by Craig Tabor
The perfect rack of ribs starts with selecting the right rack of ribs. There are several things to look for when selecting a rack of ribs.
- TIP: When selecting a rack of ribs from the market, try to pick a rack that has good marbling. Marbling is the fat that runs throughout the meat. The fat will render during the cook so don’t be turned off by the fattier ribs. Fat equals flavor!
- TIP: Also be mindful of shiners. A “shiner” is an exposed rib bone. This happens during the meat processing. A shiner is unfortunate and happens with the butcher cuts to close to the bones. A shiner won’t make your ribs taste bad, they just won’t be pretty.
When prepping your rack of ribs, it is important to remove the membrane on the underneath side. Cooking ribs with the membrane on them will result in a tough bite. Start by sliding a butter knife under the membrane. Separate enough of the membrane to slide your finger under and give it a tug. The membrane should peel right off with enough pull. If the membrane keeps slipping out of your hand when pulling, use a paper towel for added grip.
Applying a binder is optional. This will aid in the rub sticking to the ribs. Some use yellow mustard. Some use mayonnaise. We used extra virgin olive oil simply because it was in our pantry. Apply enough oil to make the ribs “wet.”
Time to rub! Start by open a fresh shake of Rufus Teague’s Meat Rub. Using a sideways shaking method, coat the ribs with the seasoning. Make sure to get the sides and ends.
Once rubbed, allow the ribs to set out on the counter for approx. 30 minutes. This will do two things: A) allow the meat to come up to room temp which will help during the cook and B) allows the rub to work on the meat. The ribs will start to look like they are sweating.
- TIP: Holding the shaker 12”-14” above the ribs when applying the rub. This will result in a more even coating.
- TIP: Apply the rub on the underneath side first. This will prevent from having to apply more rub to the meat side when flipping.
While the ribs are resting, preheat your smoker. Set up your smoker with indirect cooking and preheat to 225F. Add smoking woods as desired. We used a pellet grill for these ribs which really allows easy temperature control. If you are using a charcoal smoker, let your fire burn long enough so that the white smoke turns blue before adding the ribs.
How long in the smoke? There are many methods out there for ribs. The 3-2-1, the 2-2-1, the no wrap, the dry, etc. This is a gray area and comes down to personal preference. We are using more of a modified 3-2-1. This method is 3 hours of smoke, 2 hours in wrap and 1 final hour to set the sauce. The modification that we use is in the first phase. We are smoking just long enough to catch the exact color that we are looking for. We like a rich mahogany color which usually hits around the 2-1/2 hour mark.
Once you’ve reached your desired color, it’s time to wrap. We add three things when we wrap: brown sugar, honey and liquid gold. (Liquid gold is the competition circuit term for Parkay squeeze butter) Lay out a long piece of wide, heavy duty foil. Sprinkle on a layer of brown sugar, a several drizzles of honey and a couple squeezes of liquid gold directly onto the foil. Place the ribs meat down into the mixture. Apply the same layers to the backside of the ribs.
Wrapping properly is an element that some people miss. Grab each side of the foil and bring them together. Roll them down creating a tight seal. Roll the ends as well. Rolling the foil will create a sealed pack allowing the juices to steam. A folded pouch will not be as effective. Place the ribs back on the smoker and allow them to cook for another 2 hours. The foil steam pouch will aid in tenderness.
Now it’s time to remove the ribs. Carefully unroll the foil being mindful that there is steam built up in the packet. Crack it open slowing and allow the steam to come out. Remove the ribs from the foil. You will notice that the rib meat had pulled away from the bones and they should be pretty tender.
Time to sauce! Open a brand new jar of Rufus Teague Apple Mash BBQ sauce. Using the same method when we rubbed the ribs, start by painting the underneath side first. Then, flip and paint the top. Make sure to coat them evenly.
Place the ribs back on the smoker for approx. 1 hour. This last phase of smoke will finish cooking the ribs as well as set the sauce. Setting the sauce means that we are allowing all of the sugars to caramelize creating a sticky feeling rather than a dripping wet rib.
The ribs have been smoked, spritzed, steamed, sauced and set! WHEW!!! We worked really worked hard. Time to eat!!
Your friends and family will love these ribs and appreciate all of your hard work!