Smoked Ribs, 3-2-1 Style
Planning a wedding is exhausting. Every time that I think I’m taking one more step ahead, I find that the devil is in the details and I realize that I’m still farther behind than I’d like. Every week I have meetings with yet another vendor, or I find myself trudging along to three more stores to find that perfect base for our centerpieces, despite the fact that I don’t care if it’s the PERFECT base, I just want an affordable centerpiece that suits the venue and doesn’t look like it was put together by six year olds with macaroni, white paste and safety pins.
We have priorities though, and there are a few things that I’m not willing to compromise on. The first is, obviously, the food. We need to have good food. No, in fact that’s still a lie; we need to have GREAT food. There will be no “Chicken Supreme” at our wedding, and if I have to stretch our budget a bit to get exactly what I want, well, that’s where it’s going to happen. I want to see the Spanx split. I want to witness our groomsmen patting the food-babies in their bellies. In short, the food is a top priority and constant worry for me.
Our second priority is the music, because despite the fact that I’m an awful dancer with wiggly knees and flailing elbows, I’ve been to enough weddings to know that when people dance they’re having a good time. I want people to have a helluva good time. If we’re going into debt together for the sake of this g.d. wedding, it is imperative that people dance. However, because “debt” doesn’t necessarily mean “crushing and ridiculous debt from whence we will never recover”, I’m still willing to forsake a band in preference of an amazing DJ.
We met with a few people before we picked our DJ, and I’m struggling to refrain from telling you about the one who made us sit through a 3.5 hour PowerPoint presentation on his services (including notes on the “homework” we would need to do, such as reading chapters from a couples’ therapy book that I would rather stab my eyes out with a fillet knife than flip through). What I have learned, however, is that I’ll shop around as long as it takes, but without fail I always end up picking a vendor that doesn’t try to sell me anything, and appeals to me on a personal level. Such was the story with our DJ.
There’s just something about a self-identified “foodie”. We can almost always sniff out a fellow food-friend from a mile away. A close girlfriend of mine had recommended this particular gent after hearing him at a gala birthday party a few months before. More importantly, she remembered his details, because she was so impressed with his smooth blends and the diverse music selection that kept people dancing all night long. I’m always a bit hesitant when it comes to recommendations, but I trust my girl and so Mike and I met with this DJ at his home. We walked in and it smelled like cinnamon. The afternoon sun streamed through the windows, and he opened by apologizing for being a bit tired; he had just played for an amazing wedding the night before at a fabulous venue….which was our venue….with a bride named Tina…who was half Middle Eastern and half Raging Hellion. Huh……
I’m only moderately superstitious though, and despite the fact that we were off to an auspicious start, I needed more. I needed to hear more about his MUSIC, his STYLE, his PRICE among other things. And then, midway through a conversation, he says, “Oh yeah, my girlfriend and I are total foodies. When we moved in here, before we even unpacked or bought a BBQ, we picked up a smoker for the back yard. Because hey, SMOKED RIBS……ooh yeaahhhhh.”
I was sold.
Now don’t worry, I wasn’t totally indiscriminate with our DJ selection. I pestered him with questions in exactly the way that you would expect me to, I checked out his music selection and then harassed him for yet more information, and I dug up everything that I could about him on the internet. Thankfully, there was nary a poor review or rabbit fetish to be had. I called his references, who spoke so glowingly about his abilities that I started to wonder if they were family. Then I looked at our other options and came to terms with the fact that this was all an exercise in futility, because I had long since chosen him as our DJ and the only thing missing was a deposit.
A few days later I trundled back to his house on a blustery May night with my cheque in hand, and within minutes I was chatting with his magnanimous partner, playing fetch with two histrionic but hilarious little dogs, and delving deep into his process he used for fall off he bone flavorful smoked pork ribs. When I was getting ready to leave he disappeared, returning just moments later with a small Tupperware…..it was full of his favorite rib-rub for my first smoked rib experiment. My crush just grew.
I will fully admit that I’m pretty new to the world of smoked foods and cannot call myself an expert (yet), but since Mike bought me a smoker for my birthday last November we’ve had pretty regular smoker experiments. Some were incredibly mouthwatering and successful. Others were…..less so. I set upon my first rib smoking expedition with an open mind and some good advice, and I was delighted to find that the results far exceeded the minimal effort. I can’t WAIT to smoke ribs again. Of course I’ll try different techniques, spice rubs and sauces, but there is just something so magical about your first taste of succulent smoky ribs that cements those particular ribs in your mind as the flavor you will forever strive towards. In that spirit, I leave you with my fantabulous DJ’s technique for fall off the bone super-succulent saucy smoked ribs, aka the “3-2-1 Method”.
Prepare your ribs by removing the tough membrane that runs along the bottom. I’m not an expert on anything to do with butchery, and I still haven’t managed to remove a solitary rib membrane in a single sweep, but the easiest method that I’ve found is to loosen the membrane with a short, sharp paring knife and carefully peel it back.
Discard the membrane.
Next we have the rub. If you have a delicious pork rub, well, now is the time to use it. I have a favorite pork rub, but it’s a bit sweet if you follow the ribs with a saccharine BBQ sauce. The rub that our DJ gave me was heavy with black pepper, garlic salt, onion powder and sweet paprika. There was a bit of a cayenne kick, but it was subtle enough that that the rub was spicy but not overwhelming.
Sprinkle the dry rub all over the ribs and really pat it in. I like to sprinkle on the rub (as in the picture below), leave it to set for a few minutes, and then rub in the rest. It might sound like a tedious process, but I assure you that it isn’t. The few minutes between when you sprinkle on the rub and when you go back for more is just enough time for the meat to start releasing some juices and moistening up, which means that the follow up rub will adhere in a lovely full layer.
Leave the rubbed ribs to stand at room temperature for at least two hours, or in the fridge overnight, which we both prefer. Our DJ recommended covering the ribs with a layer of damp paper towel, but I left them uncovered to develop the ‘bark’ or ‘pellicle’.
Using soaked hickory wood chips, raise the temperature in your smoker up to 225ºF and keep it as consistent as possible. Lay your ribs bone side down on the racks of a smoker and let them slowly smoke for three (3) hours.
Ah, see? That’s where the “3” comes in……
At the end of three hours smoke time, your ribs should be mostly (or entirely) cooked through and slightly caramelized. Lay the ribs down on heavy duty aluminum foil (they’ll tear right through the thin stuff. Believe me, because I did not heed the warnings and my counter is still sticky because of it) and tilt the edges up to make a little boat. Pour fresh pineapple juice over top and then fold over the tinfoil to seal the ribs as tightly as possible.
Put the ribs back in the smoker for two (2) hours. When they’re done they will look rather depressing (like the picture below) and may still feel tough, but keep the faith.
Shake your ribs dry and discard the pineapple juice. Dredge the ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce and make sure that there is some left for the final baste. Put the ribs back in the smoker for another one (1) hour.
I thought about using the store bought BBQ sauce in our fridge, but I just couldn’t do it. We made a glaze from honey, sriracha, balsamic vinegar and a good hit of wooster sauce, garlic, ginger and finely ground espresso. It was delicious. Seriously, I kept licking my fingers, thoroughly washing my hands, and then finding another reason to pick up the ribs so that I could lick them fingers o’mine some more.
Slow smoked ribs are a thing of beauty. Mop them up with the remaining BBQ sauce and you’re ready to go!
Juicy, succulent, hickory smoked ribs. All is right in the world once more.
It wouldn’t be a Tina-meal without the side dishes. We served these juicy ribs with creamy dill potato salad, blue cheese confetti coleslaw, herbed smoked corn and thickly sliced Texas Toast with enough garlic butter to give Kate Moss a heart murmur.
No matter how often I see it, this picture makes me go slack-jawed and start to drool. True story. That’s what sticky-sweet smoked ribs will do to you. Consider yourself warned.
Mike and I are only two, and if I’m going to go to the effort of smoking ribs, I’m probably going to smoke a whole mess of ribs. The good news is that ribs freeze relatively well! Wrap the ribs in wax paper and then tightly seal them in aluminum foil. Package the foil wrapped rib packets together in tightly sealed freezer bags, and they will keep well for at least three months.
Defrost the ribs fully and reheat according to the directions below.
Ribs are always better the first day. Let’s just get that out there, because there’s no sense fighting it. When they’re freshly cooked, ribs are tender with a stickily caramelized “skin” and bone-sucking flavor. The next day….not so much. That said, there are still ways to get the most that you can out of your ribs for days at a time.
- Ribs tend to dry out, so make sure that you’re keeping in the moisture.
- As ribs cool they sweat off the BBQ sauce, so a quick re-application won’t do any harm.
- Would you stick your hand in the microwave? No? Then don’t do it to your ribs.
In a fit of hog-fog, you probably put your ribs away the night before all helter-skelter. That’s okay. Take out one rack of ribs at a time and mist it lightly (or sprinkle water on top) before wrapping as tightly as possibly in tin foil, making sure that every edge is sealed.
Bake the foil packaged ribs in a 300ºF oven for 30-40 minutes, or until they are heated through.
Brush the ribs with BBQ sauce (if there is any remaining. If not, oh well, such is life) and set them under the broiler for another 2-3 minutes per side.
Slice the ribs between the bones and enjoy a feast almost as succulent as the day before!