BBQ Ribs People Love!

Making BBQ ribs that people love is a lot easier than most people think, but unless you have been involved in a BBQ competition there is something you don’t know: The ribs most people love are NOT the same ribs that will help you win a contest!

Most people LOVE it when “the meat just falls off the bone!”  We all love that!  But not BBQ judges (KCBS). They are trained to judge a rib by noting that the rib meat NOT fall off the bone (that’s too done, according to the rules) and that you need some teeth pull to remove the meat from the bone.

This has been a bone of contention (sorry!) for years now, and I suppose it is a bit more difficult to hit the exact right point where the meat is tender but not too tender, and hence the competitive challenge.

But for the rest of us, fall-off-the-bone goodness is something to be cherished and enjoyed, and fortunately it is pretty easy to accomplish.  Here is the simple formula:

  • Clean and dry the ribs. You can use back ribs (baby backs) or spares (St. Louis style are spare ribs with the “brisket” flap removed).  TIP: Do NOT buy baby back ribs that weigh more than 2 1/2 pounds as this probably means they came from an old sow.
  • Flip the ribs over so the meat side is down and remove the membrane. TIP: Use a small serrated knife to start removing the membrane, and begin on the smaller (short) end side.  Use the serration in the knife to “grab” the membrane by twisting the knife.  Once up enough, grab with your fingers and slowly pull to remove the entire membrane.  If it tears, use the knife again if needed.
  • Liberally dust both sides of the ribs with your favorite rib rub.  Some folks like to smear with yellow mustard, but I never do that.  You should experiment to see what you and your family and friends like, but start with a quality rub only first.
  • Go start your smoker and bring up to 225º – 250º.  Let ribs sit out for the 20 to 30 minutes this takes so they can absorb the rub.
  • Add wood to fire – I use apple.
  • Put ribs, bone side down, in smoker.  Look at the clock or start a timer.
  • About 3 to 3 1/2 hours later, assuming you never dipped below 225º (add a little more time if you did), remove the ribs and wrap them in foil.
  • Return ribs to smoker and cook at the same temperature for 1 1/2 hours
  • After the 1 1/2 hours of wrapped cook time, the ribs have been getting tender (this is the part that would cost you in a competition, but normal people will praise you for!).  Remove from the smoker and either heat up the smoker (open vents, add fuel, etc.)
  • While the smoker is warming up to 275º+, baste the ribs in your favorite BBQ sauce.
  • Place ribs in warmer smoker for 1 hour.
  • Remove ribs and turn bone side up to slice. TIP: Use a large very sharp knife for best results – remember, these are going to be quite tender.

That’s it!  You will be the BBQ Master for your family and friends.

As with all BBQ, all of the above is much easier if you run by Sam’s or Costco and get the large restaurant size box of heavy duty aluminum foil.  You can use it spread on your counter, on transport trays, for wrapping ribs, etc.  It makes life much easier and cleanup a snap!

Philip Allen