I've been very much looking forward to posting this tutorial. I receive many questions from customers on how to cook the perfect pork ribs so I hope this tutorial benefits anyone who has been having issues with ribs.
Big shout out again again to the gang at Two Butchers for kindly supplying these very meaty pork ribs and to HogPit Smokers for the use of their fantastic squealer.
As with all tutorials, each pic below will have a summary of steps which will give you the tips you need to cook tender and tasty ribs.
We start with a couple of thick and meaty pork ribs.Two Butchers cut all their pork ribs on site to ensure consistent quality and provide nothing but meaty value for money ribs (no shiners!) BBQ pork ribs are the holy grail. The tastiest part of the hog. Master them and you have every right to call yourself a Pitmaster. Done right, they are a complex mix of flavours. Straring with a complex spice rub, the right amount of heat and smoke, a tangy sweet sauce, all held together and made complete by the distinct flavour of pork. They are juicy and tender and they tug cleanly off the bone and leave a clean and distinct bite mark. You don't want fall off the bone! And way after your meal is done, their smoked scent clings to your fingers for hours..... I'm hungry!
I like to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. This not only allows the rub to penetrate underneath but also allows the smoke flavour to penetrate on all sides of the rib. If you decide to leave it on It gets leathery and hard to chew. It also keeps fat in and it keeps sauce out. i use a small spoon to carefully lift the membrane off the bone. Then it's just a simple case of peeling it off. Using a paper towel to grip the membrane will make it easier to remove
Bottom of ribs should look like this once the membrane has been removed. This not only exposes the bone but also exposes the meat between them, allowing your rub and smoke to work its way into the meat.
Now its time to trim any excess hard fat from the top of your ribs. These ribs were already well trimmed so not much trimming was required. Once you're happy with your trimming it's time to rub. I've chosen a couple of rubs that have a nice sweet taste with a nice mix of heat and savoury tones to compliment the sweetness. Spray a little oil over the ribs and apply rub liberally on both the top and the bottom of your ribs. The oil allows the rub to stick better to the meat. Pork can handle a good coating of rub so add to suit your taste. I used approx. 40 grams of Oakridge Dominator rub and approx. 45 grams of Sucklebusters Hog Waller Rub . I then wrap separately in cling wrap and place in fridge overnight.
Preheat your smoker to 225 - 250F (at grate level) and place ribs in smoker. These went on at 12.00pm. My fire consisted of a Charcoal bed at start up with the gradual adding of Ironbark to form a hot bed of embers. When at temp I added one chunk of Apple and one chunk of Macadamia into the firebox. Once the Fruitwood smoke expired I added the same again. I continue to do this for the first 3hrs of the cook. Apple provides a light, fruity, sweet smoke flavour. It is excellent to use for beef, pork, chicken and fish. It is expecially sought after for the smoking of pork and poultry. Macadamia gives a mild nutty and sweet smoke flavour to meat and is my go to wood for any Pork cook ups.
With meaty pork ribs such as these I always smoke with flavour wood for the first 3hrs. This pic is 3hrs in and is ready for wrapping. A nice deep colour has developed (thanks to the rub and the smoking wood) Total smoking wood used - 900grams I spritzed these lightly with water every 45mins (4 times) during the first 3hrs. This added a little bit of humidity into the cooking chamber and helps keep your ribs moist.
It's time to wrap! Place a double layer of alfoil on a bench. In the middle add a nice even spread of brown sugar, enough to cover nearly the length of the rib and place 3 knobs of butter (about 3 x tablespoons) on top.
Place your ribs, face down, on top of the brown sugar / butter. then drizzle approx. 4 tablespoons of agave nectar (or honey) over the top. Wrap tight and place back into the smoker (face down) Depending on the thickness of the ribs I like to check the tenderness of the ribs every 30-45mins or so by doing what I like to call "the bend and skewer test". For me, this is the most important part of cooking pork ribs. Although an instant read thermometer is a must for all BBQ'ing, this is one of the few meats on which you cannot use a meat thermometer because the bones have an impact on the meat temp and because the meat is so thin. So, during the wrapping process (every 30 - 45mins or so) unwrap your foil and gently lift one side of the ribs. If you can lift your ribs around the 35 degree mark without the other side of your ribs lifting or the whole rack looking like a surfboard, they are tender enough to unwrap and move onto the next step. As a secondary step, I also like to use a wood or metal skewer and gently pierce the meat, you want a little pull from the meat with just a little effort to remove the skewer. If it's mushy you've gone too far, if there is still a lot of pull from the meat, wrap them back up and let them cook a little longer. When you're happy with the tenderness of your ribs it is time to unwrap and start glazing.
Once you're happy with the tenderness of your ribs, unwrap and flip your ribs over. These were unwrapped at 4.45pm (1.75hrs after initial wrap) This will vary depending on the thickness of your ribs. The brown sugar and butter has intensified the colour of the ribs and added a nice hit of sweetness.
I took my sucklebusters honey bbq glaze and added approx. 100ml into a saucepan and heated. I then brushed the first layer onto the ribs. (4:45pm) then placed back into the smoker.
2nd layer of glaze applied 15mins later (5pm). Skewer test carried out at this stage. You want the skewer to still have a little grab to it but the tenderness has noticeably increased. Meat is still well attached to the bone. These were not quite there so were placed back into smoker for another 15mins to cook further and allow the glaze to adhere and become sticky
A further 15mins in the smoker and these ribs were ready. Taken off at 5:30 (final unwrapped stage - 45mins total) Total cook time of 5.5hrs. Glaze has adhered well to the ribs and formed a nice sweet sticky glaze. Ribs are tender and juicy, not falling off the bone and the skewer test is spot on. (easily slides into meat with an oh so gentle pull when removing) If you were to do an instant read test it would ideally show 195 - 200F internal temp.
Smoke has penetrated nicely with a little pull back of pork from the bones. This is how you want your ribs to look.
Hog Waller BBQ Pork and Rib Rub - super sweet with a slight kick of heat from chipotle and cayenne peppers. This is our #1 selling BBQ Rub. Hog Waller was originally made for pork ribs, but we soon learned that it was great for all types of pork. In fact it is great on all BBQ meats. It has three types of sugar and a somewhat smoky flavor from the chipotle powder. The rubs work well for Competition BBQ cooks, where is generally used on Ribs and also works well for back yard BBQ. Many customers use it on grilled/smoked chicken. As we like to say, "Use it on everything but the squeal!". It's a customer favorite
Ingredients: Sea Salt, Turbinado Sugar, Brown Sugar, Chile Peppers & Spices. NO MSG. Naturally Gluten Free.
Oakridge Dominator Sweet Rib Rub - Top competition and home cooks alike are constantly searching for an edge; something special to make their food stand out. Dominator Sweet Rib Rub delivers that edge. The sweetness of this rub, developed by the artful blending of raw cane sugar, honey, Vietnamese cinnamon & select exotic spices, is intoxicating and balanced perfectly by deep savory and subtly spicy notes. Dominator excels on pork ribs, and any other cut of pork or chicken. Don’t just cook your food, Dominate it!
*100% All Natural *Ultra Premium Ingredients *No MSG *Gluten Free *Nut Allergy Safe *No Fillers or Anti-Caking Agents *Absolutely Nothing Artificial
Sucklebusters Honey BBQ Glaze 591ml - SuckleBusters Honey BBQ Glaze and Finishing Sauce has been winning BBQ Competitions for years! Apply to any meat the last 10 minutes of cooking. The sauce forms a deep red and super-sweet layer of BBQ goodness that folks love to eat. The sauce has a liberal amount of honey and is very mild with no heat at all. The recipe is very close to our award winning honey BBQ Sauce that has been used by competition cooks for years, winning award after award. This is the first finishing sauce and glaze on the market. It is the #1 finishing sauce available.
Apple Chunks - A light, fruity, slightly sweet flavour (mixes well with oak and cherry) Pairs well Beef, poultry, game birds, pork and ham
Macadamia Chunks - A very subtle nutty and sweet smoke full of flavour. Pairs well with beef, pork, fish and cheese.
Double Split Ironbark - By a long shot, the pick of the bunch for smoking (for both heat and flavour) is ironbark for all red meat. Also excellent with pork and chicken.Ironbark has excellent burning qualities and adds a subtle smoke flavour. It has good all-round flavour and burns hot and long. All of our Vintage Ironbark is seasoned for a minimum of 10yrs with less than 9% moisture content.Certainly a favourite here at Ironwood Smokers.
Cleanheat Charcoal 4kg - This hardwood charcoal is the same as the restaurant grade only smaller pieces better suited to smaller domestic bbqs like Weber kettles, Weber Jumbo Joe, Weber Smokey Joe, Weber Smokey Mountains, Weber Go Anywhere, ProQ verticals and Hibacci style BBQs Clean Heat Charcoal is manufactured in South Africa from Colophospermum mopane, commonly called mopane, mophane, mopani, is a tree in the family (Fabaceae), that grows in hot, dry, low-lying areas, 200 to 1,150 metres (660 to 3,770 ft) in elevation, in the far northern parts of Southern Africa. Mopani hardwood inhibits the growth of short grass which impacts heavily on the food supply for native Sth African grazing animals such as Rhino, Impala and Springbok. Above all, Mopani lump wood charcoal and briquettes are a renewable product. Not only are you offering tremendous flavour at your next barbecue but you are also choosing a positive environmental option.