These Top Tips Make BBQ Smoking Ribs Easy
Looking to upgrade your grilling skills? Is someone you’re looking to impress on your barbecue invite list? If so, then read this post to get tips for BBQ smoking ribs that will blow everyone away.
Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion, meeting new neighbors, or having a cookout “just because” you know one thing for sure: everyone is going to be judging your barbecuing skills.
There are few better ways to test your BBQ chops than by smoking ribs.
But if you’re relatively new to the grilling life — or if your skills aren’t quite where you want them to be just yet — it can be a disastrous experience.
This post is here to make you feel like a pro when it comes to BBQ smoking ribs.
Read on to learn the top tips and tricks you need to fool everyone into thinking you’ve been at this for years — and to become your neighborhood’s official grill master.
1. Get the Right Ingredients
The most important thing you need to consider when you’re ready to start BBQ smoking ribs?
The quality of your meats.
If possible, buy from a local butcher shop instead of a chain store to get the freshest meat available. Yes, you’ll have to pay a bit more — but it’s still cheaper than hiring a catering company.
What should you look for?
First of all, make sure that you don’t buy ribs referred to as “shiners.” This is where so much of the meat has been removed from the ribs, that the bones actually gleam through the packaging.
If you’re buying pre-packaged ribs, also be on the lookout for an excessive amount of liquid in the packaging. This is a clear sign that the ribs have been frozen and then thawed — and that’s not something you want.
Finally, be on the lookout for ribs with phrases like “basted,” “self-basting,” or “enhanced” on the packaging.
This usually means that the meat has been injected with salty liquid brine, which can ruin your own flavor and make it tougher.
Try to buy your meat as close to “grill day” as possible, so that you don’t have to freeze it.
Finally, ensure you pick up enough meat to feed everyone. This post makes it easy to know how much to buy.
2. Prepare the Meat
Next, it’s time to remove the membrane from the ribs.
You can ask your butcher to for this, or handle it on your own if you’re up for making your BBQ smoked ribs from as close to scratch as is possible.
It’s important to get rid of these membranes because they’re so tough, that they make it hard for the rest of the meat to absorb the flavors from the rub and sauces.
It’s surprising, but often the best way to get rid of membranes is by using a standard meat thermometer. Starting at the center of the ribs, put the meat thermometer between the membrane and one of the bones.
Then, slowly and gently pull off the entire membrane.
Yes, you may have heard a few debates about leaving the membrane on, but this is best left to serious grillers who have the professional training needed to make sure the flavor reaches all the meat.
3. Start With a Dry Rub
Now, let’s get into another great debate when it comes to bbq smoked pork ribs: dry rubs vs. sauce.
Yes, for best results, you want to use both sauce and a dry rub. But you don’t actually want to add that barbecue sauce to the meat until you’ve smoked the ribs.
So, how do you ensure you’re getting flavor through to all the parts of the meat? Through dry rubs, which can easily saturate the entire rib as opposed to just sitting on top.
Of course, dry rubs take a little bit of prep work.
Apply your dry rub about 8-10 hours before the barbecue begins to ensure that the flavors have all the time they need to soak through.
To make an incredible rub, mix up:
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1.5 teaspoons paprika
- 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
Once you’ve made the dream dry rub recipe, you can keep any leftovers of it for about a month.
Above all, make sure that you coat both sides of your ribs with the rub.
4. Mop It Up
Don’t worry: we’re not suggesting that you completely eliminate barbecue sauce from the rib-making process. (After all, we’re not monsters!)
Instead, it’s just about knowing how and when to apply sauce when you’re bbq smoking ribs.
The best way to evenly spread out the flavor and avoid drowning your ribs in sauce is by using the “mop” method. It’s also a great way to ensure that your ribs stay juicy and moist.
To create a mop, use about two tablespoons of the leftover dry rub we taught you how to make above. Mix it in with a cup of either apple cider vinegar or beer. Then, using a little brush, gently baste or “mop” your ribs with this mixture, when they’re about 2/3 of the way through the smoking process.
For more of a mop-based flavor, try mopping about once every 45 minutes. For an extra bit of intensity, we suggest wrapping the ribs in aluminum foil after you apply the final mop (for about a half an hour.)
This helps to keep things especially tender.
Only apply the barbecue sauce near the very end of the smoking process. It should act as a kind of a glaze. After all, the wood smoke is what really sears that flavor into your ribs.
And speaking of wood…
5. Select the Right Wood
One of the most important parts of smoking ribs with barbecue sauce — about as essential as selecting the right cuts of meat — is choosing the kind of wood you want to smoke with.
Sometimes, you may have a particular allegiance to a certain type of wood based on the region you live in.
For example, in the south, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone willing to smoke with anything other than hickory. However, in Texas, mesquite reigns supreme.
Pecan, alder, maple, oak, and even apple are also popular options. This post breaks down some of the top choices you have when it comes to smoking woods.
However, you don’t have to limit yourself to what’s available locally, especially because it’s easier than ever to find all different kinds of woods online.
After all, you can always use experimenting with different kinds of woods as an excuse to have cookouts more often.
6. Watch the Damper
Not all of the tips for properly BBQ smoking ribs have to be complicated.
But sometimes, it’s the simplest tips that are the most important. Always make sure that the exhaust damper on the grill is completely open throughout the entire smoking process.
If you leave the damper shut, then the flavor of the ribs will be especially bitter, regardless of the kind of wood you used.
7. Know When They’re Done
So, after about five or six hours of hard work, you feel like your ribs are just about done.
But how do you know for sure?
Usually, the meat will have moved from the bones’ ends by about half an inch. Additionally, you can lift up the rack of the ribs using tongs. Pay attention to the center of the ribs, often referred to as the flexing point.
Once the flexing point starts to shred slightly when picked up, you’ll know for sure that ribs are done.
You can also use a toothpick test to ensure the ribs are ready to eat. You just need to gently poke a toothpick between the bones of the ribs. The goal is for the toothpick to slide in easily, with no resistance.
For best results, use this method across different parts of your ribs.
Remember that the sign of truly well-cooked ribs is that you can tear them apart with your fingers.
Make sure that you also know the right sides to serve with your smoked ribs to really compliment the flavor and ensure everyone leaves full and happy.
BBQ Smoking Ribs Doesn’t Have to Feel Impossible
We hope that this post has simplified the process of BBQ smoking ribs.
Need help deciding on the right smoker to invest in? Want to make sure you’re able to use a charcoal or gas grill the right way?
On the hunt for even more creative barbecue tips and tricks?
We’ve got you covered when it comes to all that and more. Check out our blog for everything you need to learn about BBQ.
Make sure you keep checking back in with us to learn secrets used by the biggest barbecue masters in the world. Who knows? If you keep it up, you just might become one of them.