I know most people when they think of smoking ribs they think of hickory, mesquite, apple or cherry. Not the fruits, in the case of the latter two, but the wood. And 99% of the time I do to, but I’m here to show you how you can smoke with something other than wood – namely onion and garlic that will infuse the meat with a flavor that seems so obvious once you taste the results.
Have you ever had a White Castle or Krystal belly bomber? They cook the burgers over a bed of onions so the meat is infused with that flavor. This is the same concept, only on a grill with both onions and garlic. The aroma alone is enough to try this. Your neighbors will be stopping by in droves to see what that heavenly hint of onion and garlic in the air is coming from.
Let’s start with the herbed ribs. I did two slabs of baby backs that I brined overnight.
2 slabs baby back ribs, membrane removed
1 quart apple juice
1/4 cup salt (skip the salt and just marinate in the rest to be paleo)
3 tbsp minced garlic
10 turns of black and white pepper
Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs and put all brine ingredients in a plastic bag. Churn around the bag until the salt dissolves and put in the fridge for 3-12 hours. I did these overnight.
The next day, they were removed from the brine and patted dry with paper towels:
If you want these to be paleo, then skip the salt in the brine and just do the rest of the ingredients as a marinade.
2 slabs of baby backs (brining optional)
1/2 cup garlic infused olive oil (regular oil can be used instead, in which case, add a tbsp of minced garlic)
1 tbsp Italian herbs (in this case Penzey’s)
1 onion, thick sliced
2 ears of garlic, cloves separated
Slice the onion. Don’t worry about leaving the skin on:
Take the garlic cloves out of the ear and put in a bowl, again, don’t worry about the papery skin:
Place the onions in with the cloves and submerge in water:
Set that aside and for about 30 minutes. You could leave them in the water for a couple hours if necessary.
Combine the oil and herbs in a bowl:
Now brush the herbed oil onto the bone side of the ribs first:
Then hit the meat side with the oil:
Always apply sauce or a rub to the bone side first so that the curve of the bones will keep the rub or sauce up off the cutting board when you flip them. If you do meat side first, when you flip them over to do the bone side, the sauce or rub will stick to the cutting board when you go to put them on the grill and require a third coating.
Here are my two slabs ready for the grill:
I set up the grill for my standard two zone grilling, coals on one side, meat on the other:
There’s a third slab on the grill (bottom right) which I was using to develop another rib recipe. It’s not quite perfected yet, so more on that later.
Now, instead of throwing on a chunk of wood to smoke the meat like I normally do, I toss a handful of the onion and garlic onto the coals:
I closed the lid and my grill leveled off around 290 degrees. My goal was between 275-325 degrees and a cooking time of 2 hours. This is called the high heat method, but medium heat is more appropriate. If I were doing spares, I would increase the cooking time about 30 minutes.
The smoke from the onion and garlic is practically invisible. I took a bunch of different pics with a bunch of different settings on the camera and none of them showed the smoke at all. The smoke is really, really faint so don’t let that worry you. You will definitely smell the onions and garlic smoke or vapor.
After 1 hour, here’s what the onion and garlic look like:
And here are the ribs:
A close up of the ribs on the left:
As long as I have the lid open, time to hit those herbed ribs with some more oil:
I’m a firm believer of doing all I can every time I open the lid to reduce the number of times I have to open it. The temps have been holding steady and my coals still look pretty good, so I’ll just add some more onion and garlic:
At 90 minutes the temps started falling so I decided to open the lid to add more coals. The ribs look like this:
The ribs are coming along nicely. Check out these on the top shelf:
I want to focus on a particular aspect of the above pic:
That’s some nice separation on the end of those ribs.
I hit the herbed ribs with more oil:
And back to why I opened the lid in the first place, more coals and some more onion and garlic:
Now, I’ve got a bit of a problem. I’m in the back yard, where I have no cover and this is what it looked like out front at the 1 hour mark:
And 30 minutes later (when I cracked the lid to add coals) it looked like this:
I rolled the grill around front, to the edge of my front porch so at least I could stay dry while I grilled:
I timed it well, because within five minutes, my grill looked like this:
And here’s out front:
The 2nd and 3rd pictures above this one, shows that my grill has an offset smoker box, yet I put the coals in the main chamber. Why? Because I can’t get the temps in the main chamber above about 200 if I use the firebox, so I rarely use it anymore. Now that I have a two toddlers, I just don’t have the kind of time to smoke ribs for 6 hours. And the product is fantastic after just 2.
Speaking of after 2, are the finished herbed ribs:
I think either of these methods would be too subtle for ribs. The herbed oil doesn’t add a ton of flavor by itself, and the smoking with garlic and onions doesn’t add a ton by itself either, but the combination of the two makes an excellent rib. If you’re a lover of heavily sauced ribs, this might not be the recipe for you, but if you are looking for something different that really shows off the flavor of the pork itself, then this is your recipe. I really enjoyed these, and Andy and Mike at work, who I tested them on the next day, agreed. This recipe is also gluten free.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email.
- 1 quart apple juice
- ¼ cup salt
- 3 tbsp minced garlic
- 10 turns of black and white pepper
- 2 slabs baby back ribs, membrane removed
- ½ cup garlic infused olive oil (regular oil can be used instead, in which case, add a tbsp of minced garlic)
- 1 tbsp Italian herbs (in this case Penzey’s)
- 2 slabs of baby backs (brining optional)
- 1 onion, thick sliced
- 2 ears of garlic, cloves separated
- Combine all the ingredients in a bag, shaking well to make sure the salt is dissolved
- Place in the refrigerator for 2-12 hours
- Remove from the brine, rinse clean and pat dry with paper towels
- Mix the oil with the herbs and brush onto the bone side of the ribs
- Flip the ribs over and repeat on the meat side
- Prepare the grill for two zone/indirect grilling with coals and smoke wood (or in this case onion and garlic) on one side and nothing on the other
- The target temperature of the inside of the grill is 275-325
- Place the ribs on the side with no heat and a layer of onion and a handful of garlic cloves on the side with the coals and close the lid
- Add more onion and garlic when the feint smoke dies down and brush more oil on the meat side each time you open the lid
- When the meat pulls away from the bone a half inch, the ribs are done (about 2 hours)
- Remove from the grill, let rest for a few minutes, slice and serve