First timer smoking ribs - What could have gone wrong?

Discussion in 'Pork' started by wcwilson, Aug 11, 2013.

  1. wcwilson

    wcwilson Newbie

    FYI, I'm a novice here.  I got into smoking about a year ago when a friend gave me a little chief.  I fish in North Georgia and so have been smoking trout, and bass and have gotten some nice accolades for my smoked bass dip.  In any case, I've been wanting cold smoke some trout and found this site.  After a few hours looking around I decided I really needed to learn how to smoke ribs, and so the story begins......

    I have a gas grill, pretty heavy DCS 3 burner model.  I spoke to Todd Johnson at Amaz-n products and purchased the maverick 732 temperature gauge, and the Amaz-N pellet 12" tube with the Pitmaster blend.  I subscribed to the 5 eLessons on how to smoke, and thought I was on my way.  My plan, the 2-2-1 method on two racks of baby back ribs.  Nice way to spend a Saturday.

    I pulled the membrane off the ribs, rubbed yellow mustard and a nice rub on the ribs, cut them in half, wrapped them in saran wrap and put them in the refrigerator for 3 hours (all the time I had).  I got my temperature up to 225 (two burners on low), got the tube smoker going (on the nonburner side) and put my ribs on for two hours, spraying apple juice on the ribs every 30 minutes or so.  I was somewhat concerned about the amount of smoke the tube smoker was generating, so I decided to prop up the grill about an inch and move the smoker in front of the grill to generate more smoke.  I'm not sure if that was a good move.  I'm used to seeing a ton of smoke coming from my little chief and so when I didn't see a heck of a lot coming from the tube, I thought I needed to adjust.

    After 2 hours, I wrapped in aluminum foil, sprayed a couple of squirts of apple juice and put back on the grill for two more hours.  Monitoring temperature, it stayed between 236 and 252, approximately.  Probably more toward the upper 240s.

    I knew I had a problem when after the two hours I unwrapped the ribs.  Three of the four had no moisture and looked burned.  The fourth at some juice in the aluminum foil and looked pretty good.  I went ahead and put the ribs back on for the last hour and mopped with BBQ sauce.  After adding the sauce I thought I was going to be ok, but then after pulling them off the grill and letting them rest.......

    Burned to a crisp!

    Three of the four were unedible, the fourth, was pretty good, but still over done in my opinion.  

    Advice?  What could I have done wrong?  My wife is ready take over and use the OVEN!


  2. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    IMHO you sprayed too much apple juice on the ribs during the first 2 hours and did not add enough to the foil for the foil phase, add 1/4 cup of liquid to the foil, minimum, when you are foiling ribs. Because you didn't add enough liquid for the foil phase, the sugar in the apple juice burned IMHO. There is no need to spray your meat with anything, if you are going to foil especially. 
  3. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Sounds to me like you overcooked the ribs.  IMHO...there is no need to spritz ribs, they are not on the smoker long enough.  2-2-1 is designed for slow smoking at 225, wrapping helps retain moisture in the ribs and sort of braises them in the liquid you add and that generated by the melting fat from the ribs.

    The important thing is not to give up!  Also, opening the grill lid probably gave your Maverick an incorrect temp reading and you may have been running hotter than you think.

    Give it another try, forget the spritzing, control your temps below 240 (try to stay as close to 225 as possible), foil after 2 hours with just a little apple juice (I like to use some brown sugar, honey, and butter along with a squirt of my BDSE sauce.

    Good luck with the next batch,

  4. geerock

    geerock Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Sounds like you put the ribs over the burners. And no doubt you were too hot and overcooked. Babybacks are kind of delicate, you have to be gentle.
  5. jaxrmrjmr

    jaxrmrjmr Smoking Fanatic

    You said your grill has three burners, two of which were lit, and the AMNTS was placed over the third (non-lit) burner.  Where did you place the ribs on your grill?  Did you place the ribs over the two burners that were lit?  If so, that would probably explain the burn during the foiling step - especially when little to no liquid was added to the foil package.

    Sorry geerock, I must have been typing when you posted.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013
  6. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Bill nailed it. I know with my gas grill I can only run one if the thee burners to get temps low enough for smoking. Then I have to place the meat in the areas where that burner is not.
  7. kathrynn

    kathrynn Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Also please pop over to Roll Call and introduce yourself!  Noticed that this was your first post with us!

  8. raastros2

    raastros2 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    i always put bbq sauce and beer mixed in with the apple juice when i foil ribs
  9. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Another thing to check is your temp gauge on the Gas Grill. Most gauges are way off from what they say they are. But for sure they needed to be over the non ignited burners. Indirect as they say.

    Enjoy the N. Georgia area. We will be staying in Hiawassee  area this coming October. Maybe you can invite me over for dinner..  [​IMG]
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013
  10. wcwilson

    wcwilson Newbie

    Thanks for the replies everyone. A couple of follow up questions.

    Can the tube smoker typically generate enough smoke with the grill closed?

    I don't want to overwhelm the ribs with apple juice, should I dilute it 50/50 with water?
  11. jaxrmrjmr

    jaxrmrjmr Smoking Fanatic

    I've used my tube smoker only in my smoker - someone else with some experience using it on a grill will have to answer that one.

    You could dilute the apple juice but a 1/4 cup will come nowhere even close to overwhelming the ribs.  The people that foil their ribs usually use some butter, some sort of flavor, and some sort of sweet.  Like Raastros2 said above, he uses BBQ sauce, beer, and apple juice. 
  12. raastros2

    raastros2 Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

  13. wcwilson

    wcwilson Newbie

    It sounds like not everyone prefers the 2-2-1 on baby backs, particularly the foil step. Can someone point me to some alternative methods for cooking them?
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2013
  14. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    As with Spare Ribs and 3-2-1, this method is not set in stone. Some alter the times some for their personal preference. Some do not even want to foil them at all. It is the same with Baby Backs. If you want fall off the bone, you can usually stick to the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 methods, but thickness of the ribs is also important. I personally like to back off the amount of time in the foil, this will allow for a little more bite to the ribs, not so "fall off the bone".  Some on here can explain the bend method to tell when they are done. I have been happy with the foil method so have not done my ribs that way.
  15. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I pretty much just use an apple juice/apple cider vinegar mix for my ribs. Since some do not prefer sauce, I hold off on that until the ribs hit the table. I drink the beer.
  16. pgsmoker64

    pgsmoker64 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You can always just keep them on the smoker at 225 for about 5 hours.  They will come out just as tender and juicy as when you foil, the foil is like a crutch to guarantee tenderness.  The key is temperature control!!!!  You must be able to keep your temperature steady!

    Good luck

  17. jaxrmrjmr

    jaxrmrjmr Smoking Fanatic

    Bill is right.  Foil is a crutch to insure that they turn out tender.  If you hear the term "crutch" they are talking about foiling - be it ribs, butts, briskets, etc.

    Putting them on the smoker and holding the temp very close to 225 until they are done is the traditional way.  Most every rib will be done somewhere between 4.5 and 6 hours.  The only problem I have with that method is the attention it takes.  Each rib is different and will take it's own time to get done.  I don't have the time to baby sit what I'm cooking as I have 4 kids, lots of honey-do's, and kid's games come the weekend.  With a family of four, I can't give a 1.5 hour window of when they will be done.  For me, using the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method allows me to smoke stuff when I wouldn't otherwise have time to tend the smoker.  Not every rack of ribs is the same and the crutch method helps to even out the cook times as well.

    Lots of people have terrific results just smoking them until they are done.

    Lots of people have terrific results using a crutch.

    It's really personal preference.  There is no "perfect way to cook ribs" that everyone agrees on.  The 3-2-1 method is a nice place to start.  I buy ribs from Sam's Club.  They come from two different suppliers and are usually around 5 to 5 1/2 lbs per rack.  I smoke these for 3 hours, then foil them for about 1' 35-40" and then finish on the smoker for just long enough to tighten them back up - usually about 30-45 minutes.  So, I started out with the 3-2-1 method at 225-230 but have tailored it to my family's tenderness preference.  I ended up with a 3-1.5-.75 at 240-245 degrees.

    If I buy a 5 lb rack from Wal-Mart, which are usually Smithfield's brand, I smoke for 2.5 - 2.75 hours as I usually experience pull back a little earlier.  Then I foil for 1.5 hrs and tighten them up for 20- 30 minutes.  So, that would be 2.5-1.5-.5.

    Oh yeah, don't just slather on a big coat of BBQ sauce just because.  If the rub is good and the tenderness/juiciness is good, you will be surprised that they probably don't even need it.  The guys that are really good at it can get that flavor without sauce but it's still just personal preference.


    It just depends.  Even my times depend on whether it's 75 degrees and low humidity or 90 degrees and raining.

    It just takes the experience of doing it over and over and over.  Before long you will be able to get your ribs pretty close to what you want more times than not.  But, there is no silver bullet of how to get good ribs.
  18. hoity toit

    hoity toit Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    You got it right using the mustard, just keep the temp down and they will come out fine. Indirect heat is best. I never foil mine or use bbq sauce baste. I only baste with a vinegar/oil/water/onion solution that I mop on as it cooks.

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