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In family cookouts, grilling or smoking meat has been the highlight. One of the most memorable experiences that makes an outdoor BBQ fun is when you don’t use utensils and just have your bare hands digging into flavorful meat like smoked baby back ribs. There’s a real thrill when using your hands and teeth to gnaw on bones. Smoking food takes a lot of time and effort, so it may as well be a food that you really enjoy.
And while cooking smoked meat may seem like a challenge, there are multiple ways to simplify the way we can cook smoked meat like the crowd favorite baby back ribs. If you’re planning to invite people over, you can elevate the way you cook smoked baby back ribs.
Baby Back Ribs vs. Spare Ribs
Baby back and spare ribs are typically mistaken as a part of the meat that’s interchangeable with spare ribs, but their locations are completely different. Baby back ribs come from the part of the big that is more centered towards the spine. Generally, this is the cut of meat that is preferred despite being smaller. This cut of the rib isn’t as fatty and has more meat per rib when compared to the spare ribs.
The spare ribs come towards the portion of the pig that is located towards the belly of the big. This is generally a part of the ribs that aren’t as desired but still serves as a great meat option for barbecues.
Most people would choose the baby’s back ribs in many cases. The spare ribs might technically be bigger, but you’re losing out on key parts of the rib such as having a more lean meat. Some might like that there’s more fat, but generally, ribs are already fatty enough, making the fat on spare ribs feel unnecessary.
How to Cook the Perfect Smoked Baby Back Ribs (with Bourbon BBQ Sauce)
For the dry rub
- 2 racks of baby back ribs
- Brown sugar
- Chili powder
- Mustard powder
- 2 tbsp. salt
- ½ lemon (squeezed)
For the bourbon BBQ sauce (as an option)
- Apple juice
- Dark brown sugar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Worcestershire sauce
- Liquid smoke
- Whole grain mustard
- Spices (onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper)
If you want to cook a good row of ribs that you can actually be proud of, first you’re going to need a smoker.
Before you do anything, you’re going to need to begin by taking the tissue off of the back part for the ribs. For the initial part of the recipe you’re going to need a rub, which is going to be the defining part of these ribs. In a bowl, mix one part salt, garlic powder, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, cinnamon, mustard powder, salt and squeeze half of a lemon. Lather the rack of ribs with your mixture of spices. After that, you can decide to wait until the ribs dry brine overnight, but you can also smoke them immediately (at least let the rub seep in for 15 minutes).
Next, you’re going to want to put the ribs in your smoker for around an hour and 45 minutes with a liquid smoke of your choice. Check the temperature using your handy food thermometer to ensure you are cooking the ribs thoroughly. Additionally, you can check out our article about getting the perfect temperature of baby back ribs. After this happens, the bone should slide right off the meat and you should let it rest for a while.
Once the ribs are ready to work with you want to apply the first layer of sauce. The sauce can be store-bought or you can make a sauce yourself. For your barbeque sauce, you want to use bourbon, chili powder, apple juice, whole grain mustard, a quarter cup of brown sugar, a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of worcestershire sauce, a splash of water, cayenne, and garlic powder.
For your first layer of sauce glazing, you want to spread it all over the ribs and let go on in the smoker. It’s not something that you should be conservative with. A lot of the sauce is going to be reduced anyway so be generous with it when you broil the ribs.
Once you’ve reduced the sauce on the ribs, take them out of the oven and glaze on another layer until that layer is reduced. At this point, the ribs will be completely finished and you only have to cut and serve them.
Health Benefits of Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Smoked baby back ribs are favorites in outdoor BBQ, but did you know this dish is packed with nutrients? If you’re really skinny and trying to put on some mass, the fat and protein of the ribs can really help you in that aspect.
Ribs also come full of micronutrients that can help you feel better on a day-to-day basis. Nutrients such as Thiamine, Vitamin B6 and 12, Zinc, and many others help maintain muscular-skeletal integrity of your body.
The 3-2-1 Smoking Method
You can make ribs using the 3-2-1 method by smoking them as usual for three hours and then wrapping them in foil to continue cooking for two more hours. The foil is removed during the final hour to allow the meat to form the crust known as bark. This technique is easy to master without the need for fancy tools or extensive knowledge. All you need is aluminum foil and patience. You can take care of other things while you wait for the ribs to cook.
The ribs are exposed to heat and smoke during the initial stages of the cooking process. This is when the ribs take on that rich and savory flavor all barbecue lovers love. This is a crucial step that you should not rush. You want the meat to absorb as many smokes as possible.
Some may be skeptical about wrapping meat in foil, this technique is called The Texas crutch. The foil will steam the ribs, making the meat tender and juicy. You’ll also get more bang for your buck because it separates the meat from bone. Although the final hour can be frustrating, it is just as important as the rest. You’re giving the ribs the perfect combination of texture and taste by heating them directly.
Alternative Smoking Methods
There are a variety of other methods of smoking baby back ribs. Some pitmasters have modified the 3-2-1 method to their liking, some have incorporated more wood material to their smoking so the wooden scent can seep into the ribs, some chefs have even added other steps of the 3-2-1 method to make sure the meat is tender at the exact heat and temperature they intended, and some don’t even recommend the basic 3-2-1 method at all.
At the end of the day, you can start from the basic method in smoking meat and then personalize it along the way as you cook more and more dishes.
Overall, this smoked baby back ribs recipe is easy-to-cook and iis a lot of fun to eat, especially for outdoor BBQ. We recommend it to anyone who wants to get a taste of Texan cuisine. Chances are, there are going to be a lot of other people who can help guide you through the process of making ribs over the summer and this recipe is a great way of getting started out.
People in the MidWest are also going to be more likely to have smokers and other cooking devices that make the process of making ribs a lot better. You shouldn’t have it all the time, but it’s definitely worth the effort that everyone else goes through.
The food can take up to a day in preparation and the dry rub has nearly an infinite amount of combinations. The sauce also takes the ribs to a whole new level. Pitmasters recommend that you experiment flavors on both the dry rub and sauces to explore new tastes for your smoked baby back ribs recipes.
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