Sugar Free Smoked Pork Ribs Recipe
If you are anything like me, few flavors beckon to you like the tantalizing sweet juiciness of St. Louis Style ribs. Is there still space for them in a modern health-conscious world? When so many ingredients receive negative press like sugar and artificial sweeteners, you may despair of finding a rib rub with no sugar that will bring the delectable taste you grew up with in your smoked ribs.
Smoking pork ribs is an art like all forms of barbecuing. You will eventually find your own style of smoking meat and figure out which means of preparing ribs works best for your taste buds. A few guidelines should provide you with a head start on perfecting sugar free smoked ribs.
Preparing the Ribs
This makes any rubs adhere properly to the meat.
- Rib preparation begins the moment you select your rack of ribs. Ribs should be meaty in appearance. Choose those with an inch or more of thickness.
- Trim fat and excess meat that hangs on the sides.
- Trim the sinew, also known as the silver skin, that you see on the meaty surface of the rack. Once you insert a knife or thermometer between this and the bone, you can peel it right off.
- Season the ribs on both sides and place them in a dish or on a rack depending upon which method you use.
Seasoning is where you can vary your preparation methods. You can use a dry rub, barbecue sauce, marinade, or any combination. Some folks prep the meat with a dry rub and use barbecue sauce to bring out the flavors in the last 30 minutes of the cook.
You can apply a dry rub or a marinade up to 24 hours before cooking. A marinade is a combination of spices and an acidic liquid to help tenderize the meat. A rub is comprised of dry seasonings alone. Dry rubs are sufficient for smoked meats as the cooking process will render the meat tender and succulent. Moreover, dry rubs make it easier to obtain the coveted caramelized exterior of barbecued meat. A hybrid method marinades the ribs for a short time prior to applying a rub.
Different Ways of Smoking Ribs
Grills versus Smokers
You can use anything from a bonafide electric smoker to a charcoal kettle grill to smoke pork ribs. Much of the process is set up for you in a smoker with a compartment for wood chips. Preparing smoked ribs on a grill is easy enough if you utilize the indirect heat method.
If using a standard grill, divide it into two halves. Place your heated charcoal briquettes on one half and the ribs on a grate on the other half. You can place soaked wood chips directly on the coals. What if you have a gas grill? Place the wood chips in smoker boxes directly on the grates or in external attachments. You can even use a drip-pan. Fill it with the wood chips and cover with aluminum foil.
- 3-2-1 cooking method- Smoke for 3 hours, braise for 2 hours, smoke for 1 hour. Exact times will depend on the cut of meat. Baby back ribs do well with this method, but thicker cuts like St. Louis Style ribs may need 3 hours of braising.
- Classic slow style – Season ribs and smoke without any further disturbance other than spritzing with any number of liquids. Some sugar-free options are liquid butter, apple cider vinegar, or beer.
- Hot and fast method – you will set the smoking temperature higher (300 degrees as opposed to 225 degrees Fahrenheit) than the other methods for a faster cook. After two and a half hours, braise and wrap tightly in foil and cook for another hour and a quarter. Remove from foil and cook a final fifteen minutes.
- Oven-cooked ribs – Some recipes, like Asian Pork ribs, call for roasting rather than grilling. Or maybe on a cold miserable day you prefer to use the oven if you do not have an indoor smoker. You can still apply rubs as you normally would, wrap the ribs in aluminum foil, and cook at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for two to two and a half hours. You can finish with a few minutes on the grill or in the broiler.
The 3-2-1 method will give you fall-off-the-bone tender ribs. Slow ribs will be tender, juicy, and flavorful, but firm. If you use the fast method, the ribs will also be juicy but will not fall apart. For times when you are in somewhat of a rush, this method produces delicious ribs fast.
Using a Dry Rub for Ribs
- Assemble ingredients – whether you choose to use a spice rub for ribs recipe or one of your tried-and-true mixtures, make sure you have all seasonings ready. If you use a pre-mixed rub, choose one labeled for the cut of meat you are cooking.
- Mix ingredients – this is a pretty straightforward step. Make sure to sift seasonings and spices together well. If you use mustard, the rub will be a pasty consistency. Mix all ingredients until the paste is fairly smooth and ingredients are well incorporated throughout the mixture.
- Prepare the ribs – trim them as instructed above and rinse them with cold water. Blot them dry.
- Coat ribs with olive oil – apply a generous layer to both sides of the ribs.
- Apply the rub to both sides of the rack – you will, of course, apply the rub more generously to the meatier side. Massage the rub into the meat to attain more flavor. Do not skimp on the amount of rub you apply.
- Wrap the meat and refrigerate – you can let the rub sit on the meat like this for an hour or overnight. This allows the flavors to further penetrate the meat, but you can also apply the rub and place the ribs directly on the grill. They will still turn out delicious.
Recipe for a Sugar-Free Rub for Ribs
What you need
- ¼ cup paprika
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 4 teaspoons coarse sea salt
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- Small bowl
- Sealed container or plastic bag
- plastic wrap
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Alternatively, you can mix the rub ahead of time and place in a baggie or sealed Tupperware and store up to a few weeks at room temperature.
Rub your ribs generously, wrap in plastic, and let sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.
Cook ribs with your preferred method.
- Baking sheet
- Aluminum foil
- Oven-safe rack
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a roasting rack atop it. Rub your ribs with your homemade preparation. Cook your ribs on prepared baking sheet for three hours. Check every hour to see how the cooking is progressing. Cover with aluminum foil if the ribs seem to be drying out. When not grilling your ribs, you can add smoked paprika or liquid smoke to lend a little of the classic flavor of barbecued meat.
- Leave-in probe thermometer
- Metal drip pan
- 3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Chimney lighter
- Aluminum foil
- Wood chips – apple, cherry, or mesquite
Use a chimney lighter to heat the charcoal. Place your probe thermometer. Center an aluminum pan on the bottom grate. Stack the charcoal briquettes beside the pan away from where you will put the meat. Soak your wood chips for a couple of hours and place three-quarters of a cup onto the coals. Put your cooking grate in place. Allow the grill to reach 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the ribs and close the cover. You will probably need to add coal and wood chips every hour. This is a good opportunity to check the meat as well. Braise - Three hours into cooking(two hours for thinner cuts)apply two to three teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to the ribs and wrap them in aluminum foil. Cook for two hours. Unwrap ribs and gently replace them on the grill. Cook an additional hour.
*Pro tip – you can marinate your ribs in apple cider and lemon juice before applying the dry rub. Two hours will infuse the ribs with additional flavor and start the tenderizing process. Remember apple cider has a small amount of sugar in it.
*Pro tip – cherry and applewood can lend an additional natural sweetness to help boost sugar-free recipes.
Smoking or barbecuing ribs is highly satisfying because it is rather simple to produce tasty meat that falls apart in your mouth. You can experiment with different types of rubs, various spritzes and sauces, and several types of wood to produce your signature style.
Certain spices enable you to incorporate a sweet flavor to any rib rub no sugar recipe. Whether trying to lower sugar consumption or adhere to a paleo-friendly or diabetic diet, you can continue to prepare classically tasty baby back ribs.
Did you enjoy this recipe and find the tips helpful? Feel free to share this article with anyone who loves to barbecue and eat pork ribs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you smoke pork ribs?
We discuss a few different options for cooking pork ribs in this article. You can use the 3-2-1 method where you smoke the ribs for three hours, wrap them in foil to braise them for two hours, then smoke them for an additional hour uncovered. We also discuss a quicker method that uses 300-degree F temperature to cook the ribs in about three hours total. Finally, you can skip the smoker and cook them in 275 degree F oven for about three hours.
What should you spray on ribs while smoking them?
The best way to keep your ribs juicy and moist is to spray them with liquid while they’re cooking. We like using apple cider vinegar, but you can also use beer or juice if you like.
Should you boil ribs before smoking them?
Some people like to shorten the cooking time by parboiling ribs in simmering water prior to putting them on the smoker. We don’t like using this technique because it also removes a lot of the fat and flavor from the ribs.
Do you wrap ribs in foil when smoking them?
Wrapping ribs in foil supposedly makes them more tender and speeds up the cooking time. While the latter is true, the former is debatable. If we wrap our ribs in foil, we only like to do so after the first three hours of cooking. This allows the ribs to develop a tasty bark and absorb as much of the smoky flavor as possible.
How do you tell when smoked ribs are done?
When your ribs are tender and ready to eat, they will tell you! Twist the rib bones to see if they move freely around the meat. If they have a lot of give to them, your ribs are likely not finished. Your meat should also reach 190 degrees F on an instant read thermometer.