Mastering smoked ribs — whether they are St. Louis style ribs, spare ribs, or baby back ribs — with our comprehensive tutorial and recipe will make you a backyard all star.
You can make it happen. Here’s the real smoked ribs recipe, good enough to bring home a trophy in a cook-off. In fact, many readers have done exactly that with this ribs recipe.
While many sites out there tell you to use something known as the 3-2-1 method, cooking the ribs in foil for 2 hours is far too long and can make the meat mushy and overcooked, a.k.a. “fall-of-the-bone ribs” which despite what others might tell you is actually a sign that they are overcooked. Instead you should be able to take a bite that pulled easily away from the bone without taking all of the meat with you.
Now it’s time to master the basic concepts, after which you’ll be cooking killer authentic smoked BBQ ribs on most charcoal and gas grills, whether they are spare ribs, baby back ribs, or St. Louis spare ribs!
If you boil ribs the terrorists win
A lot of folks boil their ribs before grilling them and slathering on the sauce. The concept comes from Eastern Europe where Poles and Czechs prepare ribs by simmering them in water with cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and caraway seed, making a very nice pork stew.
But water is a solvent. It pulls much of the flavor out of the meat, and it can make the meat mushy. When you boil meat and bones, you make a rich flavorful soup. All that color in the pot is flavor that you can never get back into the meat. Boil meat too much and water can even dry it out by causing the proteins to contract and squeeze the moisture out of the muscle fibers.
People talk wistfully about meat that falls off the bone, but if it does, it has probably been boiled and denuded of its best flavors. What they’re really loving is the unctuous barbecue sauce. That’s why McRibs are so popular. They’re just ground pork swimming in sweetened ketchup mixed with liquid smoke and some other flavors. Classic Southern ribs have the same mouthfeel and bite as a tender juicy steak and most important, they taste like pork, not just sauce. An authentic smoked BBQ ribs recipe results in meat that tugs off the bone rather than fall off the bone.
If you are really really in a hurry, you are better off steaming or microwaving them and then finishing them on the grill or under the broiler.
Just don’t boil ’em!