journal of what you do.
Click HERE to veiw the journal thread.
Thanks for the tip Dutch. I'll be sure to keep a journal.

What is mopping? I have a mental image of my meat on the end of a long pole swabbing the decks, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it's done. :lol:
We don't mop the decks with our meat but we use mops with REALLY short handles. :D Mopping is a method of applying a liquid (usually a fruit juice with or without some of the rub added) to the meat. Some folks use a barbecue mop while others (like me) use a dedicated spray bottle that was purchased new for this purpose. Spraying is less disturbing to the bark that you're trying to create. When you drag a mop over the surface you run the chance of removing some of the bark. We have one member that squirts apple juice straight from the small juice containers. I get it. I'll pick up a spray bottle today.

Is it advisable to smoke in the rain?
You have an umbrella? -No problem- :P
Sometimes you just have to go with the weather. At my old house I didn't have the luxury of a covered patio that I have now, so I had a 10 ft X 10 ft canopy that I put up on rainy days. Some folks will cover their smoker with a large cardboard box or some will move the smoker into a garage (with PLENTY of ventilation) or carport. Keep in mind that wind rain and the weather in general will affect your smoker.
Thanks Dutch....hopefully it won't rain too much, and I won't get soaked. I'll let you know how things turn out. Wish me luck!!
Vix, here's a good read on brining basics. It explains how they work and gives a lot of basic brine recipes.

Beef ribs come in a lot of different types and cuts. Some have very little meat on them when cooked, others a lot. The beef ribs with a lot of meat can take a long time to cook. Last good beef ribs I did took almost 8 hours at 235 before they got tender. Other skimpier ribs I've done in just a couple of hours.
Watch for the meat pulling back from the ends of the bones. When you have a good 1/2" of bone showing on the ends you should be getting close to done. Use tongs to twist 2 adjacent bones, if they start to come apart easily, you're ready to eat.
Thanks for the great tips Scott! They will come in handy as I make my first attempt today.
Well, for a first attempt, it turned out pretty good. I had extra room on the smoker so I did some chicken as well. I used a rub with fresh ground pepper, fresh ground salt, onion powder, dash of cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and dry mustard. I used the 3-2-1 method for the ribs, and just let the chicken smoke. I used a mop of water and red wine.

Everything tasted really good, good smokey flavor, and for the most part, fall apart tender. I did run into a couple problems. Some of my ribs weren't as meaty as the others. These ended up being overdone while the meatier ribs were perfect. Are there any placement tricks to smoking both meaty and non-meaty ribs at the same time? I think my other problem was that I started out with my smoker being too hot. Next time I'll have to be patient, and wait until it reaches a lower temp before cooking.

Thanks for all your help. I'll be smoking again, and I'll let you all know how it turns out. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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