In this recipe post, we'll be learning how to smoke ribs on the Pit Barrel Cooker.

A while back, 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 turned our fantastic!

I also cooked a 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 for the ribs but you can also use St. Louis style 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!

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Dry Brine Time: 2 hours (or overnight)
  • Cook Time: 2.5-3 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 275-300°F*
  • Meat Finish Temp: 195°F
  • Recommended Wood: Mesquite, Hickory, Pecan

*If you are using a pellet smoker, I recommend keeping it set to no higher than 225°F since this type of smoker creates more smoke at lower temps.

What You'll Need
IMG 7287 2000x1267Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Step 1: Skin (Membrane) Removal 

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.

Step 2: Dry Brine

Those who follow my recipes and emails know that I like to dry brine meat.. 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 tenderness 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 some of 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?

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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.

Step 3: Season with Texas Style Rub

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 2-3 TBS of rub per rack of ribs since the Texas style rub has a little 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.

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Insert a PBC hook into each rack of ribs. I go through the meat between the 2nd and 3rd bone.

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Leave the ribs sitting there while you go get the smoker ready.

Step 4: Set up Smoker

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.

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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.

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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!

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Step 5: Smoke Time

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!

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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.

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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.

Step 6: Sauce (if desired)

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.

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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.

Step 7: Rest and Slice

The ribs look perfect!

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After resting them for about 10 minutes or so, slice them up right between the bones.

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Step 8: Serve and Enjoy

Serve the ribs to your guests and enjoy some of the best ribs you've ever had– homemade!

What if you want to use a traditional smoker and cook them at 225-240°F?

Follow the cooking instructions on one of these other traditional rib recipes:

Jeff’s Smoking Meat Books

Smoking Meat: The Essential Guide to Real Barbecue – The book is full of recipes and contains tons of helpful information as well. Some have even said that “no smoker should be without this book”!

With more than 1000 reviews on and a rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars, it comes highly recommended and is a Bestseller in Barbecuing & Grilling books on Amazon.

AmazonBarnes & Noble | German Edition


Smoke, Wood, Fire: The Advanced Guide to Smoking Meat – Unlike the first book, this book does not focus on recipes but rather uses every square inch of every page teaching you how to smoke meat. What my first book touched on, this second book takes it into much greater detail with lots of pictures.

It also includes a complete, step-by-step tutorial for making your own smoked “streaky” bacon using a 100 year old brine recipe.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

IMG 7287 2000x1267Please note that my rubs and barbecue sauce are now available in 2 formats– you can purchase the formulas and make them yourself OR you can buy them already made, in a bottle, ready to use.

Purchase the Formulas for Jeff’s Rubs and Sauce
**Instant Download!**
Jeff's Original Rub Recipe
Jeff's Barbecue Sauce
Jeff's Texas style rub recipe

I have hundreds and hundreds of smoking recipes in every imaginable category on this site and all of them are absolutely free. The only thing I offer for sale are the recipes to my (2) amazing dry rubs and my one-of-a-kind barbecue sauce.

Please understand that this is how I support the newsletter, the website and all of the other stuff that we do here to promote the art of smoking meat.

Read these recent testimonies:

I tried the rub on a beef brisket and some beef ribs the other day and our entire family enjoyed it tremendously. I also made a batch of the barbeque sauce that we used on the brisket as well as some chicken. We all agreed it was the best sauce we have had in a while.  –Darwyn B.

Thank you for the great advice. Followed your rib recipe and everyone loved them. Used your rub and sauce. On point!  –Charles W.

Love the sauce and rub recipes. So far I have used them on beef ribs, pork ribs, and different chicken parts. Can’t wait to do a beef brisket. Texas rub is great as well!  –Peter S.

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Printable Recipe

Smoked Christmas Ribs on the Pit Barrel Cooker

Smoked pork ribs for Christmas is an annual tradition at my house and this year we are doing them with Jeff's Texas style rub on the amazing Pit Barrel Cooker.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 40 mins
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Barbecue


  • 2 racks Baby back pork ribs
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons Jeff's Texas style rub
  • 1/4 cup Jeff's original barbecue sauce


  • Remove skin on bone side of the ribs if desired
  • Sprinkle about 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt on the meaty side of each rack of ribs
  • Place the ribs in the fridge for at least 2 hours but overnight is also good.
  • Do not rinse. Apply about 2 TBS of Jeff's Texas style rub to the top meaty side of each rack of ribs.
  • Set up the Pit Barrel Cooker according to manufacturers instruction and when it's ready, hang the racks() of ribs and replace the lid.
  • Check the temperature of the ribs after about 2 hours and when they reach 190 °F, apply about ¼ cup of sauce all over (if desired)
  • The ribs are finished cooking when they reach 195 °F internal temperature and can be removed from the cooker.
  • Rest for about 10 minutes then slice between the bones and serve.