In this recipe post, we'll be learning how to smoke ribs on the Pit Barrel Cooker.
Back in October, the Pit Barrel Cooker company sent me one of their cookers to try out and after having used it a few times, I'm nothing short of impressed. I started out with some Texas style pork ribs which is what we are going to do for our annual Christmas ribs post.
I also cooked the Thanksgiving turkey in the barrel and it was a raving success.. if you want to take a look at that recipe you can see it HERE.
You can also check out my review on the Pit Barrel Cooker if you want to.
I used baby backs but you can also use St. Louis style ribs which are just spare ribs that have been trimmed, squared up and when it's said and done, they look a lot like baby backs.
I decided to step outside of the box this Christmas and do them up Texas style using my sugar free, savory rub called, Jeff's Texas style rub. It's available as a premium recipe or already made in a bottle to make it easy on yourself.
I'm dying to show these to you so let's get started!
You can do as little or as much prep as you want on pork ribs and they'll still turn out pretty darn good in my opinion. For instance, some people remove the plastic-like skin on the bone side and some don't. In fact, I do sometimes and sometimes I just don't worry about it.
I think removing it makes for a slightly better eating experience but the experience is still pretty great even if it's still there. So it really just comes down to preference.
I left the skin on these.
To remove the skin, just place them bone side up on a cutting board and pry up on the outside layer of skin with a knife or even just your finger. Once you have something you can grab onto, use a paper towel for better grip or you can use catfish skinning pliers to grasp it and pull it clean off.
Those who follow my recipes and emails know that I've been dry brining everything.. well, of course! It's the neatest thing since sliced bread and the results I am getting are too good to continue only with steaks and chops. These ribs are no exception, adding salt to the outside just a few hours makes a huge difference in the flavor and juiciness of the finished product. Leave them overnight for even better results.
So what is dry brining?
It's merely sprinkling kosher salt on meat and leaving it for anywhere from 2 hours to overnight or longer. During this time the salt draws moisture to the surface where the salt and moisture combine into a salty slurry. The salty mixture is then absorbed back into the meat making it more flavorful. The process also locks in the moisture so it doesn't lose as much moisture during the cooking process.
This is very much science and physics but you don't have to understand all that or even believe it right off the bat. You'll be able to taste the difference and that's all that matters!
The recommended application is ½ teaspoon per pound of meat but I usually don't measure precisely. I just add it till it looks right.
Only the top or meaty side of the ribs is all that is needed.
Here's the ribs just a minute or two after the salt has been applied. See how the salt is already drawing moisture to the surface and how it's affecting the salt granules?
Place the ribs in the fridge uncovered to let the salt work on the meat. Leave them at least 2 hours but overnight is even better in my opinion.
No need to rinse after the dry brining process is finished.
I also sometimes add mustard or some other condiment or oil to help the rub to stick but the ribs already looked moist on the outside when I pulled them out of the fridge so I just applied the Texas style rub (purchase formula | Buy Texas style rub in a bottle) right then and there.
I used about 2 TBS of rub per rack of ribs since the Texas style rub* has more salt than the original rub. With the original rub, I apply a LOT more.
Some of you may be very interested to know that the Texas style rub does not use sugar or sweetener of any kind.
Insert a PBC hook into each rack of ribs. I go through the meat between the 2nd and 3rd bone.
Leave the ribs sitting there while you go get the smoker ready.
I am using the Pit Barrel Cooker (see my review here) for these but you can certainly cook these in any smoker, on the grill or even in the oven if you don't have a smoker or a grill yet.
For the Pit Barrel Cooker (PBC) we are going to fill the charcoal basket level to the top with charcoal briquettes then remove 40 of them and place them into a charcoal chimney.
Light the charcoal chimney following the instructions on THIS PAGE.
While the charcoal is getting ready, lower the charcoal basket of unlit charcoal down into the barrel.
Once the charcoal is ready, pour it into the top of the charcoal basket and spread it out a little for more even heating.
Feel free to drop 3-4 chunks of wood on top of the lit charcoal for some extra smoke. I used several chunks of mesquite. You can use the same or even hickory, pecan or whatever you have available will work great.
Place the lid on top and put the steel hanging rods into place in the PBC.
The PBC is ready to cook– Go get them ribs!
Hang the hooks in the ribs on the steel rods. These 2 racks will not take up much space and you can hang up to 8 racks at a time in the PBC. Enough for a crowd!
Replace the lid and leave them alone for at least 1.5 to 2 hours.
At the end of 2 hours mine had reached around 190°F per my handy dandy Thermapen as measured right between the bones in multiple places.
You can tell that the ribs get a little darker on the ends since they are just inches away from the fire. If this is bothersome, you could just cut the ribs in half.
I decided to sauce them a little. This is completely optional and you can easily skip it if you prefer.
If you aren't going to sauce them, just leave them in the cooker until they reach 195°F as measured with a thermometer right between the bones.
I don't like to overdo it but sometimes a little glaze of flavor is what the doctor ordered and in this higher heat environment I knew it would caramelize perfectly.
On the PBC, the manual states that you can crack the lid open a little for extra heat for things like caramelizing or for crisping up poultry skin.
I did this for a few minutes after saucing and hanging them back in the cooker.
The ribs look perfect!
After resting them for about 10 minutes or so, slice them up right between the bones.
Serve the ribs to your guests and enjoy some of the best ribs you've ever had– homemade!
Follow the cooking instructions on one of these other traditional rib recipes: