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Smoked Baby Back Ribs - Tender and Frustration-free

There's a lot to love about these smoked baby back ribs considering they usually have a good bit of meat on them, they cook up in around 5 hours and there's not a lot of fat to deal with once it's all said and done.
Course Entree
Cuisine Hot Smoking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Servings 4 -6
Author Jeff Phillips

Ingredients

  • 1 or more slabs of pork baby back ribs
  • Jeff’s original rub recipe ((also called Jeff’s Naked Rib Rub) (purchase recipes here))
  • Jeff’s Barbecue Sauce Recipe ((if you like them sticky) (purchase recipes here))
  • Heavy Duty Foil
  • Thermapen Mk4 ((it has a very thin probe that works perfectly on checking temp between the bones))

Instructions

Step 1: Rinse and Dry

  • Give the ribs a good rinse to remove bone fragments and anything else that shouldn’t be there. Pat them dry with a paper towel and lay on the cutting board.

Step 2: Remove Fat/Clean ’em up

  • I prefer to remove the membrane but it is certainly not worth a lot of time, effort and frustration. If you have trouble with it, you can skip this step and still have some of the best smoked ribs in town.
  • I have smoked ribs with the membrane and without the membrane and as far as tenderness, moisture and flavor, there’s not a big difference in my opinion either way.
  • Most baby backs will not have a lot of fat but if they do, spend a few minutes removing any of it that is easy to get to with a sharp knife. I had to remove a little bit on these but I did not obsess about it.
  • Any extra flaps of meat sticking out? Slice it off and set it aside.

Step 3: Rub down

  • After you have spend minimal time doing a little prep work to the ribs, get that batch of my rib rub that you mixed up earlier and sprinkle a good coating on the top of the ribs. Just enough so that you can no longer see the meat under the rub.
  • Go take a break for about 10 minutes and wait for the few little granules of salt in my rub to start pulling the juice to the surface.
  • After a few minutes, the top surface of the ribs will start to look wet. This is the moisture in the ribs being pulled to the surface where it will mix with the rub and create a paste.
  • After about 10-15 minutes of waiting, I like to give it another good sprinkle of the rub for good measure and because my rub recipe is high on flavor and LOW on salt, this is not a problem ?
  • After this second sprinkle, go get the smoker ready.. those ribs are ready for their destiny!

Step 4: Smoke and Heat

  • Set up your smoker for cooking at about 225-240°F.
  • I used pecan smoke for these but use whatever smoking wood that you like and have available.
  • Once your smoker is preheated and you have selected the wood you will use and it is producing a little smoke, you are ready to place the pork ribs in the smoker.
  • Place the rack(s) of ribs directly on the smoker grate boney side down, meaty side up and quickly close the door or lid to your smoker. Leave them this way for about 2 hours.
  • After 2 hours, either wrap them in foil or place them into a very large foil pan covered with foil over the top. Both options work equally well but the foil pan is easier and a little more leak proof. Leave them in this configuration for 2 hours in the smoker at 225-240°F.
  • Please note: This foil stage is where the ribs get super tender. If you do not like super tender ribs then you will need to adjust the amount of time the ribs are in the foil. Some folks only leave them in the foil for 1 hour to create ribs that are less tender.
  • It is now time to unwrap the ribs from the foil or remove them from the foil pan and place them back on the smoker grate at 225-240°F for about 1 hour. This is also a great time to start painting some sauce on them if you are going for sticky ribs. If you are using my rub, you won’t need sauce but you may still want some and that is perfectly fine.
  • This 3-step method of cooking pork ribs is known as the 2-2-1 method for smoked baby backs. (for spare ribs it’s 3-2-1 with an extra hour at the beginning)
  • If you need some metrics for making sure that the ribs are actually ready to eat: Pork is safe at 145°F internally but pork ribs are perfectly tender at 195°F. Feel free to check that with a Thermapen or other digital meat thermometer in that meaty area right between the bones, The bones should be showing about ½ inch or more due to the meat pulling back, and the rack of ribs should bend nearly in half when held up at one end with a pair of tongs.

Step 5: Slice and Eat

  • Here’s the easy part.. remove the ribs from the smoker, turn the rack upside down on the cutting board and slice between the bones with a sharp knife.