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Why are my ribs not fall off the bone

new smoker 55

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Hello all,

I am new to smoking and had some questions....I tried 2 racks of baby back ribs for the first time and I used the 2-2-1 method and they turned out tough! Flavor great but not at all fall off the bone....I have an electric smoker and had my heat set at 225 smoked for the first 2 hours and the last hour. I used a bit of beer when I wrapped them in foil. any help would be great because I had to use a knife to get my meat off the bone.
 

WaterinHoleBrew

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Hello all,

I am new to smoking and had some questions....I tried 2 racks of baby back ribs for the first time and I used the 2-2-1 method and they turned out tough! Flavor great but not at all fall off the bone....I have an electric smoker and had my heat set at 225 smoked for the first 2 hours and the last hour. I used a bit of beer when I wrapped them in foil. any help would be great because I had to use a knife to get my meat off the bone.
new smoker, if your ribs turned out tough they were likely undercooked..... Keep in mind that the 2-2-1 method is only a guideline.... Not all bb ribs will be done exactly at the 2-2-1..... Ya will likely have to kinda tinker with the times til ya get the results your lookin for, but again these methods like the 2-2-1 are just a guideline.... That's important to remember.... Try a toothpick to see if they are tender, watch the end of the ribs as well, because as ribs cook the meat at the end of the bones will shrink or pull back.... A lot of folks will do the bend test as well, however for fall off the bone ribs ya will not want to use this method ! For fall off the bone, ya may have to foil a little longer !

Now to the smoker, what kind of smoker & are ya reading the temp with the built in or stock therm. ? Most stock therms are inaccurate..... Or do ya have another therm. you are using ? A lot of folks on this site, myself included have purchased a Maverick ET-732 dual probe therm. Dual probe meaning one probe for meat IT & one probe for smoker temp ! This info hopefully will help to get ya the results your lookin for next time !
 
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tean94

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Bingo. Thanks for answering the OP's question. Whether you foil or not, time is the most important ingredient in getting tender ribs. Foiling for 2 hours hastens the process, but it CAN take it too far resulting in ribs that are in my opinion too tender. I happen to like a little less time in foil for a bit more firmness to my ribs. But that's me. I'd suggest the OP (if he's still around) check his ribs using the "bend test". A rack of ribs, when lifted in the middle with a pair of tongs, will bend in varying degrees depending on how far along they are in the tenderizing process. If they fold almost in half, you're probably there. Temp checking on ribs is difficult as there are bones, thin meat and connective tissue all occupying a very small area.
Here in Utah, we prefer our ribs to be FOTB. If they don't, then they are too tough and not enjoyable. I always cook mine to be FOTB, and always have friends putting in orders each time I smoke ribs.
 

msuiceman

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I usually do 2-2-1 for babybacks. However, I have learned with my setup that it is highly dependent on thickness and fat content. if the ribs are more fatty I have to kick the temps up a bit, especially in the last hour to render out a lot of the fat. my last set were really thick and had a lot of fat, so it went more like 2-2-2 than 2-2-1. I also go for a slight amount of tug instead of fall off the bone (still tender, just not falling apart), so I usually don't add liquid to the foil and sometimes do it a bit shorter than two hours for the foiled portion.
 

smokeyboysbbq

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Exactly. It drives me nuts when people want "fall of the bone" ribs. When the bone is completely void of meat, your ribs are over cooked. Your initial bite will go to the bone, but the rest will stay.
 

chef jimmyj

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Exactly. It drives me nuts when people want "fall of the bone" ribs. When the bone is completely void of meat, your ribs are over cooked. Your initial bite will go to the bone, but the rest will stay.
You shouldn't let it upset you. Most people know Med/Rare Beef is tasty and Juicy but there are still a lot of folks that insist on Well Done Steaks! Are they Wrong? Dad spent 50 years trying to convince Mom that Well Done destoyed the flavor and texture of Beef...

Many folks that expect Fall of the Bone Ribs, just think that is the way they are supposed to be. It is the National Chain Restaurant's fault, among others. A place like Chili's or Outback and others, have the Ribs cooked, some Steam Smoked, wrapped and refrigerated. When an order comes in, the already very well done Ribs hit the Grill, Broiler or very hot Oven to be reheated and sauced to death. Additionally, a large percentage of well known Northern and Southern BBQ Places, do such high volume of Ribs, that they have no choice  but to Smoke, Foil and Hold their ribs at 150°F. The Collagen connective tissue continues to breakdown as long as the ribs are held hot. There is no way, with those styles of Moist cooking or long term holding, you can expect or even get Competition Bite Through Ribs.  

Many years ago, I and a group of Chef's, judged a huge Rib Cookoff in Central PA. This annual event had several local Teams, attracted some Pitmasters from all over the country and had some area Chain restaurants participate as well. The Judges Choice was a guy that smoked up some great, bite through, Memphis Style Dry Ribs...The Peoples Choice award went to a National Chain Restaurant...
 

I just saw an episode of Man, Fire, Food, where a popular southern Q joint was making BIG $$$ with their Famous, Secret Recipe, " Boneless " Racks of Ribs...You could see that the slabs of Baby Back Ribs were just cooked to the point that the bones could be pulled out. The host used a knife so cut the meat up but the meat was so fall apart that a fork was all that was needed...JJ
 
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pineywoods

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Some people like fall off the bone ribs others don't that doesn't make either wrong. People need to figure out just because they do something a certain way doesn't mean that's the only way or even the right way for everybody. It boils down to personal tastes
 

mummel

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My wife likes it chewy.  I love it FOTB.  We both cant be happy so Im trying to find a middle ground!
 

msuiceman

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another bad thing of fall-off-the-bone is that its hard to get good cuts if you are in a cook-off for presentation purposes.
 

dano126

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Dano from Ohio here, I'm fairly new to smoking. Done some on and off over the years. Got a Pit Boss smoker last father's day...now things got serious. Did some 3 2 1 spare ribs last night. Turned out ok, but not fall off the bone, more like pull off the bone. Flavor was good, but a little chewy. Set the Pit Boss for smoke, and did that for 3 hours. Then did the wrap in foil, with some apple juice for 2...kicked heat up to the 250° mark, then of course, the last step, stripped of foil and on the grates, with some bbq sauce.
Ribs had good smoke penetraton. Just didn't have the fall off the bone.
 

new smoker 55

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Hey Dano, I had the same problem when I did 3 2 1. The next time I did ribs I did 3 3 1 at around 235 F and the meat was fall off the bone. Just need to increase your wrap time. I like to add honey, apple juice and butter when I wrap my ribs all three of those will help keep the meat tender and moist. Hope this helps.
 

Slab Daddy

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I smoke about a 4lb rack at about 225 degrees and the internal temp hits 165 within 2 hours instead of 4 hrs. They aren't that tender. Should I leave it in there for the full 4 hrs
Peel the membrane. Apply rub. Let ribs warm about 30-45 minutes while you preheat your smoker to 225F. Smoke for three hours. Wrap in foil (add apple or juice of choice), avoiding punching holes, and put back in for two hours. Remove from foil, and put back in for one hour. Take out, let rest for 10-15 minutes and enjoy the perfect baby backs. This works every time, provided you keep your temperature regulated. I've smoked in my Masterbuilt for over three years now, and went through the same experience you are having with tough ribs. I was only doing four hours. When I went to the 3-2-1 method, I never looked back. Best rub and sauce I've found? Ben's Sweet & Hot Rub and Ben's Sweet & Hot Sauce.
 

Slab Daddy

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Here's my golden rule:
  • If you are serving ribs for kids and little old ladies, they can fall off the bone. That way the little old ladies can gum the meat to death, the kids can not waste any meat, and they can get a kick out of giving the bones to the dogs.
  • If you are serving ribs for grown people that you want to impress - they better not fall off the bone.
Just my own little rule of thumb


"Falling off the bone" is a piece of meat that is overcooked. We are just so used to hearing that term because people throughout the years (at no fault to them, they just didn't know any better) have done it that way. If you want to make sure your ribs are cooked through all the way, use the 'bend test'.

Pick up a slab with tongs. If the meat begins to crack and split, they're done. Make sure that you foil them when you pull them off the smoker and LET THEM SIT for at least 30 minutes. This will test your ability to avoid temptation and you will gain patience as well
BINGO! People who cook past the point you are talking about make what I call "Old Dog Tray" ribs. My buddy makes some delicious tasting ribs, but I think you could spread them on bread like deviled ham! When you try to cut them, they just fray into little pieces like pulled pork. I like to be able to easily bite, not gnaw, the meat from the rib.
 

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