Signature Pork Ribs:
1 Full Rack of Pork Spare Ribs
1 Pouch Rae&Ryan’s Pork Rib Rub
The perfectly seasoned and cooked rack of ribs seems to be an elusive achievement for the home cook, but with a few simple steps and the right seasoning you’ll be amazed at what you can do!
You need a charcoal or pellet BBQ for the best results with ribs, but you can make modifications to the recipe for a gas grill and still get a tender end result. Ribs can be done in as fast as 2-3 hours or with a little more patience in the 5-7 range you can really develop great flavors and tenderness. Ribs take a medium amount of time and effort, but are pretty low maintenance and easy to cook.
You need to buy a full rack that comes as either a single or pair in a bag. When you open the ribs give them a good rinse and pat dry before placing in a disposable pan that will FIT IN YOUR FRIDGE.
Ribs can range from meaty to skinny so how much rub I put on is something the meat tells me, not what I decide to use. When every side is covered and the rub won’t hold and just falls off then you’re all set. Ribs are not very thick so they don’t need as much rub as large roasts. I pat down and press the rub into the ribs and try not to smear it around.
Start with the fatty side down and rub the lean side first. I usually apply the rub twice per side in intervals so that I can see where the rub got soaked up and add a little more to compensate. On the lean side, gently press the rub into the meat to get it to set as best as you can. Don’t actually “rub” the seasoning in, you’ll just end up with more on your hands than the meat. Give the roast about 5 minutes to set and then flip it over and apply to the fatty side in the same manner. After the ribs are fully rubbed place a wire rack that fits your disposable pan under the roast and place the ribs fat side up on the rack. At this point, the ribs need to go into the fridge uncovered for a minimum of 24 hours with 48-72 being optimal. This dry aging rest period allows the salt to interact with the meat and draw out moisture, which interacts with the rub and then the meat draws the moisture back inside. You’ll see that very little moisture is actually lost in the bottom of the pan after the resting period and that moisture is not necessarily lost. This osmotic exchange of moisture from the interior, to the surface, and back inside again helps draw the flavors of the rub deep into the center of the ribs. Placing the ribs on the rack helps the rub to set and adhere without becoming soggy on the bottom of the pan. The airflow created by sitting on a rack is very important!
You want to place the ribs on your grill/smoker with the fat side up so that it will melt down and hydrate the meat, not drip off into the pan. Fat is your friend with BBQ, don’t be afraid of it! A dedicated smoker is easiest for cooking ribs but it’s not too long of a project that you can’t easily take the time to manage a fire in a traditional charcoal grill/pit. You’re going to want to grab a couple basic spray bottles from the store for grilling. For traditional fire grills you need one with water to control flare-ups and for this recipe, you need one filled with apple juice. I don’t buy anything fancy for this, I’m not spraying my ribs with first press cider, but I also don’t grab one that is all high fructose corn syrup. A basic, real apple juice, is fine and this is too keep the ribs moist and juicy. Ribs can dry out fairly easily if not kept moist and smoke sticks better to wet foods, so win-win.
See our Summer Cooking Blog Post for a breakdown on grill types and where each one excels best. For this recipe, a pellet smoker or offset heat BBQ works best, but I’ll list the modifications for gas grill users. Use what you have and use your skills to hit the goals laid out below.
I personally like Apple or any fruit wood for ribs and most things pork. My go-to is a blend of Apple and Hickory, sometimes I will go straight Apple. Cherry and Pecan also work very nicely. Mesquite can be overwhelming on pork and delicate foods, I save that mostly for beef. Choice of wood really does come down to personal preference so feel free to experiment, but keep in mind that pork usually benefits from medium-strong wood flavors like Hickory, Apple, and Cherry.
Set your smoker to the smoke setting or build your offset fire to smolder a low heat smoke. Goal temp here is 150-180 with strong and frequent smoke intervals. The first 2 hours of smoking is the most important. Once the exterior of the meat reaches 120 degrees it will no longer absorb smoke flavor because the protein molecules have set, the door has closed, and you are only smoking the rub or sauce at this point. You want the ribs to go straight from the fridge to the grill so they have a long buffer to heat up while smoking. In general, a wet rub or sauce will absorb more smoke than a dry surface will and you want to keep your ribs moist until the last 30-60 minutes
You are going to smoke for 2-5 hours depending on how consistent your fire method is until they look like they smoked enough to kick up the heat. Our goal for this stage is for the rub to start to look cooked and the fat has begun to melt. At this point kick the heat up to 225-275 for 2 hours. It’s ready to move to the next phase when the bark has developed and the rub has darkened. As soon as it is done it needs to go back into that (cleaned out) disposable pan with the wire rack and wrapped up tight with good quality aluminum foil. Put the rest of the apple juice from the spray bottle into the bottom of the pan before you wrap it up. For me what really makes the difference on a rack of ribs is steaming them at the end with the leftover apple juice. This can be done on the grill, BBQ, or in your oven. Once they are wrapped up use any oven method you want that can pull off a consistent 350 degrees for two hours more.
The basics of your timeline here is to smoke the ribs for 2 hours, cook them on medium/high for 2 hours and then steam them for two hours. This develops the smoke and bark flavor, cooks the bark to an optimum texture and then the steam gets the ribs hot enough to melt the fat for that pull off the bone deliciousness. Often when done steaming I can just slide the bones right out and pick up a boneless rib to enjoy. When the meat starts to pull away from the bone and shrink down then the fat has melted and you’re good to go!
For Gas Grill Users:
You have to reverse the timeline of the method when cooking with a high heat grill. Trying to smoke on a gas grill is more effort than it is worth, but the tools and methods are out there if you want to employ them. My suggestion would be to pull the ribs out of the fridge and give them an hour at room temp to warm up. Meat grills better when it is warm and the moisture has begun to sweat on the meat. Sear the ribs on medium/high heat, taking care not to burn the rub or lose it all to the grill. Only move it and turn as few times as necessary. If your rack has a big arc to it you may want to cut the rack in half or thirds to make it easier to maneuver. Sear the ribs and place them back on the rack in the disposable pan and steam in the same way as explained above. You’re going to want to cook the covered ribs with apple juice on 225 for 2 hours and then on 350 for another 2 hours. When the meat starts to pull away from the bone and shrink down then the fat has melted and you’re good to go!