Recipes can be a great way to cook ribs for the first time. All you have to do is follow along each step and include each ingredient in the recipe and your ribs should turn out great, right? Well, not always. You see if you’re going to smoke ribs on the grill, it’s important to know certain fundamentals such as how to choose the right slab of ribs and how to prepare your ribs properly. If you’re a beginner, take the time to learn these 10 helpful rib smoking tips. You never know, you might just start veering away from recipes and creating your own.
Follow these 10 tips to understand the fundamentals for smoking ribs on the grill:
It’s quite common to see a slab of ribs (particularly with baby back ribs) where it is thick and full of meat on one end and slightly lean on the other. Choosing a slab where the meat and fat is as even as possible will allow for even cooking throughout. Nothing is worse than having moist and tender ribs on one end and dry, chewy ribs on the other. If the good slabs have been picked over at the store, then you’ll just have to cut the slab in half and throw the thicker side on earlier than the skinnier side.
It’s also important to choose a slab with a fair amount of fat in it as well. You don’t need a ton of fat but having about an 80/20 meat to fat ratio will help ensure the meat stays moist and tender throughout a long smoke. As the fat renders over that long time, the juices will help prevent your ribs from drying out.
This is an easy step for a beginner to miss since most people starting out aren’t even aware that the membrane exists. However, if it is left on, it can result in your ribs being quite chewy. It does take some practice to remove the membrane properly, but the more you cook, the easier it gets.
Check out the video below which shows you how to do remove it:
So, you’ve removed the membrane and applied the rub on your ribs as it said in the recipe. Time to throw them on the grill, right? Well, no. You should let them sit in your refrigerator for at least an hour.
Letting your ribs sit for a while after you have applied your rub will allow for the water-soluble ingredients to dissolve. As they dissolve, a glaze like liquid will form and start to penetrate the meat. The more time you allow it to sit, the more penetration. This results in the flavor from the rub to spread deep into the meat.
You don’t have to marinade ribs, but it doesn’t hurt either. In order to breakdown some of that muscle and fat be sure to have some type of cooking oil (we recommend extra virgin olive oil for flavor), acid (lemon juice), vinegar (apple cider), soy sauce (for salt) and herbs (rosemary). Don’t worry about pepper, and sugar because that will be part of the rub. Make sure the container you are marinating the ribs in is big enough for them to completely submerge in the liquid. Seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Before even turning on your grill or smoker, you will want to plan how you want your ribs to feel as you bite into them. Do you want ribs that are falling off the bone or do you want them to have a little bit of chew like biting into a steak? Deciding which texture you want will determine how you will cook them.
For instance, if you want fall off the bone ribs, you can choose from several different methods to achieve this goal, the most popular being the 3 2 1 method.
The 3 2 1 method is fairly simple. For 3 hours, smoke your ribs at 225°F. Then remove them from the grill and wrap them in either pink butcher paper or aluminum foil with a small amount of liquid. Next you place the wrapped ribs back on the grill for 2 hours at 225°F. During this time, your ribs will steam slightly, and that resulting steam will help break down the meat, fat, and cartilage. The final step is to remove the slab, unwrap it, and throw it back on the grill at 225°F until your ribs reach your desired tenderness (it shouldn’t take longer than 1 hour). If you wish to apply sauce, do so at the final 15 minutes so the sauce has a chance to caramelize.
There are of course variations of this method (2 2 1 for instance) but the wrap is the key. If you want more of a chew to your ribs, then we suggest smoking it at a low temperature (225°F to 250°F), unwrapped, the whole way through.
When smoking any meat, it’s a requirement to cook it away from the flames. Direct heat will cook the surface too fast resulting in a charred exterior crust, and chewy, dense meat. In order for certain meats (the kind that are best for smoking, like ribs) to tenderize properly, the meat, fat, and cartilage needs time to break down.
To put it simply, when you smoke you ribs bone side down (where the meat side is looking straight up at you) smoke will more evenly penetrate the meat and throughout all the ribs. When you smoke bone side up, the juices collect near the center of the bones and prevent smoke from penetrating deep into the meat.
Spraying your ribs (or mopping them) can help keep them moist during the long smoking process. If you’re smoking your ribs unwrapped the whole way through, spray every hour for the first 3 hours, every half hour for the last 3. If you’re wrapping, then spray every hour for the first 3 hours.
For the liquid itself, it depends on what kind of meat you’re smoking as well as personal preference. For instance, if you’re smoking pork ribs, try apple juice and apple cider vinegar. The sweetness of the apple juice will pair nicely with pork while the vinegar helps keep it from being too sweet. For beef ribs, try beef broth.
There is an argument for not spraying (spraying sometimes can prevent a fully formed bark), but we think beginners should use this technique to help ensure moistness. As you get better with solidifying your rub and marinade recipes, then you can try not spraying and see which works better for you.
Technically, your ribs are done when the internal temperature reaches 160°F for pork ribs and 145°F for beef ribs. However, collagen and fats melt anywhere from 190°F to 203°F, so it’s best to determine when they’re done by look and feel. First, take your temperature probe and stick it in the meat. Does it slide easily with little to no effort? If yes, then it’s probably good to go. Check the color. If you’ve applied sauce, has it caramelized to your liking? Finally, take your tongs and pick up the slab right in the middle. Are the ribs stiff or is there give to them? If there’s a bit of give or even a little cracking in the meat, it’s time to pull.
Paying attention and learning these basics can be a process in of itself. As a beginner, do you really want to go through the process of learning how to manager fire and smoke as well? With easy to use temperature control and Bigger. Hotter. Heavier. construction that will retain heat and smoke better than the competition, a Pit Boss Wood Pellet Grill is perfect for anyone looking to smoke ribs on the grill, whether a beginner or Pit Master.
Now that you know the basics, here are some simple rib recipes to try out:
This recipe might settle the dry rub vs wet rub debate once and for all. Well, maybe not, but these Dry Rub Smoked Ribs are so easy to make and packed with simple, sweet rib flavors, you might discover a new favorite way to season your baby back ribs. Our Pit Boss Sweet Heat Rub is a fan favorite because it doesn’t overpower the meaty and smoky flavors of the ribs. Instead it is just enough sweet and heat to be a perfect compliment.
You can’t get much easier than this. With the Pit Boss Sweet Rib Rub being the only ingredient, preparation is a breeze.
If you’re going to make smoked beef ribs, you might as well make them with big, sweet and savory spices. We’ve got the perfect recipe for bold flavors with generous amounts of beef. It may take some time, but this is one recipe you can set and forget for a few hours while you go catch a movie or do some chores around the house.