So if you know me, you know that our annual block party requires me to pull out the old Weber Bullet Smoker and smoke a ridiculous amount of meats. My usual go-to is brisket, if I have the energy for the whole 14-hour ordeal. Sometimes, I’ll go with pork shoulder because I can start that early and be done by 3pm. But this year I went for baby back ribs. And I don’t regret it.
Ribs are much easier to handle, quicker to smoke, and cleaner to serve to people who are largely standing around, usually without a plate. I went for baby backs over short ribs, on the advice of my friend Jonathan Schnapp. Baby backs have a lot less fat, no “knuckle,” and are much more forgiving in terms of temperature and cook time.
You’ll see a lot of “3-2-1” or “3-1-1” recipes for ribs, which call for 3 hours in the smoker, 1 or 2 hours of the racks wrapped in foil (sometimes referred to as “the crutch”), and then 1 last hour out of the foil. Apparently, this gives you a fall-off-the-bone type of rib, but at the same time renders it a mushier and less bite-worthy experience. I prefer a sturdier baby back rib that melts in your mouth, but clings a bit to the bone. So I went with the recipe below.
I followed this Mike Scrutchfield recipe pretty closely. Here’s how the process went down:
Defrosted the 7 racks of ribs (~22 lbs) the day before in the fridge.
8am: clean bbq.
8:15 build chimney full with coals (about 5 lbs).
8:30: trim ribs, remove weird sheath from bones.
8:45: dust pork with rub (dust it, don’t cake it).
9:00: put the smoker together, pouring 5lb of new coals over the hot ones from the chimney; fill the water bowl; adjust vents. Let the smoker get up to 250+ temp for at least 45 minutes.
9:40: add two fist-fulls of wood chips on the coals.
9:45: throw the ribs on — 4 racks on the upper grill, 3 on the lower. The grill will be hot (well over the ideal 225 degrees), but it will cool down when you take the lid off and add meat.
Chill. Don’t open the smoker. Just keep the temp steady at 225.
12:30: flip the ribs and open bottom vents, raising the temp to 275 degrees.
2:15ish: ribs are done. Paint them with sauce (see below), and throw them on a hot (gas) bbq to caramelize, 3 minutes on each side — DO NOT BURN! Ok, maybe burn a little.
Rest for 1/2 hour; cut and serve. It’s easiest to divide the rack with the bone side up; cut as close to the bone as possible so that each rib has a nice, wide chunk of meat on one side (rather than a little on both).
Next time I do this, I’m going to try a couple different sauces to glaze the ribs, but I’ll definitely be using this one again.
Cook’s Illustrated — Hoisin, Garlic and Ginger Glaze
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp juice from one lemon (maybe more)
1.5 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tsp oil (added more oil plus chili oil)
2 medium garlic cloves
1 tsp minced fresh ginger (maybe more)
I also added a little butter to round out the flavor
Mix the soy, ketchup, honey, brown sugar, lemon juice, and hoisin sauce. (Careful with the ketchup and hoisin — I needed to add more ginger and lemon to counteract their cloying sweetness; would rather add more brown sugar or honey if necessary next time)
Heat oil in medium sauce pan on medium high heat until shimmering. Add garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the soy mixture and bring to a boil for one minute. Cool. Can be stored up a week in the fridge.