Onion Cola Ribs and Brats for Memorial Day

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Onion Cola Ribs and Brats for Memorial Day

Memorial day is one of the biggest outdoor cooking days of the year and while you have lots of options, I am going to show you how to make my onion and cola smoked spare ribs as well as smoked brats and smoked boudin.

I hope all of you have a wonderful time with family and friends as you think upon and honor those no longer with us.

Look no further than the smoking meat newsletter archive to find plenty of smoking meat recipes as well as methods and help on how to smoke meat in your smoker or grill.

Helpful Information
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5-7 hours
  • Smoker Temp: 250°F
  • Meat Finish Temp: Done when tender
  • Recommended Wood: Mesquite and cherry Mix
What You'll Need
Prepare Ribs for Seasoning

Rinse the ribs under cold water and lay meaty side up on a cutting board


Remove any extra clumps or layers of fat then flip the rack of ribs over to bone side up.


Remove the flap of meat that runs along the bottom of the ribs if has not already been trimmed off by the butcher. This helps it to cook more evenly.

Remove the membrane (thick plastic stuff) by prying up with your fingers or a sharp object such as a butter knife. Once you are able to get ahold of it, use a paper towel or some catfish skinning pliers to get a good grip and pull it clean off. If it tears, just get another good hold on it and finish the job.

Removing this membrane is important as it allows the smoke to get to the meat better and makes for more enjoyable eating later.

Season them up

I usually apply a thin coat of yellow mustard to the ribs but decided this time to use apple cider vinegar to wet the surface instead. I am not sure this little bit of vinegar will tenderize the ribs like some say, but figured it would not hurt.

Sprinkle my original rub (purchase the recipe here) onto the bone side of the ribs. More on the meat and a little on the bone part for presentation.


Let the ribs sit for about 5 minutes to allow the rub to mix with the apple cider vinegar and get that familiar “wet” look.

Note: you can flip the ribs over and season the other side now or you can wait and season them after placing the ribs on top of the onions and garlic in the next step. Doesn't matter when.. as long as you do it.

Prepare the Onion/Garlic Base

Slice 2 onions into ¼ inch slices and separate the rings into the pan.


Place 8-10 garlic cloves all over the pan in with the onion rings.


Pour cola (I used the cheap stuff) to about ½ the depth of the pan.


Now it is time to cut the rack of ribs in half and lay one of the halves bone side down on top of the onions.

If you decide to use St. Louis cut or even baby back ribs instead, you'll probably be able to fit more than just a half rack into each pan.


Pour some apple cider vinegar onto the rib half and use a brush or your hands to spread it all over the ribs making sure the entire surface is wet.

Note: you can definitely use yellow mustard if you'd rather. It works great and while I like to experiment, there's something to be said for, “if it's not broke, don't fix it”.

Sprinkle on a generous amount of my original rub (purchase the recipe here) onto the top (meaty) side of the ribs.

Let it sit for a few minutes while the rub and vinegar combine to form a paste. (this is a great time to go get the smoker ready).


Note: For brevity, I did not show the 2nd pan.

Prepare a 2nd pan in the same way as the first using the other half of the rack of ribs, 2 more onions, 8-10 more garlic cloves and more cola.

Get the Smoker Ready

Normally we smoke at about 225°F and if you can't get any hotter than this, that is fine. If you CAN go hotter, I recommend shooting for about 250°F to cause the cola, onions and garlic to steam into the ribs. This will obviously cut down on the amount of time you would normally cook the ribs.

Get your smoker lit or plugged in and setup to maintain 250°F or as close to that as you can muster.

I recommend having enough smoking wood to last at least 4 hours if possible.

Once your smoker is preheated and maintaining the coal temperature, you are ready to move forward.

Smoking the Ribs

Place the pan of ribs on the smoker grate.

If your smoker has a water pan, use it and keep it full throughout to promote a nice humid environment in the smoker.

Continue adding smoke for at least 4 hours or until the ribs are completely done cooking.

Note: After a few hours the onions and garlic will cook down and create a lot of liquid in the pan, you may want to remove the ribs from the pan at that point and just lay them directly on the smoker grate. If you want to wrap the ribs in foil for a couple of hours, you can certainly do that as well after about 2.5 to 3 hours.

For ribs, we do not use temperature to determine when they are done however, I did check the ribs with my trusty Thermapen when they were super tender and I was reading about 195°F .. perfect temperature for pork ribs in my opinion.

I recommend bending the ribs, pulling the bones apart and even going so far as to taste one of the ribs to allow you to make a determination of “done”. They are done when they are as tender as YOU and YOUR family likes them.

There are NO RULES about the tenderness of pork ribs unless you are competing in a barbecue contest. If you like them overdone (falling off the bone) then that's the way you should do them.

Make them just as tender as you like, you and your family are the judge at your own house 😉

I highly recommend using a Thermapen to check the temperature of the ribs, In my opinion, they are pretty darn near perfect at 195°F. Checking the temperature of pork ribs is difficult to do unless you have a thermometer like the Thermapen that has a very small diameter probe that will fit between the bones and give you an accurate measurement.

Serve the Smoked Ribs

When they are done, you can wrap them in foil, then in a towel and hold them for several hours in a cooler if you need to or you can go ahead and slice them up and divvy them out.


If you want to use baby ribs you can but they will get done about an hour sooner usually. Check for tenderness and/or use a Thermapen to check between the bones for 195°F. I recommend the non-meaty baby backs as that extra meat on the ones marketed as ” extra meaty” is just loin meat which is leaner and tends to dry out when cooked beyond 145°F.

If you don't like onions, try using cobs of corn or even potatoes instead to hold the ribs up off the bottom of the pan. The corn/potatoes will benefit from the cola and the rib juices as well.

You can also substitute an equal amount of sliced sweet peppers for one of the onions.

If you want the ribs to be more tender, consider removing the ribs from the pan after about 2.5 hours and wrapping them in foil for 1.5 to 2 hours. Afterwards, remove the foil and lay them on the smoker grate for 45-60 minutes unwrapped to firm up a little. This is also a great time to add some of my original barbecue sauce (purchase the recipe here) if you like sticky ribs.

Want to try something besides cola? Go for it.

How to Smoke Brats and Boudin

Brats and even links of boudin are very easy to smoke, but you can easily overcook them and make them tough or dry them out. Follow these simple instructions, and they will turn out perfect every time.

Prepare for Smoking

I like to place the brats and/or boudin on a Bradley rack. You can also just lay them directly on the smoker grate rounded side up (that was a joke).

Pictured at left are german style brats, the two links at top right are boudin and the ones at bottom right are American style brats.


Smoking the Brats/Boudin

Preheat the smoker to 225°F

Make sure you have enough smoking wood for 2 hours.

Smoke the brats for exactly 2 hours and they are done.

The boudin is done when the skin is bite through crispy but the inside is not dried out. This is usually about 2 hours but I have went as long as 2.5 hours before.

Throw on an extra link and try it at 2 hours. If it's not done, go a little longer.

Note: this is one of the great reasons for smoking boudin instead of steaming them, microwaving them or any of the other ways that folks heat them up. The skin, when smoke cooked, is completely edible, has a slight crispiness to it and there is no need to peel off the skin.

Finishing Up

Serve and Enjoy!

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Printable Recipe

Onion and Cola Smoked Spare Ribs
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
5 hrs
With a base of onions, garlic and cheap cola, you can infuse spare ribs with lots of flavor while allowing the steam from the onions and cola to keep the ribs nice and moist while they smoke.
Course: Entree
Cuisine: Hot Smoking
Servings: 3 -4
Author: Jeff Phillips
What You'll Need
  • 1 rack of spare ribs
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • 2- liter bottle of cheap cola
  • 3-4 medium yellow onions
  • 16-18 cloves of garlic
  • Jeff’s rub recipe
  • Jeff’s sauce recipe
Prepare Ribs For Smoking
  1. Rinse ribs under cool water
  2. Remove any large areas of fat on meaty side of ribs
  3. Flip the ribs over and remove the membrane from the bone side
  4. Wet the ribs with apple cider vinegar
  5. Apply a generous coat of Jeff's rub to the bone side
  6. Turn the ribs over and apply the vinegar and rub to the meaty side
  7. Cut the rack of ribs in half
Prepare the Onion/Garlic Base
  1. Slice two onions into ¼ inch slices and separate the rings
  2. Place the rings and 8-10 garlic cloves in a large foil pan
  3. Pour enough cola to fill the pan to about ½ full
  4. Lay one of the rib halves on top of the onions and garlic
  5. Prepare a 2nd pan in the same manner for the other half of the ribs
Smoking the Ribs
  1. Set up smoker to cook at about 250°F
  2. Place the pan(s) of ribs onto the smoker grates
  3. Cook for 5-6 hours or until they ribs are as tender as you like them
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2018-06-14T03:33:37+00:00By |18 Comments

About the Author:

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!


  1. Patrick Sherman October 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    When we tried this recipe, the pan kept filling all the way up with liquid. I thought the onions were supposed to hold the ribs above the liquid, not in it. I believe I followed the recipe exactly… What am I doing wrong?

  2. Robert Rosen September 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    The coke and ribs recipe was great. I am repeating the same recipe this weekend with a 5 lb brisket. I am doing it in the oven at 250 and was wondering about the cooking time. If you can’t reply I guess 195 to 200 completed internal temp would be good. ??

  3. Ray June 14, 2014 at 9:52 pm - Reply


  4. Danny May 28, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

    What about the veggies? Do you discard them or can you eat them? Maybe use them in a side dish?

  5. Tim May 27, 2014 at 9:11 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff
    I purchased your rub and sauce recipe well over a year ago and have had great success with both. I adjusted the rub recipe to suite my family as I kept getting the ” too hot for me” nag. i made it simple – just make a double batch but only put in what would normally go in a single batch of the ingredients that make it hot like pepper etc. i also reduced the salt to half.

    I smoked two racks of pork side ribs with this onion cola recipe on the weekend and they were fantastic. I must say they may be the best ribs I’ve ever done. They were so tender they were off the chart. Great job Jeff and many thanks for making me a backyard hero!
    Tim from Calgary

  6. Curt May 26, 2014 at 6:00 pm - Reply

    Jeff for the cke and onion do you leave them in the pan for the whole 7 hrs or you take them out and finish on the grate? I have them on as we speak and have an hr to go . Man do they look and smell good

    • Jeff Phillips May 28, 2014 at 8:24 am - Reply

      On this recipe, I leave mine in the pan the entire time but It would not hurt anything to move them to the grate for the last hour or so if you wanted to do that.

  7. doug May 24, 2014 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I have been snoking for 4 hours on a green egg. will this be a fall of the bone type.

    • Jeff Phillips May 28, 2014 at 8:20 am - Reply

      These may not be as “fall off the bone” tender as if you did them 3-2-1 style but, if you want that, you can put some foil over the top of them after about 3 hours. Leave it on for about 1-2 hours then remove the foil for the last hour or two.

      Check the tenderness after about 5 hours and when they get as tender as you like them, they are done.

  8. Curt Christensen May 22, 2014 at 11:23 am - Reply

    For brats, we like to sauté a bunch of onions then add two or three cans of coors depending on the number of brats. We let the brats boil for 15-20 minutes and then put on the grill (now on the smoker). Do you think I need to adjust my smoking time?


    • Jeff Phillips May 22, 2014 at 11:48 am - Reply

      I would reduce the smoke time to around an hour, try them at that point and if they need more, you can easily keep them going.

      If you want more smoke flavor, simply setup the smoker to run cooler (180-200°F) and then smoke them for 2 hours as usual.

      This will cause less cooking to take place in that time frame but the same amount of smoke.

    • doug May 24, 2014 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Trying the ribs St Louis style. been on the greenegg for 4 1/2 hours. is this o be a fall of the bone in 7 to 8 hours at 225.?

  9. John May 22, 2014 at 11:14 am - Reply

    Hi Jeff – Can the ribs be substituted for another meat and still get the cola and onion infusion? I was thinking something like a Boston Butt

    • Jeff Phillips May 22, 2014 at 11:44 am - Reply

      You can definitely use other types of meat and it will work in the same way. Pork butt would work, brisket, even the brats I mentioned would work well laid on top of the bed of onions.

      Let your imagination run wild!

      • George July 10, 2014 at 3:26 pm - Reply

        Hi Guys — just a data point. My ribs cooked this style turned out so well i decided i would try with brisket. I didn’t think it transfers over to brisket as well. I reduced about 9 bottles of Mexican coca cola (real cane sugar!) and mixed in some Jeff Rub, turned it into a paste and marinated a 13 lb brisket overnight in it. Then, did the onion/garlic bed thing, filled large pan, added coke, and set on smoker for ~14 hour cook until ~205 degree internal temp. Others seemed to like, i decided i would probably never go back to not injecting. Hard to beat the beefy flavor in a beef base-based injection/marinade. Will try Jeff Texas Rub next time.

  10. paticao May 22, 2014 at 8:56 am - Reply

    can i use apple juice instead of the cola?

    • Jeff Phillips May 22, 2014 at 11:42 am - Reply

      Absolutely! You can use other types of soft drinks, tea, coffee, juices, water, beer, wine, etc.

      The idea is that the liquid will steam and infuse flavors into the meat.

  11. Jim Nolan May 22, 2014 at 6:56 am - Reply

    Thank you Jeff for your recipes, we have used several and enjoyed each. We have BBQ ribs using Dr Pepper soda for many years. It has a unique almost woody taste. You may want to try it in place of cola. This being Memorial weekend, what better time than to smoke some ribs and try out your recipe.
    Thanks again.

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