SMOKER BABY BACK RIBS

I have smoked a lot of pork ribs in my Pit Boss and Traeger pellet smokers over the years. Some were St. Louis Spare Ribs and others were Baby Back Ribs. The spare ribs are bigger and meatier, but we prefer the Baby Backs. They have a less fat and grizzle and cook a little quicker as they are smaller.

You start by removing the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Try to loosen the edge with a small knife, then grab hold of it with a dry paper towel. With any luck, you can pull it right off in one piece. Sometimes, it’s a challenge. Removing the skin helps with the rub penetrating the back of the rib meat as well as the front or top. Some BBQ’ers say this step is not necessary, but I choose to do this. Liberally season the ribs on both sides with the rib rub then wrap them in plastic overnight. The rib rub recipe I like to use is below and can vary according to individual tastes, ie, more cayenne for more heat, more brown sugar for more sweet, and so on.

One of the variables when smoking is the amount of time you “cook” your protein on the “Smoke” setting (about 200 degrees). If you are smoking with a traditional wood-fired smoker, shoot for 180-200 degrees for the first hour or so. The longer you leave the protein at this level, the more smoke flavor you will impart. With baby backs, I smoke for 1 hour.

After smoking, liberally spritz the ribs with more of that 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar or even beer. Double wrap tightly with foil making sure no bones are sticking out and poking holes in the foil. You want a tight fit. Raise the temperature to 250 and cook for another 1 1/2 hours, depending on the size and thickness of the ribs. If smoking spare ribs, you will want to cook them longer. It is not practical to use a meat thermometer with ribs like you do with pork shoulder, brisket, or other thick meats. With ribs, you need to go by how they feel in the foil. It just takes a few times and you will know as the ribs with be pliable but not too soft or they will be overcooked. Unlike brisket or pork shoulder, you can overcook ribs very easily. For the last hour, raise the heat to 350 and continue to cook the ribs wrapped.

Remove from the smoker, and let them sit for about 15 minutes. Carefully unwrap them and place on a sheet pan. Slather with your favorite BBQ sauce and place in a 425 degree oven for about 5-10 minsters until the sauce is glazed. My favorite BBQ sauce is listed in the recipe. I use Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce mixed with bourbon, honey, garlic powder, chipotle in adobo, and pepper.

Ingredients:

  • One rack of pork Baby back ribs, silver skin removed from the underside
  • Rib Rub – 1 tbsp paprika, 1 tbsp granulated garlic, 1/2 tbsp onion powder, 1/2 tbsp black pepper, 1 tbsp Ancho Chile powder, 1 tsp cayenne, 2 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt, 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • Spritz – 50% apple cider vinegar 50% water
  • BBQ sauce – 1/2 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce (or your favorite), 1 tbsp bourbon, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp chopped chipotle peppers in adobo, 1/2 tsp granulated garlic, 1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  • Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Trim any excess fat and grizzle or protruding bones.
  • Season liberally with the rib rub. Wrap the ribs in plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • When ready to smoke, start the smoker on Smoke setting for 5 minutes with lid open. Unwrap the ribs and place them directly on the grate. Give them a spritz. Close the lid and smoke for 1 hour. The smoker should be around 180-200 degrees.
  • Remove from the smoker. Spritz them liberally then double wrap them in foil with the meat side down. Seal the foil tightly. Raise the smoker temperature to 250 degrees. Place the foil wrapped ribs in the smoker and cook for about 1 1/2 hours. Raise the heat to 350 degrees and cook another 1 hour. Remove from the smoker and let sit for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Carefully unwrap and place on a sheet pan using 2 tongs or heat resistant gloves, they should be very tender at this point.
  • Mix together the BBQ sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
  • Slather the ribs on the meat side with the BBQ sauce with a brush or spoon. Place ribs in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to caramelize. Remove from oven and carefully slice through the rib meat into portions of two ribs each. Serve immediately.

BONELESS McRIB STYLE SANDWICH

McDonald’s McRib is a ground pork sandwich pressed and formed to look like pork ribs. Hey, I love ’em! But, I wanted to try making this home version from real Pork Spareribs. Basically, cook the s***t out of the ribs, either in a smoker, BBQ, or in the oven. Then carefully pull out the bones…and voila! Boneless McRib Style Sandwich.

Here’s my oven recipe for them. Note: You can use Baby Back Ribs, but they are not as meaty and juicy as the St. Louis ribs. Plus, cook the BB Rib a little less as they are much smaller.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium rack of St. Louis cut pork ribs or Baby Back Ribs
  • BBQ rub (your favorite)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup BBQ sauce (your favorite, I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
  • 1 tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp bourbon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Soft hoagie or sourdough rolls
  • Diced onions
  • Sliced dill pickles
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  • Remove the silver skin from the back of the ribs. Place the ribs on a sheet pan and season both sides with BBQ rub, salt, and pepper.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add some apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the sheet pan. Place the ribs meaty side up on the sheet pan then cover tightly with foil. Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Note: If using small Baby Back Ribs, reduce the cooking time slightly as they cook quicker than St. Louis ribs.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the BBQ sauce, chipotle, bourbon, and honey. Set aside.
  • Carefully remove the foil and let cool enough to handle the ribs. Gently remove the bones by pulling them out the side, they should come out easily if the ribs were cook enough. If you cook them too much, they fall apart.
  • Cut the ribs in half, then carefully cut them down the middle the size of a sandwich roll. Spread some BBQ sauce on the top and bottom of the ribs then place back in the oven on an oven-proof plate for about 5 minutes to glaze the sauce.
  • Spread some mayonnaise on the bottom bun then add the ribs. Top with more BBQ sauce if desired. Add chopped onions.

How I Smoked a Beef Brisket on my Pit Boss pellet Smoker

This was my 6th Beef Brisket smoke in my Pit Boss Pellet Smoker. I think it has been about a year since I’ve done one of these bad boys.

Undeniably, the flagship of Texas BBQ, the brisket is highly revered in barbecue circles. Before I describe my method, I feel I should clear up some terminology.

True “barbecue” means long, slow, cooks at relatively low temperatures. Compared to “grilling’ which is fast cooking over very high temperatures. The difference between the two is wide, although they have two things in common: heat and meat. I don’t correct people who claim to be good “barbecuers” because they can grill a steak or a hot dog on the BBQ. And, I do not get into debates with purists barbecuers about method or ingredients. Kind of like religion and politics…I don’t go there!

A few years ago, I got a Traeger pellet smoker. I had it a few years and used it a lot. At some point, I decided to sell it to my neighbor since I wasn’t using it anymore. Low and behold, I got the itch again to “smoke” and decided to buy a Pit Boss pellet smoker. I love it. Very similar to all the other pellet smokers on the market, but, in my opinion, it is built better than some.

By the way, the other topic for barbecuer debate is whether or not pellet smokers are a viable part of the BBQ/smoker community. Most competitions now do allow pellet smokers, some put them in a separate division. But some competitions don’t have a stand alone division, and, believe it or, pellet smokers do just as well in blind taste testing as traditional wood BBQ smokers. Let’s get to my 12-hour brisket smoking journey. The times are approximate.

This is the Austin, Texas style of brisket cooking. No seasoning other than salt and pepper. And no BBQ sauce while it cooks. Savor the flavor of the beef.

Ingredients:

  • One approximately 10-12 lb beef brisket
  • Kosher salt and Coarse black pepper

Directions:

  • This first part is pretty subjective, so bear with me. Trim the brisket. Many briskets from grocery stores are trimmed of excess fat already. But, they may need some attention. Try to keep the fat cap around 1/2 inch or less. Also, it may need some trimming to make it more uniform. Check out any number of videos on line and watch a grill master do it. The one I got, a Prime Beef Brisket from Costco, didn’t need a lot of trimming. But, I did take a 12 lb brisket and cut it down to about 10 lb by removing excess fat and some trim for grinding burger meat later on. I also saved the fat to render for beef tallow.
  • Season your trimmed brisket on both sides with a 50/50 Kosher salt and coarse black pepper mixture. Don’t be shy, it’s a thick cut of beef so season it liberally then rub it in. I like to do this the night before and cover with plastic in the refrigerator. Getting up at 5am to start a brisket is hard enough…I don’t want to have to season this beast half asleep!
  • The next steps are what I use to “schedule” my brisket cooking:
  • 5:15am – Start your smoker on “Smoke” setting and letting it run for about 5 minutes to start producing clean smoke.
  • 5:20am – Turn smoker to 250 degrees. The ideal temperature is supposedly 265 degrees, but mine doesn’t not have that option or increment. Let it come to temperature, about 10 minutes.
  • 5:30am – Place the seasoned brisket on the grill grate fat side up. If you are using a traditional smoker, place the thick end closest to the heat source. Insert the temperature probe in the thickest part.
  • Monitor the heat and make sure it stays right around 250-265 degrees.
  • 8:30am – Check that the internal temperature of the brisket is 160 degrees. If not, let it go a little further.
  • 8:30am – Double wrap the brisket in butcher paper. If you don’t have butcher paper, use foil. Place back in the smoker.
  • 11:00am – Check that the temperature is 203 degrees. If it is, turn off the smoker, and let it sit for another 30 minutes.
  • 11:30am – this step seems unusual, but makes for the most buttery tender brisket…and that is what you want. Get yourself 2 old large bath towels. Wrap the brisket, still in the foil, in the two towels.Then, place the brisket is a large drink cooler, Close the lid and let it sit about 3 hours. Here is what happened when I monitored the internal temperature over the afternoon.
  • 12:00pm – 196 degrees
  • 1:30pm – 180 degrees
  • 2:00pm – 175 degrees
  • 2:30pm – 172 degrees
  • 3:00pm – 168 degrees
  • 4:00pm – 160 degrees

Don’t be tempted to open the foil or peak during this period or you will lose some valuable heat. As you can see, by 4:00pm, the internal temperature of the brisket (160 degrees) is still well about the danger zone of 140 degrees.

Before removing from the smoker, check the tenderness. Use a skewer or cake tester and insert it into the brisket. It should be butter tender.

4:00pm – at this point, depending on when you want to eat, unwrap the brisket and place inside on a butcher black, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 45-60 minutes before slicing.

Slice against the grain any way you like. Serve with slices of white bread and your favorite BBQ sauce on the side. Cole slaw goes well also!

Applewood Smoked Pork Belly

Someone asked me recently, “Just exactly what is pork belly?”. There are individuals who think it is part of the digestive system of a pig. Understandable.

It’s funny, some folks scoff at pork belly when they see how much fat it has. This, while they are pounding rashers of bacon every other day for breakfast!

This recipe was done on my Pit Boss pellet smoker (a Traeger clone is one way to explain it). Score the fat with 1 inch squares. Kosher salt and black pepper. Then rub with a sweet pork rub I made (recipe below). About 3 hours on the grill @ 225F until it hits 158F. Then wrap with foil and a little apple juice and cider for another 2 hours until it reaches 200F. A 1 hour rest on the butcher block and its done. Butter tender. Slice, shred, or cut in chunks. BBQ or no. Up to you. Me? No…its too good on it’s own!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of sweet pork rub (recipe below)
  • 1 cup of apple juice, divided
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider
  • 4 pound slab or pork belly, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch

Directions:

  • Heat your smoker to 225F.
  • With a sharp knife, score the top (fat side) in 1 inch squares. Season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. The, rub generously with the pork rub on all sides. Rub it in.
  • Put 1/2 cup of apple juice, 1/4 cup of apple cider, and 1/2 cup of water in a spray bottle.
  • Place the seasoned pork belly on the grill and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 158F (about 3 hours). Spritz with the apple juice every 45 minutes while it is cooking.
  • When the pork belly reaches 158F, remove from the grill and wrap in two layers of foil adding 1/2 cup of the apple juice to the wrap. Seal it up completely and return to the grill until the internal temperature reaches 200F (about 2 more hours).
  • Remove the pork belly from the grill and let it sit covered on the butcher block for about 1 hours.
  • Slice, shred, or cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • You can sauce with BBQ sauce at this point, but this is optional. I don’t because it is too good on it’s own.
  • Sweet Smoker Pork Rub:
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of paprika
  • 3 teaspoons of granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ancho chile powder