The Most Delicious Kind: Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Smoked Baby Back Ribs are some of the most delicious kind of ribs that you can make at home. Because of the way it is prepared, you tend to get a distinct flavor that is unlike what you could get if you were to cook it over a stove. Everyone who owns a grill is always on the lookout for recipes and tips to help them master the art of cooking a good set of baby back ribs, and we are here to spell it out for you.
Baby back ribs are not from a baby pig, as one would think. They come from the part of the pig where the ribs meet the spine. The reason they are called baby back ribs is that they tend to be a lot smaller and shorter in length than baby back ribs. There are approximately ten ribs in a baby back rib, which span anywhere between three to six inches wide. These pieces of meat tend to be more expensive as compared to traditional spare ribs, but are significantly meatier and have a lot more flavor to them.
About Baby Back Ribs...
The kind of ribs that you use is also an important factor contributing to a good plate of ribs. There are a few determinants that one must pay attention to when choosing a baby back rib for their recipe. Ideally, the piece that you select should have most of the loin meat removed. The bones of the piece should also not show since there is a likelihood of them breaking off during the cooking process. Try to avoid any meat that has additives and is pre-marinated, as that can interfere with the taste of the meat. Don’t opt for any meat that has salt and vinegar already on it, as that can throw the flavors off, resulting in a sub-par stack of baby back ribs.
Cooking a good plate of Baby Back Ribs is an art in itself. It requires a little bit of time and patience, but at the end, you are bound to get a dish like no other. There are several preparations of baby back ribs that you can opt for, depending on the kind of flavor that you like and what spices you have on hand.
Before you start to prep your ribs, you need to have the ingredients on you. Having good quality ingredients can elevate the flavor of your meat better than ones that aren’t of good quality. Investing in good spices is always advised, especially if you want to perfect your dish and want to get the best out of every bite that you take.
Ingredients For This Recipe
- Two racks baby back ribs (about 3 pounds each)
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- One tablespoon chili powder
- One tablespoon paprika
- Two teaspoons ground cumin
- One teaspoon mustard powder
- Kosher salt
- One lemon halved
- One apple, quartered
- 1 cup apple juice or cider
- Two tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- Vegetable oil, for brushing
- One spray bottle
Step #1: Prepping The Spice Mix
The first thing that you need to do to get started on your smoked baby back ribs is to prepare the spice mix. This is one of the easiest steps. You need to mix the light brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, mustard powder, and salt in a bowl. Make sure that there are no lumps in the mixture and they are all mixed well.
Step #2: Prepping The Baby Back Ribs
The next step is to coat the entire dish with the spice mix. However, the mix in its current state is dry, and will most likely fall off the meat. To get it to stick onto the meat, you need to rub the entire surface of the meat with a lemon. Make sure that it is moist in every part before you start to put your spice mix. Rub the mix well into the meat and make sure that every piece of the meat is covered evenly. If it isn’t, the meat, once cooked will taste uneven, with certain parts tasting strong, while others are left bland.
Step #3: Marinate Your Meat
During this step, you can sit back and relax because all you need to do is place the meat onto a large baking pan and leave it in the fridge for around two hours. If you want the flavor to sink into the meat and if you are prepping your meat well in advance, keep it in the fridge overnight to get the most flavor out of it.
Step #4: Start Your Fire
This step needs to be done at least one hour before you cook your meat. To do this, you need to set up your grill with wood or whatever another alternative you choose. Wood does work the best since it helps give the meat that good old smokey flavor. But before you set your wood ablaze, add the chopped apple to it. This adds a little bit of additional flavor to the meat and helps elevate the taste of the dish. Let your grill heat up. The approximate temperature that you can start cooking at is around 250 degrees. Anything below that will make the meat harder to cook. Half an hour before you are ready to cook your meat, remove it from the refrigerator so that it can get to room temperature. By now, the spice rub should be set well onto the meat.
Step #5: Prepping The Juice
In a spray bottle, add some apple juice, Worcestershire sauce, and vinegar. Shake this up well and make sure that the liquids are mixed adequately with each other.
Step #6: Cook Your Ribs
Before you place your ribs on the grill, you need to moisten it up with a little bit of vegetable oil. You can apply this with a brush to make sure that the meat doesn't stick to the grill and gets cooked well. Place the ribs on the grill, with the bony side of the piece facing down. It’s now time to break out that spray bottle and spray the entire piece of meat with the liquid mix that you have made. Once again, be sure to cover the whole surface of the meat to prevent the meat from being flavorful only on one part, and bland on the other. Cook the meat for a total of one hour, but don’t eat the ribs just yet, as there are still a few more steps that you need to do before you are done!
Step #7 Change The Wood
Open the grill and change the wood that is the smoker. The wood by now would have lost its flavor, and changing it up makes it so that the meat can cook at the most optimal rate. Don’t forget to also add the apples for that extra woodland flavor.
Step #8: Flip Your Meat
You will once again have to repeat the process that you did when you first put in your baby back ribs. Start off by once again lubricating the grill with vegetable oil so that it doesn't stick to the grill. Place the meat on the grill, this time, with the bones facing upwards so that the meat is pressed down onto the grill. Bring out your spray bottle once again and cover the entire surface with the mix that you made. Make sure that it is spread evenly across the entire surface to avoid getting an uneven flavoring. Close the grill once again, and let it cook for one hour.
Step #9 Repeat The Process
Baby back ribs take a total of four hours to cook in total. After you have let both sides cook for one hour each, you have to repeat the entire process of cooking them again. Make sure that both sides have been cooked for at least two hours to prevent your meat from being too uncooked. At the end of the entire process, the meat of the ribs should be dark brown. You may notice that the meat is starting to shrink away from the bones. This is completely normal and is nothing to be alarmed about. After you have cooked your meat for about four hours, remove it from the grill and transport it onto a serving or baking dish. Let it sit for around five to ten minutes depending on the outside temperature before you slice it up and get ready to serve it.
How To Know If Your Meat Is Done
There are a number of ways in which you can find out if your meat is done, other than slicing it up and seeing of course. One of the ways to check is with a cooking thermometer. Poke your tool into the thickest part of the meat to check the internal temperature. If it is above 145 degrees on the inside, it is most probably ready. Anything under that and your meat will require a little bit more cooking before it is ready to eat. Another way to check is with a simple toothpick. Once again, poke this into the thickest part of the meat. If the toothpick comes out without any residue on it, your meat is ready to be served.
If you’re a fan of ribs, to end this tutorial, I have another quick and easy recipe in this video: Barbecue Pork Ribs: Melts in your Mouth Easy Recipe for Pork Ribs
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Baby Back Ribs Different From Spare Ribs?
While baby back ribs and spare ribs are both cut from the pig’s rib section, they come from different areas. Spare ribs are a fattier cut because they come from the pig’s belly section. They are sometimes called St. Louis ribs if they have been trimmed. The baby back ribs are cut from the loin section, which makes them meatier than spare ribs.
Can You Substitute Spare Ribs or St. Louis Ribs for Baby Back Ribs?
The cooking time is relatively the same for each type of ribs so you can make substitutions. Because the ribs are cut from different sections of the pig, you will have a different eating experience, though. If you don’t mind a fattier meat product, you can substitute spare or St. Louis ribs for baby back ribs.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Baby Back Ribs?
When smoking baby back ribs at 225 degrees F, it should take about 4 to 5 hours until they are fully cooked. You want the thickest part of the rack to register 145 degrees F on an instant read meat thermometer. If you are worried about the ribs getting too much color or burning, you can wrap them in aluminum foil for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
How Do You Know When Baby Back Ribs are Done Smoking?
You can use an instant read meat thermometer to tell when baby back ribs are finished cooking, or you can tell by touch. By touch, you will know when the ribs are done cooking by twisting the bones. If the bones twist freely and move around easily, then the ribs are finished cooking. If there is a lot of resistance, then they should be smoked for more time.
What Is the Best Temperature to Smoke Pork Ribs?
Pork ribs are best smoked at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees F. This allows a lot of smoke flavor to infuse into the rib while letting them cook low and slow for tenderness.