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.
- 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
- 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.