Before you can begin cooking, you need to prep your ribs for seasoning.
On the underside of the ribs attached to the bones will be a thin, white membrane.
To make your ribs as tender as possible, simply remove it by taking a sharp pairing knife and making a cut on one end, cutting and pulling back along the bones until the membrane is torn free.
Once you've removed the membrane from your ribs, mix up your spice rub and applying it liberally to each slab of ribs.
Massage the rub into the meat, making sure to thoroughly coat both sides.
When you're done, cover the ribs in plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least an hour if not overnight to allow the flavors to develop.
While your ribs rest in the fridge, now would be a great time to make your barbecue sauce if you wish to use it.
For the tomato sauce, simply combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and reduce on medium heat until thick and syrupy, tasting and adjusting based on your flavor preferences.
For the vinegar sauce, just mix it together in a bowl, optionally adding it into a spray bottle for easy application later.
About half an hour prior to when you intend to begin cooking, it's a good idea to start prepping your smoker.
Load it with charcoal and your wood of choice, lighting it and adding water to the tank.
The goal is to let both smoke and steam build up inside the covered smoker while raising the temperature to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
After you've lit the smoker, take your ribs out of the refrigerator and allow them to sit at room temperature for at least half an hour.
Letting the ribs warm up helps them cook more evenly and tenderly, meaning this is crucial to having the best ribs you can get.
Once they've had a chance to warm up, lay your ribs against the grate and close the lid.
If you want to cook dry ribs, then all you need to do is be attentive to your smoker's needs, refilling charcoal, wood, or water as needed.
If you want your ribs to be wet, then you'll need to baste them with apple juice, apple cider vinegar, or the vinegar sauce prepared earlier every half hour or so.
The ribs are done when they reach an internal temperature of around 185 degrees (anywhere from 3 to 5 hours is typical).
Visually, you should be able to see they're finished cooking once the meat has begun to recede away from the edges of the bones.
Once you've determined the ribs are done, remove them from the smoker and wrap them in aluminum foil, letting them rest for half an hour to relax and tenderize.
After the resting process has finished, unwrap your ribs and get ready to eat.