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.
Table of Contents
Newbie BBQ Smokers
Be not disheartened, newbie BBQ 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.
How to Smoke the Perfect Rack of Ribs
More BBQ notes to help you through this recipe so you can smoke the perfect rack of ribs.
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 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 Spareribs
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.
In a small spray bottle, combine 3/4 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup cider vinegar.
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.
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.
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 Rib Rub
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 rib sauce
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.
Barbecue Smokers Infuse Food With Rich Flavor
When it comes to outdoor cooking, nothing compares to barbecue smokers.
They are the best way to infuse your food with the rich, smoky flavor that many people feel is essential to barbecue.
They can be purchased through many different online and local sources, but the best ones are often homemade.
They come in a wide variety of sizes and can be fueled by several different means.
Barbecue smokers are essentially an enclosure that is designed to create smoke as a means of cooking food.
The food never comes into direct contact with flame or the heat source.
Instead, smoke and heat is drawn into the enclosure, providing the ultimate environment for slow cooking.
How to Smoke the Perfect Rack of Ribs
The heat and smoke can be provided through the use of a number of methods including electricity, wood, charcoal or gas.
Wood is generally the favorite smoke producing medium, and many professional and amateur grill masters have their favorite types of wood, as each type of wood has its own unique flavor characteristics.
Barbecue Smokers best way to infuse your food with the rich flavor
One of the most important things to remember when using barbecue smokers is the volume of air flow.
The amount of air that moves through the smoker impacts the heat and smoke density inside.
Ideally, the inside of the smoker should be around 225 degrees.
Maintaining this temperature by adjusting the air flow often takes some trial and error before one can do it with consistency.
This is part of the “art” of smoking food, and unfortunately it does take some practice in order to become proficient.
Nearly any meat, or vegetable for that matter, can be easily cooked using a smoker.
However, if you’ve never used one before, most people recommend starting out with something simple, like a good brisket.
Brisket, and beef in general, is an easy way to get positive results on your first smoking experience.
As a general rule, expect about 1.5 hours of cook time for every pound of brisket.
This means that a good 10 pound brisket will probably need around 15 hours in the smoker before it’s done.
Barbecue smokers can be found in several basic designs.
The water smoker is a popular item for the backyard as it typically takes up little space.
These work by placing a reservoir of water between the heat source and the food.
The water keeps the food from coming into direct contact with the heat source and the resulting steam keeps the food moist during the cooking process.
Pit smokers, commonly called dry smokers, are what most people think of when they hear the term “smoker”.
These use a firebox that is mounted to the side of the smoker.
As wood burns inside the firebox, the smoke and heat is drawn inside the food enclosure.
For many barbecue fans, the pit smoker is the only way to cook your favorite meats and vegetables.
Vertical smokers are often used by restaurants and barbecue pits.
These devices are shaped more like your average refrigerator and are designed for smoking mass quantities of meat.
They usually require some kind of power source, as they can sometimes be equipped with an electric rotisserie.
Nothing beats that slow cooked, smoky flavor that meat has when it’s cooked in a bbq smoker.
The smoking process uses soaked or green wood on a bed of coals to heat the meat indirectly.
Different types of wood will give the meat different flavors.
For the bbq smoker to work properly there must not be any holes for the smoke to escape.
Wrapping the meat in plain brown paper will help it retain moisture, but the smoke will still permeate the paper, giving it that delicious taste.
A good smoker will produce mouth-watering Rib Eye Steaks for many, many years.
For some using a bbq smoker is not just a way to cook meat, but is an art and a hobby.
Experimenting with different meats, woods, cook times, and sauces will yield interesting variations, making it easy for the grill master to come up with his own signature recipe.
Smokers are also a great way to feed the whole family easily because they are usually big enough to hold large cuts of meats like a whole side of pork.
Smoker BBQ Grill
For those avid backyard cooks, a smoker BBQ grill makes a great combo.
With these, you can have your BBQ grill anytime for weekends and family gatherings.
On top of this, you can also have a smoker, which opens up a whole new world of cooking.
The design on a smoker BBQ grill often has the large grilling area like any grill.
Then to the side of this, there is a smoker.
This will usually have multiple racks on which you can put food to be smoked.
There are many different styles of smoker BBQ grills, so you can find the one that is perfect for you.
Like any grill, they will cover a wide range of prices, from very inexpensive up to thousands of dollars.
If you take a look around at all the options you can get, you will soon have a very clear idea of what you want.