Let’s face it: there’s nothing like a perfectly smoked rib. Tender, juicy, meat that falls off the bone with a rich and smoky finish is enough to make anyone’s taste buds sing. If you’re wondering how to smoke ribs and get a delicious flavor, you’re in luck.
Below we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to smoke ribs and become the envy of the neighborhood cookouts. Believe it or not, there is more than one way to make this finger-licking dish, and we’ll cover all of that and more. Keep reading to learn more!
The Basics of Smoking Ribs
If you were hoping to use a standard grill to smoke your ribs, you might want to think again. There are two ways to grill meat. One way to grill meat is the traditional sense on a grill, with direct heat, for thin cuts of meat. The second way to grill meat is to smoke it using indirect heat.
The first thing to understand about how to smoke ribs is that it is a long and slow process. The idea is to cook the meat at a low temperature over a long period of time. We recommend smoking them for 1.5 hours per pound for the best flavor payoff. Don’t forget that you will need a thermometer to ensure the finishing temperature of your meat for precision and safety.
Ingredients, Seasoning, & Supplies
Now that you know the basics you’re ready to dive into how to smoke ribs. To get started you’re going to want to have the proper ingredients, seasoning, and supplies. We recommend the following items for both beginners and experts alike:
If you want to know how to smoke ribs, you’ll need the right supplies. We recommend using an actual meat smoker instead of a traditional grill. Meat smokers come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. You can choose from pellet smokers, propane verticals, electric vertical smokers, water smokers, and more. Additional supplies to expect are as follows:
Ingredients and Seasonings
Before you learn precisely how to smoke ribs, you’ll want to season them first correctly. Adding seasoning, or a rub, not only adds unique flavors, it gives you a chance to experiment and make your very own creation. Some families pass down their rubs through generations; don’t be afraid to get creative with the ingredients.
We recommend using salt, sugar, pepper, garlic, and onion as a base. Those spices make an excellent base for any rub because you can add any number of additives to make it your own. It’s a common misconception that you need to add all of your spices onto the ribs hours ahead of time to allow them to soak into the skin. The only thing you’ll want to add eight to twelve hours ahead of time is salt to increase the overall tenderness of the meat.
How to Smoke Ribs: A Step by Step Guide
Learning how to smoke ribs is easy. All it takes to smoke ribs is true patience and preparation. Take your ribs out of the fridge and allow them to reach room temperature before beginning this guide. Ensuring your ribs are the same temperature all over will allow for even cooking throughout. Follow the step-by-step guide below for the best results.
Step One: Prepare the Ribs
The first step to learn how to smoke ribs is to prepare them. You’ll want to skin your ribs by pulling up the membrane, near the bottom, and peeling it all the way back and away. Once the skin has been removed, you can apply your rub, generously, to both sides. Make sure you do not apply any of your glaze or sauce at this point.
If you have prepared a dry rub and you are having trouble getting it to stick to your meat you’ll want to use an additional ingredient. Ensuring you have enough rub on your meat will help lock in the flavor that may otherwise be lost. We recommend using a very small amount of olive oil, mustard, vinegar, honey, or even Worcestershire sauce to help your rub stick to your ribs.
Tip: Removing the Membrane
Many people debate whether or not you need to remove the skin or membrane on ribs. Those for membrane removal argue that it helps the moisture, bastes, and rubs soak into the meat for a more tender finish. Those against removal say it doesn’t matter either way.
Step Two: Prepare Your Smoker
The second step to smoking your ribs is to prepare your smoking device. Regardless of what you are using to smoke your meat, it will need to be prepared and at the proper temperature before you begin. Start by allowing your smoker to heat up slowly, for around 30 minutes, before you add a drip pan and your meat. Do not forget to add water to your drip pan and place it directly under the ribs.
Step Three: Smoke Your Ribs
Now comes the best part of learning how to smoke ribs, actually smoking them. To smoke your ribs, ensure your smoker is set around 225°F to 250°F. Place your drip pan and meat in the smoker and set it for four to five hours. If you want to baste or mop your ribs, you can do so every hour. However, it is important to note that you should minimize the amount of the times you open your smoker.
The temperature that occurs when you open up your grill or smoking device fluctuates wildly. It’s best to limit the number of times you open or change the temperature to ensure for the most even and thorough cook time. After all, smoking meat is all about low and even temperatures.
Tip: Mops and Bastes
Are you afraid of your ribs becoming too dry during the long cooking process? A mop or a baste is a great way to retain moisture and add flavor to your meat. We suggest using a mixture of your dry rub and an agent such as apple cider vinegar or beer. You can use a small brush to apply to sauce or you can even use a spray bottle for more of an even coverage.
Step Four: Glaze Your Ribs
One of the best parts about ribs is the glaze or sauce that comes almost caramelized on the top. If you want to add a glaze to your ribs we suggest putting it on around the last half hour of your cook time. Putting it on this late not only prevents it from burning onto the sides, but it also helps keeps things moist and flavorful.
Not sure what to use as a glaze? We always recommend making your own and using a balance of both sugar and a tomato base. However, if you are not willing to make your own, there are plenty of options in stores and online to choose from.
Step Five: Rest and Cut
The final step to learning how to smoke ribs is to test it for doneness, let it rest, cut it, and enjoy! You can adequately test your ribs for doneness in three different ways. Firstly, you can simply eyeball the ribs. If ¼ an inch of bone is exposed, your ribs should be done. The second method is to pick up the ribs and flex them if the meat separates and does not bend back to the original shape, it is done. Lastly, is the easiest, and tastiest, just cut yourself a piece and taste it.
Hopefully, you’ve made it to the end of your cook time without peeking too many times. Take your ribs out of the smoker and let them cool for at least 15 minutes before handling or cutting. When it’s time to cut, use a sharp knife in between the ribs for the most natural separation. Don’t get nervous if you see a small amount of pink in your meat. This does not indicate that your ribs did not cook long enough; instead, this means that you’ve perfectly smoked your ribs!
Do you love to grill? Are you an aficionado when it comes to burgers, brats, and hot dogs? If you are, then you are ready to take it up a notch and try smoking your own ribs. Sure you could purchase ribs already seasoned, smoked, and cooked but making it your own is not only cheaper, but it’s also a great way to tweak each ingredient to your liking.
By following the steps above, you can ensure you have a delicious and successful, rib, smoking experience every time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different sauces and rubs. You can even apply different ingredients to different portions of your meat to test more than one flavor at a time. No matter how you end up making your smoked ribs, always make sure to be safe and have fun!
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