So it's your turn to grill or cook for the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Guy Fawkes Day or just a summer cookout or Barby? Following these directions ANYONE can cook perfect smoked, tender, moist baby back ribs dinner! These direction with ANY type of smoker, The Big Green Egg, Weber, Brinkmann, Masterpiece, whatever type of grill/smoker you have.
Get all the parts out and be sure to work on a fireproof surface, away from the house and anything flammable.
Now is a good time to get your smoking wood soaking in water. But which wood? I prefer hickory, the traditional standard, but Texans often like Mesquite and there are others like apple, pecan and cherry. The last three woods have a very mild flavor though, and I find I get best taste with hickory. Whichever you use, you want to soak it in water for a few hours so that it smokes rather than simply burns!
Remove any neck and giblets that were stuffed inside the baby back ribs - be sure to look in BOTH ends - often they put a gravy packet under the neck skin flap, and the giblets are inside the bird. You can save these and smoke them, too, if you wish. I'll pass...
Thoroughly wash the baby back ribs inside and out with cold water (nothing else) and drain it. Note: this is a good time to get the oven warming - set it for 325 F (and make sure there is nothing inside the oven first!)
Remember that uncooked poultry usually have bacteria like salmonella, so thoroughly wash your hands, and pots, tools, or surfaces that come in contact with the uncooked baby back ribs. Use hot soapy water and rinse a lot on nonfood items (your hands, pots, etc.).
The seasonings are easy: I just use Old Bay. But you can use any BBQ seasonings, typically, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, etc. .
Parboiling, which means cooking the ribs in water that is steaming but not quite boiling is an important step. Not only does it infuse the ribs with
seasoning, it also ensure they will be very moist.
Just lay the racks of ribs in a large pot, and fill with water so the ribs are covered. Then add your seasoning (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of Old Bay. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so it is just steaming but not boiling. Let it parboil like this for 1 hour. Then drain and discard the water.
Here's a picture of a simple Weber / Brinkman smoker. Smokers typically come in 3 varieties: charcoal, electric and propane. I take the basic inexpensive ($40) Brinkman or Weber charcoal smoker and place it over a turkey fryer base, which makes it a propane fryer. The advantages of propane or electric over charcoal are that you can control the heat precisely, you don't need to keep adding charcoal, and they operate cleaner, with no dust or carcinogens from the charcoal. But whatever your choice, clean it out with a scrub brush and garden hose. I clean the grates inside with steel wool, as that is the only part that will come in contact with the baby back ribs.
The photo at above right shows all the parts; clock wise, starting with the 2 metal grates, then the wood pan which goes in the very bottom right above the heat source, then the water pan, the propane burner base, the propane tank, the smoker cylindrical body and the lid. You'll notice I drilled a hole in the lid and added a precise dial type thermometer (available from Home depot or Lowes) as the built in dial (warm - ideal - hot) seems too imprecise to me.
CharBroil and door-type smokers
I switched to using an upright rectangular Char-Broil (the rectangular smoker at right) that had its own propane source. The advantage is, the door allows you easy access while cooking. The Brinkmann required you to remove meats to get to those on lower racks.
But I found it produced too little heat to use in the winter, so I removed the legs and set it over the turkey fryer base. Works great now, summer or winter.
Assembly is easy:
Heat sources, again:
As I said, I prefer using a propane turkey fryer base,
(like the Bayou brand in on the Amazon box at right) set under
Brinkman charcoal smoker (which you can often find on sale at WalMart or Home Depot), with the charcoal base removed.
It burns clean, the heat can be controlled precisely,
one full 20lb propane can burn for 10 hours or more, and is safer,
particularly if you use a braided steel hose to connect.
And in the years since I started doing this, the manufacturers have started making propane-powered smokers. The Pit Boss, for example, gets very good reviews and is all you need.
But, some people use electric smokers, which aside from the potential risk
of using it on a rainy day, are also safer than charcoal. I've found
electric smokers to be slower to heat up, and the elements will eventually
Charcoal... I just don't like it.
There is the risk of cancer associated
with the soot, starting with lighter
fluids can be dangerous and you
must continually add more charcoal
over the 4 to 7 hours while you
are using the smoker. But, again,
it is your choice, and charcoal has
the cheapest initial cost.
Once you have the smoker assembled, remove the lid and set the baby back ribs place on the rack.
Notice you CAN mix and match meats. In the photo at right I have baby back ribs above a turkey breast. Obviously, the ribs, being a thinner cut of meat and parboiled will be done hours before the turkey. You can smoke turkey, ribs, beef brisket, beef shortribs, a pork roast, chicken or other meats. The order doesn't really matter, although I will say I've found the smoker is hotter at the top than right above the pan of water. Since water boils at 212 F, the steam coming off it is... 212F. The heat that goes around the pan of water can be a bit above that., Overall, the smoker stays between 185 - 210 F if you have things working right.
Sprinkle more of the seasonings over the baby back ribs!
Next insert the meat thermometer into the the meat.
As the baby back ribs cook, you will need to add more wood chips / chunks. Usually I add 4 or 5 pieces ever 45 - 60 minutes. You'll probably need about 10 lbs of wood altogether for 4 - 6 hours of smoking. It's not an exact science, so it is better to have too much wood, rather than too little. Just use the extra next time.
Obviously, you want to keep the smoker operating in the ideal temperature range. If you are using propane or electric, just periodically check that the flame or heat hasn't gone out, and that the smoker is operating in the ideal range (185 F to 210 F). If the temperature rises much above 215, that may mean that you have either run out of water (DON'T let that happen) or your wood has caught fire. If the latter, use a spray bottle of water to quench it without creating too much dust.
My preference is to keep the smoker at 200 F.
If you need add more water to the water pan, just take the lid off, and carefully fill the pan from above, to one side of the baby back ribs.
Baby back ribs are done when the meat thermometer reaches the following temperatures:
165 degrees F
Most authorities are now saying that once all parts of the baby back ribs reach 165 degrees F, it is safe to eat.
NOTE: The parboiling pretty much cooks the ribs, so the smoker is mostly just for the flavor! I let them smoke for about 4 to 6 hours. Do NOT let the heat ride above 210 F in the smoker! Do not let the pan of water run low or out of water!
Anytime after the temperature of the meat thermometer reaches 165 F , the ribs are safe to eat. But I would say you need to give them at least 3 hours of smoking for a good flavor! Don't be surprised if the baby back ribs are a dark brown, or even almost black - you SMOKED it! It will still be moist and juicy, as long as you didn't let the water pan run dry and you kept the temperature in the smoker between 185F and 210F!
Within two hours after roasting, store in refrigerator or freezer.
Refrigerator Storage: Use within three days.
Freezer Storage: Wrap in heavy foil or freezer wrap or place in freezer container. For optimum taste, use stuffing within one month and baby back ribs within two months.