Smoke The Perfect Rack of Ribs: For tenders of the backyard barbecue, there are few things finer than pulling a perfect rack of spareribs off the smoker. As you lift the rib rack from the grates, the sauce-covered meat is so tender it splits, causing wisps of steam carrying an aroma of wood smoke to uncurl from the interior. It’s meat so beautiful it leaves you breathless.
But there are also few things more elusive, more frustrating, or more temperamental than barbecuing spareribs. I’ve spent numerous hours at various occasions slow-smoking ribs that turned out too tough, too mediocre, or too charred.
It’s like having to suffer through a 9th inning come-from-behind victory from your rival baseball team or your first watching of The Godfather: Part III—the journey was fun, but the destination was a disappointment.
Be not disheartened, newbie smoker. After testing numerous ribs recipes throughout the years, I have finally discovered how to smoke the perfect rack of ribs. These ribs take longer to cook than sausage or chicken.
You also have to make your own rib rub, and your own sauce. But then you bring them all together—with the help of some aluminum foil—to a rack of ribs worth waiting for. And, if you invite over some good buddies and pick up some great beer, the journey is a blast, too. BBQ Grilled Rib-Eye Steak
How to Smoke the Perfect Rack of Ribs
More BBQ notes to help you through this recipe…
- Be the smoke whisperer – For the sake of your food (and the local fire department) you don’t want your smoker to billow plumes of smoke during the entire cooking process. You want a touch of smoked flavor, not an uppercut. To temper the smoke, soak your wood chunks in water about an hour before you drop them on the coals. They’ll burn slower that way. This recipe calls for five chunks. Add them one at a time to maintain an even level of smoke throughout the entire cooking process.
- Learn to wrap – The environment inside your smoker is one of dry heat, much like your oven. If you want fall-off-the-bone tenderness—tenderness you’d acquire from a Crock-Pot SCCPVL610-S Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker — you have to create a moist heat environment. To do this, break out the aluminum foil and wrap your meats during the last portion of the smoking process. Inside the foil pouch, the meat sweats and the foil traps in the moisture, turning the meat tender.
- Take a rest – When the meat comes off the smoker, resist your urge to chow down. Don’t touch it for at least five minutes if it’s a smaller cut and at least 10 if it’s a larger, thicker cut. Your meat will taste far juicer than if you would have taken a knife to it immediately after you pulled it from the smoker grates. Want a detailed, super-geeky explanation of the resting process?
Championship spareribs…What you’ll need:
4 racks spareribs, each 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds
3/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
5 fist-sized hickory wood chunks
Rib rub (recipe below)
Rib sauce (recipe below)
How to make it:
1. Prepare your smoker to 225° to 250°F. Place the spareribs, meaty side up, on a cutting board. Follow the line of fat that separates the meaty ribs from the much tougher tips at the base of each rack, and cut off the tips. Turn each rack over.
Cut off the flap of meat attached in the center of each rack. Also cut off the flap of meat that hangs below the shorter end of each rack of ribs (Note: Depending on the ribs you buy, all this may already be done).
Lift and loosen the membrane until it breaks, then grab a corner of it with a paper towel and pull it off. Season the spareribs all over with the rub, putting more of the rub on the meaty sides than on the bone sides.
2. In a small spray bottle, combine 3/4 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup cider vinegar.
3. Add two of the wood chunks to the charcoal. Smoke the spareribs, bone side down, with the lid close, until the meat has shrunk back from the bones at least 1/2 inch, 4 to 5 hours. After each hour, add more lit briquettes as necessary to maintain the heat, add one more wood chunk to the charcoal (until they are gone), and spray the ribs on both sides with the apple juice mixture.
4. When the spareribs are done, remove them from the smoker. Brush the racks on both sides with the sauce and wrap each rack in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Return the foil-wrapped racks to the smoker. Continue to cook, with the lid closed, until the meat is tender enough to tear with your fingers, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Remove the spareribs from the smoker and lightly brush the racks on both sides with sauce again. Cut the racks into individual ribs. Serve warm with the remaining sauce on the side.
Championship rib rub…What you’ll need:
3 Tbsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground black pepper
How to make it:
In a medium bowl mix together all the ingredients.
Championship rib sauce…What you’ll need:
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
How to make it:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the flavors are well combined, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve.