ok ok, i'm back.
i have a perfect flame 36" gas smoker, uncle bob.
i made my ribs today, with mixed results. i cut the spare ribs down so i had a nice square rack (st. louis cut, i think it's called), the knuckle, and some leftover trimmed pieces of meat. it wasn't too difficult, but i was unable to peel off the membrane in one piece, no matter how hard i tried. so i just cut through the membrane on each piece of meat between the bones.
i rubbed 1 rack and some trimmed meat pieces with a mix of paprika, dark brown sugar, raw cane sugar, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper.
the other rack was rubbed with sea salt, black pepper, dark brown sugar, garlic powder, and lots of roughly cracked mustard seed.
i cut the racks in half and put them in a vertical rib holder in order to get them to fit on one shelf of the smoker, and i put the extra trimmed pieces flat on a lower shelf.
they were smoked over hickory and apple wood at around 230. ok, what i thought was 230 degrees. the thermometer in the door of the smoker turns out to be about 50 degrees off. after 3 1/2 hours, the meat still didn't seem cooked very much. i measured the temp with a seperate thermometer, and found they'd been cooking at around only 175 instead of 225.
i removed the trimmed pieces and doused them in bbq sauce to snack on. they were good but a little tough, partly due to the cooking temp, partly due to some sinew.
then i basted the first rack with kraft bbq sauce, and the mustard seed crusted rack was brushed with warmed honey. i found out the hard way that nuking a couple of tablespoons of honey turns it into a very liquid napalm. ouchie! i burned my left index finger pretty good, in a tasty sort of way.
the racks went back in, this time at a true 250 (reading 300 on the thermometer in the door) for another hour. i would like to have let them go longer, but everyone was so hungry that i just pulled them out and served.
the bbq sauced rack was good, but very tough as it needed at least another good 2 hours in the smoker at a proper temp. they weren't even close to "falling apart". the rub i used was good, but a little heavy on black pepper and paprika.
the mustard and honey rack was very good as they were a little less meaty. hence, it cooked faster in the lower temp. also, the rub is fantastic with the honey glaze. i will definitely be making this rub again, on ribs and other meats.
overall, the results were edible, even tasty, but very chewy. disappointing at best, but at least i learned something. need to look into getting an accurate thermometer to replace the one in the door.
i also learned that if i cover the bottom of the unit around the legs with aluminum foil, it was easier to get a steady temp (albeit too low) even on a very windy day.
thanks for everyone's help. i hope next time to finally nail down a decent rack of ribs.
btw, the knuckle pieces were browned with garlic in evoo and simmered in tomato sauce for 3 hours, to be served with pasta for lunch this week.