Hello and welcome to this edition of the smoking meat newsletter! Over the years, I have had a lot of questions concerning the use of a brine on pork ribs and while I have brined ribs, the results were inconclusive and I wanted to take another stab at it.
I decided to use a coffee brine to give the ribs some added dimension and I even went so far as to introduce some coffee grounds into my original rub (purchase recipes here) to bring some cohesiveness to the flavors.
If you haven't tried it, coffee is an excellent flavor to add to meats and the coffee flavor definitely came through in these smoked baby back ribs.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Brine Time: 4-6 hours
- Cook Time: 5 hours
- Smoker Temp: 225°F
- Meat Finish Temp: 195-200°F
- Recommended Wood: Apple
- 2 racks of baby back ribs
- Jeff's rub and sauce (purchase recipes here)
- 2 Large foil pan(s)
- 32 oz coffee brine (recipe below)
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My rub recipe and sauce recipe was designed for pork ribs and when you see how easy they are to make and how amazing they taste, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
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Make the coffee brine using:
- 32 oz (1 quart) of brewed coffee
- 1/4 cup of Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup of brown sugar
- 1/4 cup of Jeff's rub recipe (purchase recipe here)
However you make your coffee in the morning will work. I used a Keurig coffee maker and just made several cups and poured them in until I had enough. (quick and easy)
Pour the coffee into a tall pitcher then mix in the salt, sugar and rub and stir real well until everything is dissolved. Some of the ingredients in my rub recipe will not dissolve but they will leach great flavors into the brine.
Once the brine is made, add a few cubes of ice to cool it down and set it aside.
Remove the ribs from the packaging and give them a good rinse under cold water.
Lay them on the cutting board.
Remove that thick plastic-like skin on the back called the membrane
Note: Here's a new and better way to remove the membrane on ribs:
Pry up the skin in the middle of the rack of ribs and pull straight up once you have a good firm grip on it.
Use your other hand to hold down on the rack of ribs.
Tears less and comes off a lot easier.
Note: You can also use catfish pliers to pull the membrane from the ribs.
Once the membrane is off, they are ready to go into the brine.
I like to cut the ribs in half when I am brining them to make them fit into gallon-sized bags.
This also makes them easy to work with.
Once the ribs are in the bags, pour enough brine into each one to cover the ribs.
Seal them up pressing out as much air as possible.
Lay them in a pan in case you get a leaker.
Note: I am only brining (2) of these racks of ribs. The 3rd rack of ribs will remain un-brined and will be used as a taste comparison once they are all done cooking.
Place the pan of ribs in the fridge for 4-6 hours with 6 hours being better if you can do it.
Once the ribs are finished brining, remove them from the brine.
Discard the brine.
The racks/pans make it real easy to prepare the ribs and then carry them out to the smoker without having to handle them too much.
If you have plenty of time, you can apply my rub directly to the wet ribs. If you are in a hurry, apply a light coat of mustard first to help the rub to stick.
I had plenty of time 😉
Bone side first then wait until it starts looking wet (so it won't fall off) then flip them over meaty side up.
Apply rub generously to the meaty side and once again leave them alone until they start getting that “wet” look.
Want to go a little further with the coffee theme?
Mix it together real well and ta-da!
I think you WILL like it!
Upper bag is my regular rub recipe, the lower one has coffee added to it. You can see the difference
Folks have been adding coffee grounds to meat rubs for a very long time but I just tried this recently with my very own rib rub recipe and it really works well with the coffee brined ribs.
Once the ribs are rubbed down real well, they are ready to go on the smoker and get the royal treatment!
Ribs are pretty versatile and they can be made to turn out really good regardless of whether you have a really expensive rig, an old junker that you found at a yard sale or anywhere in between.
Maintain about 225-240°F indirect heat and apply smoke and you are good to go.
Heres the plan, you can just put the ribs on the grate, smoke them for about 5 hours and they will be very good but I do have a lot of folks who ask me how to get that really, tender rib where the meat easily pulls free from the bone.
Just remember 2-2-1 when you want a slab of super tender baby back ribs
And I'll walk you through this easy process.
Step 1 – Place the Bradley racks or Weber grill pans with the ribs on the smoker grate and let them cook for 2 hours with plenty of smoke (apple is recommended). You can also just place the ribs directly on the smoker grate.
Step 2 – Wrap the ribs in foil (or place them in a foil pan and cover tightly with foil) Add ¼ inch of liquid to the pan to create a little steam. (apple juice, water, chicken broth, coffee, almost anything) Place back in the smoker at 225-240°F for 2 hours. No smoke is needed since they are wrapped up.
Step 3 – Remove from pan or foil and place them back in the smoker on the Bradley racks and let them cook for an additional hour to firm them up a little and form a little bark (that delicious brown stuff on the outside of meat that's been cooked or grilled.). Smoke is optional.
Alternative for Step 3 – Throw them on a very hot grill and let the high heat give them a good char. Paint on some barbecue sauce if you like sticky ribs. I usually do a rack of sticky ribs and a rack of just dry rubbed ribs to suit everyone's taste.
When the ribs are finished, you should see some good pullback of the meat from around the bones and they should be as tender as you like them.
Cut them up into individual pieces and call dinner.
These ribs never even made it to the table. The folks at my house grabbed meaty ribs and threw down bones like a bunch of barbarians. I have to admit, I had a few or 9 myself!
The brined ribs were better textured and more moist than the non-brined ones which is what one would expect.
I could taste the coffee but it was subtle and while it did not overpower the taste of the ribs, it did give them some extra depth which I enjoyed.
I think you could probably brine these overnight if you wanted to with no problem
The brining process did not make them salty in the least.
If you try this, I'd like to hear about it if you get a chance.
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