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Old 09-23-2006, 07:49 AM   #1
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Smoked Ribs (philosophical discussion)

Haven't posted here for a long time but some recent events have me seeking advice.

Short Question: Is it worth smoking ribs?

Long Philosophical Discussion: I'm certainly not an expert BBQ guy, but I'm getting better. My pork butt and smoked salmon are pretty darn good and I've converted many non-pork eaters.

I happened to be in Evansville Indiana for work a few months ago and had some butt at a joint called Sheilers and it was fantastic - better even than my home made product.

Then a famous daves opened up near my house so we went to try, especially looking forward to the ribs as we'd heard that they're great. They weren't . Dry and lifeless.

So I'm in Kansas City last thursday and ask the locals where the best BBQ place is and they steer me to some joint. I'm figuring I'm in one of the BBQ Meccas so they should have great ribs. Again, dry and lifeless.

So, I've only made ribs about twice following Alton Brown's recepie for braised ribs pretty much exactly. These ribs have come out absolutely stunning, so far the best ribs I've ever had bar none. This surprises me because I've only made them twice and figure there must be room for improvement. I've smoked dosens of butts but found a place in BBQ-land that had a better butt.

So it got me to thinking, perhaps it's just not right to smoke ribs, that the environment in the smoker is just too dry. I've not smoked ribs yet as I've heard they're the toughest thing to master in the pit and they can be pretty expensive.

For those who've both braised and BBQ'd ribs, have you found a secret to make the BBQ better than braised, or have you given up on BBQ or vice versa.


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Old 09-23-2006, 08:57 AM   #2
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Wrap the ribs in foil after rubbing them.Bake @250-300* for 2 hours. Put BBQ sauce on and grill on a low fire until brown and crisped.
Smoked ribs are just different. But you can smoke them at a low temp (250*) for a couple of hours to get the smoke flavor in and then sauce and grill as above.

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Old 09-23-2006, 09:12 AM   #3
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First, you have to understand the nature of ribs. If you are ysing the baby-back ribs, they are connected to a very lean muscle, the tenderloin. The reason these ribs come out dry as cardboard is that they are usually overcooked by people who think that ribs have to smoked for 10 hours or more (the time varies with the person you are speaking to). They will tell you to use a mop to keep the ribs moist, or to marinade first, or use a dry rub. But in point of fact, it is the temperature of the meat that is all important. If you were to take that same chunk of meat and immerse it in boiling water for three or more hours, it would still be a dry-as-cardboard chunk of meat, even though it's covered in liquid. I know this from a experience with a slow cooker and a rack or two of baby-back ribs.

If you are going to smoke this particular cut of pork, you need to use low heat, not any more than 200 degrees or so F. This allows time enough for the smoke to flavor the meat as it cooks, without overcooking the meat. When the meat is nearly done (internal temp of 160), then mop on the mop juice, or bbq sauce (home made of course) of your choice, and take the meat out at the proper temp. You can put a dry-rub on the meat first, and let it sit in the fridge a few hours before starting the roasting process.

Just as in braising, smoking ribs requires low/slow heat. That's the key to success.

With Spare ribs, you can be a bit more cavalier as the meat generally has more fat and connecting tissue in it. The connecting tissue is made up primarily of collagen, which melts if exposed long enough to heat. This coupled with the fat helps the meat feel moist and tender in the mouth. But it is still best to go low and slow, or for a different flavor, cook quickly over hot charcoal, but again to a final temperature, as indicated by a meat thermometer of no more than 160. I'd pull them out at about 150 and let the latent heat complete the cooking job.

I wish Rainee were still around. Though I know meats, she knows low & slow barbecue. There are so many myths about cooking, you almost have to know the physical things that happen with meat under various conditions, and use that knowledge when you cook. So many people do things because "that's the way my grandpa did it", or whoever there mentor was. So take everything with a grain of salt and use what you know. Of course ask questions, but look closely at the answers. Do they make sense? What are you looking for in your ribs? Have you ever had great ribs by a restaurant, and if so, can you talk to the chef who prepared them.

I've also had incredible ribs from a local restaurant in my home town one night, and louse ribs from the same place a week later. What was the difference; it was how long they sat on the buffet table before being transfered to my plate. The table was hot and the ribs, if left for very long, just overcooked and dried out.

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Old 09-23-2006, 11:46 AM   #4
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Ribs if undercooked will be tough and dry, overcooked will be dry. Ribs can handle higher pit temps when smoking, as high as 275. At higher pit temps you need to know that you can burn the sugar in the rub.
When smoking you look for color and pull back of the meat on the bones. If you are using temp as guide 180 is close. I use a toothpick, slide it into the meat between the bones, it should feel like it is going into warm butter.

Smoking ribs gives you the best final product when done correctly IMO, you have time allow the rub and smoke to do it's thing. Sauce in the last 15 min just long enought to set it without burning it.

Resturants I find that normally they are undercooked or way overcooked because they have been held to long. In resturants it's a crap shoot.

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Old 09-23-2006, 12:39 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Goodweed of the North
I wish Rainee were still around. Though I know meats, she knows low & slow barbecue. Seeeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
Yes, Raine is on a competitive BBQ team who has done well on the BBQ circuit.

Jim Minion, who posted above, is also a BBQ champion and has cooked competitions all over the country.

I, too, am a competitive BBQ'er and have done better in the Ribs category when I've followed the advice that Jim posted.

I believe that smoke-cooked ribs, done correctly, are far superior to those steamed in the kitchen and/or in restaurants.

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Old 09-23-2006, 01:24 PM   #6
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Best ribs I've ever cooked were smoked at 275 until meat temperature was 190F. Temp. reading is not easy on ribs but worth the effort.
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Old 09-24-2006, 07:05 AM   #7
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Well, I think you all have convinced me that it's certainly worth pursuing. Tonight I'm going to make the braised ribs ala Brown but in a week or two I'll try them in the smoker.

Would you guys suggest a hybrid method with like an hour braise followed by smoking or do the whole thing in the pit?

Right now I'm thinking of using Brown's rub and doing the whole thing in the pit at around 250 with a probe in the fat part shooting for around 180 - ish.

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Old 09-24-2006, 08:41 AM   #8
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IF you have a smoker, I see no reason to use a braise. As mentioned above, the temperature is what's important.

AB's method of braising wasn't offered as the only way to have tender juicy ribs, rather, as an alternative cooking method when you didn't want to or could not use a grill/smoker.
"If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." -Carl Sagan
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Old 09-24-2006, 12:42 PM   #9
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Arrow Beerco

As far as Smoked Ribs go I think you will get your best info from our chefs and cooks.

Have a very nice Sunday.

Jill and Jolie
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Old 11-07-2006, 10:53 AM   #10
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I won't even eat ribs unless they're smoked. But I'm real picky about my barbecue...comes with being a bit of a perfectionist.

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