‘Low and slow’ is the key to Smoked Baby Back Ribs. Chunks of wood that have been soaked overnight and charcoal are the best for deep, rich smoky flavor. Most of the time I use hickory or mesquite, and since I have 3 pecan trees in my garden, I mix in some of that as well.
A good dry rub is a must, it’s not hard to make your own, they’re usually a pretty simple combination of ingredients. I usually just use Penzey’s BBQ 3000, it has great flavor and what I make from scratch is basically the same thing. So instead of buying 5 different jars of spice to make my own dry rub, I buy one jar ready-made and save myself the labor.
When smoking, it’s important not to peek. Keep that lid closed in order to maintain a constant temperature. Under the lower grate, I lined the bottom of my smoker with fireplace bricks, they get hot and keep a nice constant temperature inside the smoker. So even when I do have to open the lid, to rearrange the meat or dab some mop sauce on it, the smoker takes right around 20 seconds to return to the proper temperature of 225F, it’s a pretty good trick.
Light your charcoal an hour before you start smoking so your smoker is at the temperature as soon as the meat goes in. Cover the lower grate and bricks with foil, then place a drip pan full of boiling water in it. The water will help keep the temperature stable and provide a nice moist environment for the ribs to smoke in.
My BBQ sauce is pretty amazing if I do say so myself. Thick, and a deep dark brown, with a nice vinegar and mustard flavor and a kick of heat from chili powder and Cholula hot sauce, my mouths watering just thinking of it. I don’t puree it, I prefer to leave the bits of onions and the coarse ground mustard visible, it just looks prettier I think.
To prep the baby back ribs, clear your countertops and sink, this is a big piece of raw pork with a lot of juice on it, so you want to control what it comes in contact with and not cross contaminate anything you don’t want raw pork touching.
Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. On the bone side of the ribs, is a thin silvery skin-like membrane. Slide a paring knife under the membrane at one end, try not to tear it. Grab the membrane and gently pull it off, most of the time it comes off in one piece, sometimes it’s a little more stubborn, but it doesn’t take long and is easy with a little practice.
Place the ribs in a single layer on a foil-lined sheet tray, sprinkle the ribs with a good coating of dry rub on both sides. Massage the rub into the ribs, making sure every surface of the meat is well seasoned. Now the ribs are ready to go on the smoker.
Now, decontaminate your kitchen. 😉
Place the ribs on the smoker bone side down, do not add any sauce to the ribs at this time. Close the main lid and add the chunks of soaked wood to the fire pit. Maintain a temperature of 225F for 4-5 hours, you don’t want the meat to fall off the bone, but you don’t want it rubbery either. If you pick up the rack of ribs and it feels a little rubbery, it’s not done. If you lift one of the bones up it should stay up, if it springs back into place, it’s not done.
You get the idea, tender good, rubbery bad!
Only add the sauce during the last 30 minutes or so, some folks don’t add any sauce, rather serve it on the side as a dipping sauce. If you do this, I’d just put the sauce on the stove and bring to a simmer so it’s nice and warm.
Here’s how I make my BBQ Sauce:
- 1 Teaspoon Garlic, Crushed and Chopped
- 1 Red Onion, Finely Diced
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 Cup Ketchup
- ¼ Cup Worchester Sauce
- ¼ Cup Molasses
- ¼ Cup Malt Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Course Stone Ground Mustard
- 1 Tablespoon Hot sauce, I use Cholula
- 1 Lime, Juice
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
-Place a large, covered, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat
-Add olive oil and onion, sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened
-Add Garlic and chili powder, sauté for 1 minute
-Add all remaining ingredients, stir constantly for 10-15 minutes until nicely thickened
-Remove from heat and store in a mason jar in the refrigerator
There are no preservatives in this sauce, so I wouldn’t keep it for more than a week. This sauce is great on pretty much any grilled BBQ, chicken, brisket, ribs either directly or as a dipping sauce.
Enjoy and happy smoking!!!