What could be better on a lazy fall weekend than ribs from the smoker? Below I share with you how to make ribs so good you may never darken the door of your local BBQ joint again.
I have an upright electric smoker with two grill grates and two pans. This recipe is based on that smoker but should be adaptable to other models.
Total preparation time roughly 4.5 hours including soaking the wood chips. Total cooking time about 2.5 hours including 25 minutes in paper bag.
1 rack of spare ribs
1.5 to 2 oz of spice rub
1/2 cup of dry vermouth
double handful of hickory wood chips or chunks
Smoker, a sheet of food grade plastic, a large paper grocery bag, a basting brush, a sharp knife, and long tongs.
Step 1 Soak wood chips: I do this in the pan from the smoker and use hickory chunks. I sometimes add fruit wood like apple or cherry. I save and dry any wood pruned from fruit trees for this purpose. I soak for a minimum of two hours turning the wood periodically.
Step 2 Prepare the ribs: I use spare ribs sourced from a local organic farmer. Spare ribs have far more meat than baby back ribs which are often trimmed too close by butchers trying to maximize other more expensive cuts. Remove the membrane from the bony side by slipping a butter knife under it along the center bone. Lift gently until you can work you fingers underneath and pull it off first in one direction and then the other. Cut the rack into two roughly equal sections. Keep in mind the area available in your smoker and slice alongside one of the bones to separate.
Step 3 Apply the spice rub: Pat the ribs dry with a paper towel and then work a generous amount of spice rub into both sides of the ribs. I have used rubs intended for fish and chicken as well as those intended for pork. The rub does need to be fairly aggressive to compete with the smoke, anything with a hot pepper component should work. Some of our favorite mixes have been tequila lime and a sweet chipotle, but experiment to find what works for you. I often make my own spice rubs but don’t be afraid to use a prepackaged one, just check the ingredients and make sure it isn’t mostly salt or contains ingredients you can’t pronounce. I like to work on a sheet of plastic so that the spices which fall off can be reapplied. I then wrap everything up in the sheet of plastic and either refrigerate or just leave them at room temperature depending on how long I need to get the smoker going.
Step 4 Start the smoker and add the ribs: I get the smoker going and add the ribs as soon as it begins to smoke. Place the ribs so that the two sections do not touch the sides or each other, bone side down. You want the smoker to be at 225-250 degrees.
Step 5 Baste with alcohol and turn: At about 45 minutes generously cover the meaty side with a sprinkle of alcohol. I like to use dry vermouth which we keep on hand as a substitute for white wine in recipes. Rum, bourbon, and tequila could also be excellent choices. As with any recipe using alcohol, use something you would be willing to drink. Substandard liquor has off flavors which will carry over to the finished product. Turn the ribs and baste the bone side as well. I use a small basting brush to sprinkle vermouth onto the ribs. To minimize the amount of time with the smoker open one person can baste while the other turns. Repeat the basting in another 45 minutes. At the second turn take a good look at the ribs. If the ribs are are a crusty brown and the meat is starting to pull away from the ends of the bones you are almost there. Let them cook for another 15-20 minutes and remove to a plate. Please note your exact cooking times will vary depending on your smoker, elevation above sea level, and current outdoor temperatures. The times I give are guidelines.
Step 6: : Immediately place the plate inside a large paper grocery bag, fold the open end to keep it shut and let the ribs sit for as long as you can stand it or 25 minutes. The ribs will come out of the bag in the fall off the bone state everyone craves and still quite warm and ready to eat. Slice the ribs apart and enjoy!