How NOT to Smoke Ribs

While I tout my grilling prowess on this site quite a bit I am also human and I do screw up from time to time. This is one such case back in November of 2008…

As the weather got colder the local grocery store was blowing out their ribs. I bought a couple packs of spares and threw them in the freezer. A few weeks later it was to be a warm Saturday so I thawed the ribs out on Friday, pulled the membrane from the back and marinated them in Apple Cider, garlic, black pepper and some Worcestershire Sauce in a ziplock. Here they are going into the fridge for the evening:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

And the next day we have the ribs laid out and ready for a rub:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

You can see some rib tips that will be what I call chef’s prerogative during the smoking process.

Here are the rub ingredients:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Normally I do a paprika/garlic/brown sugar (or turbinado sugar) rub. I decided to change it up a bit here and experiment with cumin, curry, chili powder, turbinado Sugar (or sugar in the raw), ground cinnamon, granulated garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. As usual I never add salt to my rubs. I add a pinch of coarse salt to each side of the ribs independent of the rub and then apply the rub as you see here:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

I made enough rub to slather the meat and more for later when I cover them with syrup and more rub before putting them in foil to create a nice bark.

While I prepared the rub I had my charcoal in a chimney getting hot. No need to haul out the big horizontal smoker for two slabs so I just used my grill manufacturer that shall not be named with charcoal bins on each side to keep the temp down and cook/smoke the meat indirectly:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Then I put my grill grate on that has flip up ends which makes it MUCH easier to add fuel and smoke wood throughout the grilling process which for this session was planned to be a 6 hour process – 3 hours smoking, 2 hours foiled with syrup or honey and more rub, and 1 more hour with no smoke just to harden that amazing bark:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

I shut the lid and let the temp come down as displayed on my remote thermometer:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

I was looking for anywhere between 200 and 225 on this so 217 will work just fine.

For this session I used a rib rack that holds 5 slabs. One note about rib racks, a quick spritz with some Pam prior to putting the ribs on will make clean up a lot easier. Here are the ribs nestled in the rack with a couple of apple chunks in each charcoal bin:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

I placed the lid on the grill and opened the vents to allow the smoke to escape. This raised the temp to 223 with more oxygen hitting the fire:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

And here we have an absolutely beautiful sight with the smoke billowing out of the grill:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

So far so good. I came about an hour later and the temp had dropped below 200. I added some more coals and another couple blocks of wood and opened the vents to get the temp back up. And this is where it went south. While waiting for the temp to come up I went inside to get a refill of my beer and then got distracted by something. A couple hours later I went back out to check the grill. To my horror here’s what I saw:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

I had no idea how long it had been at 288 and assumed it was much hotter for a while. I opened the lid and the wood was on fire rather than smoking. I had a bark already, but not the kind I wanted. I decided to forgo any more smoking to try to salvage the ribs and foiled them

Despite overcooking them right away I went through the process I had planned on originally. The rest of the steps got shorter. So I took one slab and put it bone side down on some foil:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Then I slathered the meat with syrup:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Then I applied more rub. In this case I was hoping the fresh rub would mask the burnt rub:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Then I put the other slab on top of the first slab, again, boneside down and repeated the process:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

Meat pulling away from the bones is normally a good thing. After 5 hours, not 3 hours of low and slow grilling. Here we have the second slab slathered in syrup and more rub:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

After about an hour in the foil I pulled them and put them back on the grill, sans foil. If I were just to serve them at this point the rub would be a gritty, greasy mess. So back on the heat for a little while to firm up the bark.

In the end the ribs were ruined. This is not how the ribs should look:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

And here they are sliced:

How NOT to Smoke Ribs

The ribs were fall off the bone and the ribs in the middle of the slabs weren’t bad. The ones on each end of the slabs were inedible.

What I would do differently:

  1. I don’t own a kamado. I can’t walk away from the grill for that long. If the temp had dropped I could’ve easily recovered from that by increasing the cook time but the temp spiking is a fatal error that is pretty tough to recover from.
  2. I probably should’ve just slathered them with syrup and skipped the extra rub. That way I wouldn’t have had to put the ribs back on the heat at the end to firm up the bark. The last thing those ribs needed was more heat.

Nobody is perfect. Especially the Grillin Fools. I’m just glad I got those ribs on sale. Paying full price would’ve really pissed me off for neglecting them.

Since I wrote this post in 2009, I have gotten a lot better at making grilled ribs. See for yourself. Grilled ribs recipes.

As usual, if you have any questions about this recipe, please email me or simply leave a comment below.

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Original Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to college with a suitcase and a grill where he overcooked, undercooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thousands of failures, and quite a few successes, nearly two decades later he started a website to show step by step, picture by picture, foolproof instructions on how to make great things out of doors so that others don’t have to repeat the mistakes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V - #GrillPorn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Briskets from @saltlickbbq here in Downtown St. Louis at @qintheloustl! So many of you say… https://t.co/1WT51dZ2yy https://t.co/jWocXJffvE - 10 hours ago
Scott Thomas

Latest posts by Scott Thomas (see all)

one comment

Nice info.. Thanks

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *