Place the spare ribs bone side up on a cutting board or down in a pan.
Remove the Skirt
First we have to remove the flap of meat called the skirt.. this piece is best removed and cooked alone to allow a more even thickness of the ribs and to allow more smoke to get to the back side of the ribs.
Using a sharp knife, hold it up vertically with one hand and slice it off as close to the bone as you can get.
Remove the Membrane
If you look closely, you will see a thick plastic-like membrane on the outside of the bones. Very carefully, get your fingers under this and with a good grip, pull it clean off. If you need a better grip, you can use a paper towel or some catfish skinning pliers.
It's not important that you get it all off in one piece or even that you don't leave any. Get as much of it as you can.
The one on the left still has the membrane, one on the right has been removed already.
Remove the Brisket Bone
There is a odd shaped bone that runs sort of diagonal on one side of the rack of spare ribs. You don't have to remove it but it does make the ribs much easier to slice when they are done smoking.
I call it bone, but really it's mostly cartilage so a good sharp knife and it will come off with relative ease.
While the meat is still laying bone side up, it's a great time to go ahead and season up this side.
To help the rub to stick really good, apply a good coat of yellow mustard all over.
Generously apply my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the bone side of the ribs giving preference to the more meaty areas and less preference to the bones themselves.
Leave them sitting there for about 10 minutes to let the rub draw moisture from the mustard and the ribs. You will see a visible change in the rub once they are ready to turn over.
Flip the spare ribs over to meaty side up, bone side down.
Apply a coat of yellow mustard to the top and sides of the ribs to make sure the rub will stick really well.
Generously apply my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) to the meaty side of the spare ribs.
Leave them sitting there for about 10 minutes to let the rub soak up the some of the moisture.
The rub will get a sort of “wet” look to it when they are ready to go on the smoker.
Note: if you have a smaller smoker such as the Smokin-it 2D Electric smoker, it may be necessary or simply advantageous to cut the rib racks in half. This will help them to fit better and as an added benefit, will make them easier to handle.
Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F using indirect heat. If your smoker has a water pan, fill it up.
If it is cold out, consider allowing your smoker to preheat for an hour or more so the metal can warm up and help reduce the heat recovery time when you open the door to insert the food.
Once your smoker is ready, the spare ribs can be placed in the smoker.
I used the Smokin-it 2D electric smoker on these but any smoker will work just fine.
I recommend using cherry wood for smoke but pecan, hickory, apple, etc. will work fine. Use the smoking wood that you have available.
In the Smokin-it 2D electric smoker, I placed 3 small chunks (about 6 ounces) of cherry wood in the smoke box.
Place the spare ribs directly on the smoker grate or if you cut them in half, you can place the halves on cooling racks or a Weber grill pan to help transport them to the smoker.
Maintain 225-240°F with smoke during this first 3 hours and keep the door/lid closed for better heat retention.
At the end of 3 hours, wrap the spare ribs in a double layer of heavy duty foil. It is best if they are not wrapped extremely tight but it is important that the foil is sealed pretty good so the steam can stay inside and help to tenderize the meat.
Some folks add juice or some liquid to the foil before closing up the foil.. I have done this as well but in my most recent experience, I get better results from omitting the extra liquid.
Once the ribs are wrapped in foil, place them back into the smoker and continue cooking them at 225-240°F for about 2 hours.
At the end of 2 hours wrapped in foil, the ribs will be really tender but the outside will be soft and mushy. To form a good crust it is essential to give the ribs another hour or so in the smoker, unwrapped.
Remove them from the foil and place them back on the smoker grate for 1 hour.
You can also throw them onto a hot grill and get this done quicker. The grill is also a great place to add some sauce and let it caramelize.
I made a delicious mustard sauce by mixing my original barbecue sauce (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled sauce) with equal parts yellow mustard.
I then placed them back into the smoker for about 1 hour to let the sauce caramelize and to let the crust firm up.
Once the ribs are finished, place them on the counter with some foil tented over the top for about 20 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.
Slice the ribs between the bones and serve right away.
Tip: place the ribs bone side up when cutting so you can more easily see where to make the cuts.
- It is ok to season the ribs with my original rub (Purchase formula here | Purchase bottled rub) the night before and it may even make them better.
- Be sure to season the skirt and brisket bone and cook them right along with the rest of the ribs, I usually do not wrap these but let them go for an hour or two and they make great snacks.
- If you decide to do baby back ribs instead, the steps are 2-2-1 instead of 3-2-1.. just one less hour in the beginning.