Juniper Smoked Garlic Pepper Ribs? Juniper? If you’ve been coming to this site for any amount of time, you’re probably seen this post: Smoke Woods and What they Pair Well With. You don’t have to smoke only with wood. In this post, I smoked ribs with garlic and onion. Still, juniper berries are not something most think of when smoking. I have no idea who suggested it, but the last time I was at Penzey’s, I remembered that someone said they smoked with juniper berries so I bought a jar which hail from Albania for some reason:
While the major exports of Albania are crude petroleum, leather footwear, footwear parts, semi-finished iron, and chromium ore, evidently the country is known for its juniper berries. If you can’t find Albanian juniper berries, don’t sweat it. There may be a difference in where you get them when you make gin, but when dropping them into hot coals, I can’t imagine there’s much difference between country of origin for juniper berries.
We’ll get back to the juniper berries. For now we need some ribs. In this case a slab of baby backs, some salt, garlic pepper, and a grill.
Juniper Smoked Garlic Pepper Ribs Ingredients:
1 slab baby backs, skinned
juniper berries for smoke
For the garlic pepper, I chose Riley’s Garlic Pepper which is a wonderful garlic pepper:
The folks at Riley’s go the extra mile to find great ingredients for their rubs. I highly recommend them.
Start off by skinning the ribs and coating the bone side with coarse salt and then give them a good dousing with the garlic pepper:
Always go bone side first when rubbing ribs so the concave of the ribs can keep the rub elevated off the cutting board and save a reapplication of the rub. Flip the ribs over and repeat:
That little nugget at the bottom of the picture was hanging off the end of these baby backs. That will be a snack for the pit master.
Now prepare the grill for two zone or indirect grilling which means coals on one side and nothing on the other. The meat goes on the side with no heat and smoke wood over the Rockwood charcoal. There’s no better charcoal out there. It’s available at BBQ specialty shops, independent grocery stores and butcher shops in and around St. Louis and a few other cities.
In this case, I’m using my kamado grill so the meat goes over the plate setter which deflects the heat:
Rockwood charcoal is simply the best we’ve ever used. It’s available at BBQ specialty shops, independent grocery stores and butcher shops in and around St. Louis.
Target internal temperature of the grill is 300 degrees. This sounds high to some of you, but it’s not really, despite the name: High Heat Method. Most people slow smoke at 200-225. I smoke at 300 with fantastic results in a fraction of the time. Baby back ribs smoked at 300 are done almost always in two hours.
Now toss in some of the juniper berries:
I only threw in maybe a teaspoon onto the coals which produced little visible smoke but plenty of juniper aroma. Having never smoked with them, I was leery of overdoing it. I closed the lid, set my vents to keep a constant temp and went inside for a cold Kräftig lager.
At about an hour on the grill my ribs are looking fantastic:
The meat is pulling back from the bones well but I’m not smelling any juniper, so I added another teaspoon of berries. After another hour, my ribs are ready to come off the grill:
Don’t expect any sort of smoke ring. We’re not using that kind of smoke:
So how were they? Most people like savory beef and sweet pork. Sometimes I really enjoy a savory pork and this fit the bill. The garlic pepper is seductively savory and the juniper adds a nice accent of smoke that is unlike anything else I’ve used. Should I do these for others, I would add some brown or turbinado sugar to the ribs before grilling them. I would probably do a third teaspoon of juniper berries as well. The smoke was pretty mild. The recipe card below will have the added juniper berries. In the end, I enjoyed these juniper smoked garlic pepper ribs. They were an excellent change of pace. Try them for yourself.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below or shoot me an email
- 1 slab baby backs, skinned
- coarse salt
- garlic pepper
- 3 tsp juniper berries for smoke
- Skin the baby back ribs and cover the bone side with coarse salt and the garlic pepper
- Flip over and repeat on the meat side
- Prepare the grill for two zone or indirect grilling with coals on one side and nothing on the other
- Target temperature inside the grill is 300 degrees
- Place the ribs on the side with no coals and sprinkle a teaspoon of the juniper berries on the other side
- After about 30 minutes, add another teaspoon of juniper berries and again at the 60 minute mark
- After about two hours, the meat will have pulled back from the bones about ⅓ - ½ an inch and the ribs are done
- Remove from the grill, slice and serve