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Old 09-28-2007, 12:02 PM   #1
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Ribs, where do I start?

Hello,

I love barbecuing and grilling, but I am a novice when it comes to most things. I'm at the point where I can grill better than most people I know, but I'm just not where I want to be at.

My question, is about something that has been bothering me for a very long time. I've attempted to make ribs once, and it was a complete disaster. So, I'm putting that experience behind me and I'm looking to move on.

I basically need to know everything about barbecuing, smoking, grilling, and whatever else you can do with ribs. I love ribs, and nothing would make me happier than to make them perfectly.

I know this is asking a lot, but I will be eternally in your debt. Thanks!

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Old 09-28-2007, 12:09 PM   #2
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First, you need to decide on what type of rib youíre looking to do as this can change the methodology. Do you want to do beef back ribs, short ribs, or pork spare ribs, back ribs, riblets, country style ribs?

Iíd imagine youíre thinking Pork Spare ribs or Pork Back ribs (Baby Back Ribs)?

What kind of equipment do you have to work with? Charcoal grill, smoker, gas grill? What size is the grill?

There are many, many, MANY ways to make successful ribs, so with a little more info (what rib meat, what equipment, etc), weíll get started!
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Old 09-28-2007, 12:13 PM   #3
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There's alot of How To's in this forum. Do you have any specific questions?
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Old 09-28-2007, 12:22 PM   #4
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Thanks for the response guys.

I'm very new at this and don't have any questions just yet, because I haven't done enough to know what to ask. That being said, I will answer a few of the questions you asked.

Types of ribs: beef back ribs, short ribs, or pork spare ribs, back ribs, riblets, country style ribs.

I was not aware there were so many, but I assume the ones I'm looking for are Baby Back and Pork Spare ribs.

What kind of equipment do you have to work with? Charcoal grill, smoker, gas grill? What size is the grill?

Well, I've been saving up some money for just such an occasion, and I figured this is a good place to get some ideas. As far as the equipment goes, I'm looking to start from scratch and get what I need.

I'm not looking to break the bank, but something that will last and do the job. I don't mind paying for something I will use a lot, and that is high quality.

Thanks again.
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Old 09-28-2007, 12:51 PM   #5
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Since youíre looking to buy new equipment, and youíre just starting out, Iíd suggest going with a good water smoker. Itís a tall vertical unit. Youíll want one that is completely enclosed, has at least two meat racks, and a separate fire pit, body, and lid, and vent control in the base of the fire pit.

The Weber water smoker is one of the best. Notice it is a three piece unit which is what you want. The bottom is where the charcoal goes, and there are vents to control air flow. The middle is where the water pan and meat racks go. The top is a domed lid that will allow tall cuts of meat on the top rack (like a chicken or turkey) when the lid is on. These three pieces are all separate and can be taken apart. That is, the middle body piece and the top lid come off of the fire pit. Also, the fire pit, and the entire unit, is completely enclosed once assembled.

There are other units that mimic this three piece design for less money. The key to this type of unit is:

Three piece design
Completely sealed/enclosed unit
Air flow control in the fire pit
Front door access to add wood and coals

There are many units that have these four key features, so shop around at a local store, and find one that meets theses four minimum requirements.

For a top of the line smoker, the Big Green Egg is the way to go, but it can set you back $1,000.00 or more easily for the large unit with accessories.

You can also get an offset smoker which is a large barrel type smoker with an offset fire box. These are great and have a huge capacity (lots of meat!) but they are harder to regulate temperature control, and can often frustrate a beginning smoker.

Iíd stay away from the Brinkman smokers unless you got an electric model. The Brinkmans donít have air flow vents in the base, and the fire pit is poorly designed. However, they are inexpensive, and you CAN modify the unit to work more efficiently.

Finally, you donít even have to have a smoker to smoke ribs. You can do good ribs on a large 22Ē Weber kettle if you so desire. Since the kettle is also a grill you get two tools in one.
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Old 09-28-2007, 12:52 PM   #6
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First would be choosing the equipment, then we can help you prepare some ribs on what you're using. Do you have a propane grill or any sort of grill already?
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:10 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deeblock View Post
I've attempted to make ribs once, and it was a complete disaster.
What was wrong with they way they came out ?
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:16 PM   #8
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Once you have your equipment picked out, you need to pick your meat. Iíd suggest starting with spare ribs since they are less expensive than babybacks, and tend to be a bit more forgiving as you cook them.

Letís look at the ways to cook them.

Oven
Yep, you can do them indoors. Just put them in a covered roaster on a meat rack with a little apple juice in the bottom of the roaster. Cover it, and put it in the oven set for 225 and leave them in there for 3 to 4 hours. This gives you perfect, fall of the bone tender ribs. But, no smokey flavor. Once they are done, you CAN throw these on the grill to apply and set a BBQ sauce and add a little smokey flavor.

Weber Kettle Grill
Use about 1/2 to 3/4 of a chimney full of charcoal. Bank all of the charcoal to one side of the kettle (push all the coals to one side in a pile). Put on the rack and place your ribs on the opposite side as far away from the coals as possible. You can also put a tray of water in the middle of the grate to add some moisture and deflect some of the heat. Youíll cook the ribs anywhere from 2 to 3.5 hours. You should baste them with a wet mop (one part oil to one part cider vinegar is great) every 30 minutes. You should also turn the meat 180 degrees every 30 minutes. This is so that one side of the ribs doesnít spend all of its time closer to the pile of coals than the other side.

You can also flip them occasionally, but this isnít required....but turning them is. When the meat has pulled back on the bone by about 1/2 inch and the meat between the ribs is fork tender, take them off and wrap them in foil. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes then serve.

Water Smoker
If it is a water smoker, start a batch of coals in the fire pit, place the body on the fire pit, then fill the water pan with water. Add your ribs to the meat racks and then cover. You want to watch the temperature and keep it at 225 to 235. When you first start this, the water will be cold and will absorb most of the heat, so it will keep the temp at 220 or less the first 30 minutes. After that, the water will have heated up, and the temperature in the smoker will begin to rise. At this point, close the bottom air vents to decrease airflow and cool the coals. Leave the vents closed for 15 to 30 minutes and watch the temp. When it is at 225 and steady, crack the vents a bit. If the temp falls, open the vents a bit.

Youíll also need to add more charcoal every 45 to 60 minutes. To do so, light the charcoal in a chimney off to the side, then transfer the lit coals to the fire pit via the front door on the smoker. You CAN add unlit coals (and I often do because Iím lazy), but you run the risk of tainting your meat with charcoal smoke instead of wood smoke!

Speaking of smoke, you should have some wood chunks (or chips, but chunks are better) soaking in a bucket of water. Add a few chunks every 40 minutes or so. Depending on the type of wood you use, and how strong you want the smoke, you can add wood more often.

As you are cooking, resist the urge to peek. Try not to take the top off for the first 1.5 to 2 hours. After that, you can start basting with a wet mop. I like to baste every 30 Ė 35 minutes. Keep the temp at 225 to 235, and cook the meat for about 3.5 hours. Again, when the meat pulls back on the bone and is fork tender, they are ready. Let them rest in foil for 10 minutes before serving. If you want sauce on your ribs, add it after abut 3 hours of smoking so that it will be on the ribs for about 35 minutes or so to set.

Offset Smoker
If you use an offset smoker, the same methodology is used except you donít have a water pan. Also, placement of your meat is important. The firebox is off to the side, so where you place the meat on the rack is important with relation to how close it is to the opening where the heat from the fire pit is coming. Youíll want a good oven thermometer to place in this kind of smoker so that you can monitor various locations for temp. As with the water smoker, keep the temp at 225 Ė 235, and run the ribs for about 3.5 hours. Baste them every 30 minutes after the first 1.5 hours of cook time.

Notes
You can also ďcheatĒ cook your ribs by simply par boiling them first for about 45 minutes to an hour, and then grill them with direct or indirect heat and add a sauce. I donít suggest this method, and it doesnít sound like what youíre looking for anyway.

To make basting much easier, get a large spray bottle from a home improvement store and mix one part apple cider vinegar to one part oil. Shake well, and then just spray the meat! Super simple and very easy!

For charcoal, always use Kingsford or another quality brand. Youíre going to be cooking a cut of meat for 3.5 to 4 hours, so now is not the time to save a few pennies on charcoal. Get the good stuff and you will be pleased. Lump coal is also an option, but I donít suggest playing with that until you have mastered using regular coal. As for wood, experiment a bit. Hickory is the classic wood for smoke. Mesquite is good, but you donít want to use a lot of it on ribs (kind of strong). Oak is a great choice as well. Since Hickory and Mesquite are so readily available in most stores, Iíd suggest getting a bag of hickory CHUNKS and start with that.
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:21 PM   #9
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Some time ago, Rainee, a member very familiar with BBQ and smoking, posted the information below on how to smoke in a Weber kettle. It's a great tutorial.

With a Weber kettle, you can do any type of grilling as well as smoking with success and a minimal investment. A 22" Weber gold will cost you less than $200. The 18" model is even less.



BBQ Ribs on a Weber





Adapted from an article in the Portland, ME Times Record. The Moose and Lobster Preservation Society, winners of "Best Ribs in New England" at the KCBS sanctioned Pig and Pepper 1996 competition in Carlisle, MA, describe their technique for slow-cooking ribs on a Weber kettle style grill.

Buy one or more whole racks of ribs (end-on or "St. Louis Style" -- ask your butcher) and coat lightly with olive or vebetable oil using your hand or a brush. Sprinkle lots of "rub" on both sides and ends, patting and slapping it firmly into place. Surface of meat should be completely covered with a layer of rub. Wrap each rib in two layers of plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours.

Bank a small amount of coals on one side of the grill and let smoker warm up for 20-30 minutes. Stick a meat thermometer in the top or side of the grill (you may need to drill a hole), and work the fire to stabilize the temperature around 200-300 degrees. Hotter fires will significantly shorten cooking times and not allow slow-cooking of the meat.

Soak hickory, mesquite, cherry, apple or other wood chips in a bowl of water for 20 minutes or more, and sprinkle small amounts on the coals every 20-30 minutes or as often as desired.

Optional: Partially fill a small disposable aluminum pan with water and place at the bottom of the Weber or partially over the coals. Fill as necessary during the cooking process.

Place ribs away from the heat source, on the side opposite the banked coals. If you have two or more racks of ribs, use a 'rib rack' purchased at your local hardware store for $10 to help stand the rib racks on their side next to each other. Place rib racks thick side up/bone-end down, so the small ends stay moist.

That's it! Sit back for 4 to 6 hours, watch the smoke rise, and drink your favorite beverage. Don't forget to add soaked wood chips every so often, and keep the water pan half full. You may want to turn the meat in-place to give each rib end or side equal time nearest the heat source. If you're curious whether the ribs are done, try cutting one off and eating it (cook's privilege). The meat should be pink around the edges (called a 'smoke ring'), pull cleanly from the bone and taste nice and smoky.

Before serving or for the last 10 minutes of cooking, lightly brush each rack with your homemade barbecue sauce. Cut between each rib, brush again with sauce if desired, and serve. Make sure you save a few ribs for yourself -- they'll go quickly! You're now a real, slow cookin', wood smokin' barbecue chef.
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Old 09-28-2007, 01:38 PM   #10
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If you want to get creative, you can use a 22Ē Weber Kettle with a an 18Ē charcoal grate (it sits lower in the kettle) and 5 fire bricks to make a modified, but rock steady smoker.

This guy did it, and is able to maintain a solid 225 to 250 for an hour or so with only a very small batch of fuel. Not to mention very ample smoke!

Each picture has some text describing what is going on. Simply click on each picture to advance to the next pic in the series. Awesome stuff!
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