Ribs not Tender Enough

Discussion in 'Pork' started by rpf41978, Jul 15, 2011.

  1. rpf41978

    rpf41978 Newbie

    Hi everyone, I have a question about getting my smoked baby back ribs more tender than the way they've been coming out.  I've have been using the 3-2-1 method for about a year now on my Oklahoma Joe smaller smoker with sidebox; but, they're just never as tender as ribs that are coming out of an oven (blasphemy, I know). 

    I use a mixture of hickory and mesquite and my temperature fluctuates between 220 and 250.  I remove the membrane and apply a dry rub that sits overnight in the fridge.  I baste with apple juice in a spray bottle during the first 3 hours and also during the last hour.

    Should I cook at a lower temperature or is there some other cause I'm missing?



  2. jrod62

    jrod62 Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Do u do the bend test to see if they are "tender done" ?

    if u pick them up and bend do they start to come apart ?

    that when i take them off  and they are fall of the bone tender
  3. heyer5

    heyer5 Meat Mopper

    That is kind of a tough question to answer.  Your prep and smoke time looks pretty good.  What type of ribs are you using, spares, baby backs?  On my WSM, i usually get the temp up right aruond where you said, 225ish, put the racks on and shut the lid.  I would leave the lid closed for at least the first hour, longer if doing spares, that way you aren't loosing heat and the meat starts cooking nicely. 

    I've had good luck with both spritzing and not spritzing, I believe it's personal opinion, mine didn't differ greatly.  If doing baby backs, 4-5 hours usually should keep them plenty moist, maybe an hour or so in tin foil to get a little pull back from the bone.  I typically finish with a homemade bbq sauce that last 30 min - hour, this allows them to firm up a little but, however the meat should be tender as ever.  Heck, the last rack I did was probably to tender, at least it was for me!  I tried to grab the rack w/ the tongs and pulled a rib bone out!

    Good luck smoking!
  4. rpf41978

    rpf41978 Newbie

    @jrod, I wasn't aware of the bend test.  I'll look that one up.

    @heyer5 I typically use baby back ribs just because they're smaller and easier to work on my smoker.  And I know it penalizes you in competition cooking, but I want the rib bone to come out when I go to pick it up.  Well, not fall apart before I can get it to my mouth, but close.
  5. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Just leave it in the foil longer, that's what makes them tender and make sure you put liquid in the foil too. I use about 1/4 cu of dark beer.
  6. bobthesmoker

    bobthesmoker Newbie

    What everyone else said plus I would not baste the ribs; you are probably losing heat every time you open it to baste and you are actaully smoking at a lower temperature due to this regular heat loss.  Add a little liquid when you foil and I dont believe you will even notice that you did not baste the ribs. 
  7. Have you checked your thermometers for accuracy? Maybe the temp is too low and they are not really done yet. Everything else you do sounds right.
  8. fpnmf

    fpnmf Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Most folks use 2-2-1 for baby backs.  Put 2-2-1 in the handy dandy search tool up top.

    Once ribs go in my smoker the top does not come off til its time to foil.

    I use apple juice in the foil...Dont know how much I just pour some in and wrap.

    What do you use to check the temp?? Sounds like you might be running a little hotter than you think!

    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  9. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Nuf said.I'll be quiet[​IMG]
  10. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

     That would be what I would do, but I have to admit I am surprised. As others have said Babybacks don't usually do a 3-2-1 but more like a 2-2-1.  3-2-1 is more for spares.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  11. rpf41978

    rpf41978 Newbie

    Thanks everyone, I've been relying on the gauge on the pit itself.  Sounds like it is time to invest in a digital thermometer to ensure I am at the right temperature.  Thanks for all the input, I'll update with the next batch (hopefully next weekend).

  12. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Now don't expect a digital thermometer to work too well with ribs. Especially Babybacks. Hard to get a good ready between the bones. If you temp gauge is off in the smoker, you might want to pick up an oven temp gauge at walmart. They'll hang right on your grate rack or sit on it. Replacement gauges for the smoker can be found at Lowes or Home Depot.
  13. Did you check the one you got in some boiling water? Then you'd know if you were hi or low on the temp.
  14. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I should make this a wiki, I think.

    The bend test-

  15. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    That works great for those for those that can do them in a rack whole, but I need to cut mine in two. [​IMG]
  16. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Have you tried pinning the ends together and standing them on end like a crown?
  17. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    no, I usually have several grates going and not sure if I have the height either. Will have to check next time a do a rack.
  18. I just use 2 of those lay on the grill oven therms, and have 2 aftermarket therms i drilled into the lid at grate level.  the grate level therms give me peace of mind, and the lay on the grill oven therms verify it after 2 to 3 hours when i go to mop something or foil it.  instant read for meat temp checking.  using ebay, i got all 5 for less than 30 bucks, and it gives me a real great feel for how the heat is flowing inside my smoker (char griller smokin' pro with sfb).  before the therms, i was getting tough ribs, and it was definitely due to too low of a heat (3-2-1 at 190 aint going to produce edible ribs.  technically they will not be raw, but they aint nothing to brag about).  Actually, before I got the aftermarket therms, i was grilling 3-2-1-1-1 and the dang things were still tough as nails!  lol.  Stuck them in the oven (for shame) at 250 for 2 hours, and they came back, but it should not have taken that long, nor should i have needed the oven for ribs.  Good luck! 
  19. Got to have accurate therms.
  20. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Lately the babybacks we have been getting have been thicker than most spares. I have been doing them 3-2 & finishing with the 1 on a 350 degree grill. Here's a look at how meaty they are.


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