Smoked Baby Back Ribs

(May 8, 2020) Who would ever have thought that the whole world would come to a complete halt?

Experts know how this pandemic started and we must learn from this experience to prevent future catastrophes.

But there are those who feel a “higher power” has had a hand in this matter.

For example, Venice’s waters are clean and fish are flourishing for the first time in decades. It does make one wonder if there is any validity to this train of thought.

What is important through this difficult period is to understand the intrinsic effect that time has on our phycological and physical being.

As the country waits to get back on tract, try to find the positive aspects of this situation.

Enjoy the time with your family, take the opportunity to shed a few pounds, or for those who enjoy the art of cookery, experiment with new recipes.

As one who has competed in national grilling competitions, I am taking the time to expand my repertoire and delve into the art of smokery.

I am clueless when it comes to this style of cooking and have had to start my quest from the very beginning.

If the subject of smoking meats and the thought of juicy, mouth-watering ribs tickles your taste buds, read on.

A week’s worth of learning has been condensed for your convenience.

Smoking is the extreme version of barbecuing; you are actually cooking food with smoke from hot coals, smoldering chips of flavored wood, or seasoned pellets.

Smoking requires the longest time to cook and the most expertise.

Practice is the only way one will gain confidence, but there are a few tips that can facilitate one to a state of proficiency.

If you are planning to cook spare ribs, the 3-2-1 Method is the easiest approach for beginners.

It takes its name from the way you cook the ribs.

You begin smoking your ribs bone-side down for a total of three hours. Then, apply a wet marinade, wrap in foil, and cook for another two hours bone-side up.

Then, remove the foil and cook the ribs bone-side down for one more hour.

However, baby back ribs are smaller and one should follow the 2-2-1 Method.

Always check the internal temperature before removing the ribs from the smoker. For succulent, tender ribs, you want the internal temperature to be around 195 to 200 degrees.

But if one is competing in a barbecuing contest, you will need to take a slightly different approach.

Judges prefer the meat to have texture but do not want it literally falling off of the bone.

In fact, the perfect bite consists of a bite mark without any extra meat tearing away from the rib. So, needless to say, serious barbecue competitors calculate to the very last detail for that “winning bite.”

There is a membrane that covers the underside of the ribs. Some rib enthusiasts do not remove it because they feel it helps retain moisture during the cooking process. Others prefer to remove it because it improves the evenness of the cooking and is not pleasing to the eye.

If you choose to remove it, simply take a sharp knife and make an incision along the top of the membrane. Pull down on the membrane and cut at the same time, making sure you do not remove any fat or meat.

The next step is to season the ribs with a dry rub.

Make sure you cover the entire surface with the rub. Salt, sugar, paprika, garlic powder, ground cumin, dry mustard and chili powder are standard rub ingredients.

I added cayenne pepper and a coffee rub to enhance the flavor profile.

It is recommended to marinate the ribs for at least four hours. I am a huge fan of marinating and brining and prefer to marinate them for eight to 12 hours.

About an hour before you are ready to smoke your ribs, take them out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.

Additionally, if you are going to be using wood chips, now is the time to start thinking about soaking them in a hot liquid so they will not burn as quickly.

The flavor of smoked meat comes from the flavored wood chips or pellets. There are many varieties to choose from. Maple, hickory, mesquite, apple and cherry are a sampling of the tasty varieties.

The wet rub that is applied during the second phase of smoking can consist of barbecue sauce you have purchased from your local supermarket.

You can “doctor up” the sauce to incorporate your personal preference or make your own. Just remember, the sauce is meant to enhance the ribs and not overpower them.

Ribs are full of collagen, and collagen dissolution is imperative.

Time and temperature are key to breaking down the connective tissue. Cooking temperatures can range from 190 to 275 degrees.

I found a temperature of 200 to 225 degrees produces the coveted tenderness that baby back ribs are notorious for.

May is National Barbecue Month. A seasoned chef always looks forward to expanding their menu. If you relish the thought of grilling, you must give smoking a try. Enjoy!

* Note – My deck looks like an advertisement for Weber grills, but I decided to go with a Traeger smoker and I am very happy I made that decision. Take your time when purchasing a smoker and consider its features and also your needs.

* The following recipe is for 2 (2 ½- to 3-pound) slabs of baby back ribs

Smoked Baby Back Ribs

Preparing the Ribs for Smoking

¼ cup kosher salt

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons smoked hot paprika

1 tablespoon black pepper

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon cayenne powder

1 tablespoon allspice

1 tablespoon coffee rub

1. Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl to form a rub. Using a whisk, mix thoroughly.

2. Remove the membrane attached to the back of the slab of ribs (optional).

3. Rinse off ribs in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

4. Lay out a sheet of tin foil and place one slab of ribs onto the foil. Generously apply rub to both sides. Wrap ribs in foil and finish with a layer of plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Cooking the Ribs

1. Place the seasoned ribs on the grates of the smoker, bone-side down.

2. Close the lid and smoke them for two hours. During this time, be sure to watch your charcoal, wood chips, or pellets. Make sure your smoker reaches the targeted temperature of 200 to 225 degrees.

3. Remove the ribs, season with a wet rub, and wrap the ribs in foil. Place pork back on the grill for another two hours, bone-side up.

4. Remove tin foil and smoke ribs for one more hour, bone-side down.

5. Remove ribs from the smoker and place on a chopping board. Allow ribs to rest for 10 minutes. Add a touch more of the wet sauce to the exterior of the ribs. The sweet, spicy sauce is a nice contrast to the smokiness of the meat. Cut racks into individual portions and serve immediately.

– Secret Ingredient – Education. “Live as you were to die tomorrow. Learn as you were to live forever.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

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