My husband is the chef in the family.
I can't throw food on a grill and have it come out good if my life depended on it, but his talents in the bar-B-que'ing area are what I consider a mastery level. (But I'm kind of bias, of course!)
He graciously allowed me to photograph and now post his secrets to making the most amazingly juicy, delicious smoked BBQ (bar-b-que) pork ribs I have ever eaten.
They are done with love and patience, and the real secret to his success is a Traeger Pellet Grill.
The total estimated time is about a 1/2 hour (or so to prep) and 6-hours grilling. The six (6) hours comes from three (3) hours smoking, two (2) hours wrapped in foil on the grill and one (1) hour with sauce on it.
We invited some friends over for Memorial Day so we BBQ'd four rack of pork ribs as shown in this Instructable. He's done two racks with this same recipe as well though, if you are only cooking for three or four people (or two, if you eat a lot of them like me!)
Step 1: A Secret Mix of Spices....
My husband's (now not) secret ~no sugar~ spice mixture* is as follows:
1 tablespoon (tbls) paprika
1 tbls Kosher salt
1/2 tbls onion powder
1/2 tbls garlic powder
1 tbls black pepper
slightly less than 1 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne)
*NOTE: This was the exact spice mixture my husband used on all four racks of ribs in this instructable. He suggested to me however to note that the entire mixture could be doubled if you prefer your meat with additional spices and less bar-b-que sauce. In this recipe, the ribs get thier sweetness from the sauce.
He prepared this mix a day in advance of the cooking, just to have it ready.
This is a great no-sugar rub for chicken, pork and beef as well!
Step 2: Clean and Pat Dry the Ribs
Each pack of ribs had two racks of ribs, thus a total of four racks.
My husband unwrapped the pork ribs from the packages, and washed them under running water in the sink.
We lined the cookie sheets we used with paper towels, just to start the process of removing the excess moisture. After running them under the water and laying them out over the paper towels, my husband "pat dry" the meat with paper towels.
Step 3: Peel the Tough Membrane Off
After the meat is patted down, my husband took a very sharp knife and peeled the membrane off of what is the "back side" of the rack-of-ribs, or what could also be called the bone side.
This step is absolutely necessary! Peeling the tough membrane off the ribs ensures that the smoky flavor goes through the rack.
Depending on where the meat was purchased, the membrane may or may not be removed. The membrane can be difficult to remove but it's worth the effort.
After the membrane is removed, pat the ribs one more time with a few paper towels.
Step 4: Prep & Turn on the Smoker
Using the manufacturers recommendations, ensure that there are pellets in the smoker pellet hopper prior to turning on the heat.
My husband set the smoker on the "smoke" setting with the lid open for about four (4) to five (5) minutes.
We use Traeger Hickory Barbeque Pellets.
Step 5: Secret Tip: Add the Spices
My husband uses mustard to make the spice mixture stick.
The first time I watched him do this, I blurted out, "I don't want my ribs to taste like mustard!"
He then patiently told me that he has made the ribs with mustard every-single-time (at least three previous times to that conversation) and I never noticed a mustard flavor.
Place the mustard over the ribs on one side at a time. He rubs the mustard around with his bare hand, but one could easily do it with a basting brush. (We prefer a silicone basting BBQ brush for easy clean-up.)
He then shook the spice mixture (made in Step 2) over the mustard in a pretty even coat.
This process was repeated for every side of every rack of ribs.
Step 6: Three... Hours on the Smoker
The title of this instructable is 3 - 2 - 1 ribs because of the cooking time.
The first step in cooking is the first three (3) hours that the ribs sit smoking in the Traeger smoker.
We use a Taylor Digital Cooking Thermometer/Timer to track the hours, but anything will do as long as you remember they are cooking. (We don't check the temperature on ribs.)
So what if you don't have a Traeger smoker? A regular smoker can be used at 225-degrees for the entire duration of cooking. It may take less than six hours as described in this instructable.
Step 7: Two... Wrap the Ribs With Foil & Apple Juice
Five or so minutes before the three (3) hours are up, ensure that you have foil the size of your baking sheets cut for each rack of ribs you are cooking. We use Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Foil for the bottom layer and Reynolds Wrap Aluminum Foil for the second layer.
After you remove the ribs from the grill, change the setting from "smoke" to 225-F degrees.
You will need apple juice (we recommend 100% juice for flavor.)
Cut the18" size foil to the size of the pan and place for the bottom layer.
Cut the 12" size foil to the size of the pan and place for the inside layer.
Place the meat on top of the two layers of foil, meaty side up.
The two layers will hopefully ensure that the apple juice stays near the meat, and should a hole be pricked into the inside layer of foil, "hopefully" the second layer of foil will catch it and it won't drain out.
Pull up the sides of the foil around the ribs to create a "pocket."
My husband removed the ribs from the smoker and placed one on top of the two layers of foil. He then measures about 1/4-cup (to 1/3-cup) of apple juice out and carefully pours it into his pocket created around the meat.
Continue to pull up the sides of the foil around the ribs so that you can fold the ends and the sides together around the ribs, this is where the 18-inch size foil really comes in handy. My husband wraps the ribs up kind of like a candy would be wrapped, where the top layers of foil that have met together over the meat are folded over and over to create a rolled look to it. (Hopefully the pictures describe/show the process for you.)
You will repeat this process for each rack of ribs.
When all the racks are prepared, place the foil wrapped ribs in the smoker fortwo hours. Although the temperature fluctuates in the Traeger automatically, I took a photo of the temp at 230-degrees.
Step 8: One... Cover the Ribs With BBQ Sauce
For the last hour, the ribs are cooking covered in BBQ sauce.
We use a sauce called Original Rib Rack BBQ Sauce, and we ended up only using one bottle for all four racks of ribs. It's good to have a second bottle on hand, just in case you or your guests would like extra sauce with their meal.
As the ribs only need one more hour of cooking, there is a chance, as there was in our case, that one of the racks is already falling off the bone, although it hasn't been sauced. I labeled the photos, but the first rack of ribs my husband opened was already well cooked and when he tried to move it to a pan to sauce it, the rack broke on him. We pieced the ribs back together and continued with the process of placing the sauce on the ribs.
Move the racks of ribs from their aluminum packets onto a cookie sheet or other baking sheet to sauce it. You will need a baking sheet that can fit into your Traeger BBQ. The baking sheet we have fits all four racks, but we utilized two separate sheets to place the sauce.
We also use a Silicone Basting Brush to brush the sauce on all sides of the ribs.
Once every side of the ribs have been thoroughly covered in BBQ sauce, we placed them all on our baking sheet with the meat side up.
The ribs went into the smoker for one additional hour but this step could be as short as 30-minutes or as long as an hour and a half. The time depends on how you like your ribs. The fall of the bone type is going to go longer, but if you like a little chew to your ribs, you can leave it on the smoker for less than an hour.
Step 9: Remove From the Grill and Enjoy!
My husband applied another layer of sauce on top of the ribs about 15-minutes before he took them off the smoker.
This does not have to be done and can be done after the ribs have been taken off the grill prior to serving.
In order to serve them, we cut them into two-rib chunk pieces, if we could. The ribs were pretty fall off the bone by the time we were done, which is our preference.
I tried to take many photos of the ribs to show different angles, but in my opinion, the photos can't do the flavor any justice. They are so mouth-watering, saliva educing, full of deliciousness that it's hard to describe.
Thanks for reading!