Spring is here and smoke is in the air!
With the start of the spring season, the first dish “The Beast” demands to be smoked is baby back ribs. As the servant to “The Beast” I must oblige him. So Baby Back Ribs it is. This is a favorite of those that I hold close to my heart. Smokers have become extremely popular over recent years throughout homes across America. It stands tried and true that cooking low and slow is the best way to cook ribs.
My smoker is over twelve years old and is not high tech like many you see on the market today. Baby back ribs are very forgiving and fairly easy to smoke compared to other types of meats. I use them to judge how my smoker is performing at the onset of smoking season. If all goes well and my smoker is performing properly, I will move on to smoking other delicious meats when it is time to “Feed The Beast”.
First thing you need to do is prep your ribs. You may not be aware that ribs have a membrane on the underneath area of the rack. You should remove this membrane before doing anything else. Removing the membrane will make the ribs more tender as well as let the rub penetrate deeper into the ribs.
An easy way to perform this task is to turn the rack of ribs upside down on a cutting board. Then take the handle of an everyday soup spoon and slide it under the membrane on one of the corners of the rack (The reason you don’t want to attempt this using a knife is to avoid injury). Gently push the handle of the spoon underneath to lift the membrane. Then use one hand to hold down one end of the rack and with your free hand take a paper towel and grasp the membrane. In one fluent motion pull the membrane toward the opposite end, removing it. If is should tear and break off before you get to the other side, repeat the process from another corner. Once this step is complete, you want to rinse and pat dry the racks of ribs.
I would next recommend coating the ribs with a dry rub. You can use a store bought dry rub or make your own. I have different dry rubs for a variety of meats that I smoke. I like to use different spices depending on the meat that I am smoking that will enhance the flavor. My rib dry rub recipe is below. I make a jar of each rub in advance to get me through the season. You want to coat all sides of the racks with the dry rub. Then place them covered in the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours. Take them out and let them get to room temperature.
In the meantime, get your smoker ready to go. My smoker is a vertical smoker with three racks, a wood chip pan and a water bowl. Larger smokers may use wood blocks but very popular right now is pellet smokers that use small wood pellets. I would need to write a dedicated blog to describe all the different smokers that are available for home use. Let’s save that for another day and get back to the ribs.
I use a mix of two different wood chips for my baby back ribs. It consists of one third mesquite wood and two thirds cherry wood. This gives you a hint of mesquite when you bite into the ribs without it being over bearing. Next light your smoker and let it get to 250 degrees. When smoke begins to release from the vent stack, place the ribs on the racks in your smoker.
There is not right or wrong way on how to finish your ribs. We all have different tastes. Personally I do not like my ribs soaked with a sauce. I enjoy tasting the smoke and natural flavor of the meat with the added spices and very lightly sauced. My cook time in total is four hours for baby back ribs. Since I have a vertical smoker I rotate the racks of ribs each hour to ensure they all receive the same level of smoke.
After about three and a half hours of smoking the ribs I will gently baste them with a barbeque sauce and let it bake in for an additional half hour. You can use your favorite jar barbeque sauce if you like. I make a homemade sauce which I will share with you in a future blog. Once the sauce is baked into the ribs, remove them and slice them along the bone. Slice them gingerly otherwise the meat will fall right off the bone before you have a chance to indulge.
Then there is only one more step to be performed. Crack open a cold beer and it’s chow time!
Rib Dry Rub Recipe
- 1/2 Cup Kosher salt
- 3 Tsp. Cumin
- 1 Tbsp. Black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. Onion powder
- 1 Tbsp. Dried mustard
- 1 Tbsp. Chili powder
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. Garlic powder
- 2 Tbsp. Smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp. Brown sugar
- Mix together