Equipment: Green Mountain Grills Jim Bowie
Meat: St. Louis Style Spare Ribs
Cook Time: 6 hours
Cook Temp: 225-250*F
Prep: De-membraned, wrapped overnight
Rub: KC Jones Rub
**NOTE: I meant to do a 3-2-1 smoke on these ribs, but I tried to get some stuff done throughout the day and forgot to check the pellets in the hopper before leaving for the last hour. When I got home the smoker had run dry of pellets, and was holding heat at about 150*F. So I was forced to throw them into my oven for about 40 minutes at 350*F to make sure that I got the ribs up to about 205*F for safe eating.
I like to “brine” my ribs overnight, wrapped in saran wrap with the seasoning. I’ve found that this leads to helping the ribs retain more moisture and prevent them from drying out through the cooking process. I forgot to take pictures during the meat prep since it was almost midnight when I finally got to it.
PREP: I always de-membrane the slabs, rinse them in cold water, and pat them as dry as possible. Then a season the underside, rub the seasoning into the meat with my hands, flip, season the top, press the seasoning into the meat, that double wrap the meat in saran. I typically pull them out just before placing them into the smoker, which helps get a little bit nicer smoke ring. Some competition guys will actually freeze their slabs in order to get a really intense smoke ring. This is overkill for everyday BBQ. After a night in the refrigerator, this is what your slabs should look like. Ready for the smoker!
I like to give the GMG about 30 minutes to get to a nice steady temp. In the winter I use a heat blanket, which I’ve found really helps the grill to hold heat when the ambient outside is below 32*F.
While it isn’t necessary to run a water pan in a pellet smoker, I found that my ribs tended to be a little dry when I wasn’t. So I began filling an 8×8 pan with apple cider vinegar, and placing it on the far right side of the smoker. I believe that this increases the humidity in the smoker and prevents the meat from drying out.
I started the ribs at 225*F-230*F for 3 hours. The below picture is the completion of the first 3 hours of the cook.
At about 2 hours and 45 minutes, I prepare my foil wrap. I double up pieces of extra wide heavy duty aluminum foil. Using a good quality aluminum foil is crucial for retaining the moisture as your wrapped ribs baste. A small puncture will lead to juices running out into your grill. Not only will it start to burn and create unpleasant smoke, it defeats the purpose of wrapping the meat.
For the foil wrap, I make sure that it’s large enough to wrap the slabs tightly without tearing. I drizzle honey on the bottom of the foil and spray light beer over the top of the honey. Then I carefully transfer the slabs into their foil wrap face-down, drizzle more honey on the underside of the slab, then spray the backside of the ribs with light beer. Wrap them tightly, then place them back into the smoker face-down.
TIP: At this point the meat is not too hot to handle with your hands. Wear some food-grade rubber gloves and gently handle the slabs. This will help protect the precious bark that you’re working to create.
I upped the temp to about 230*F-235*F for this portion of the cook, which takes 2 hours. Below is the result of how your slabs should look after the 2 hours wrapped.
Typically one more hour at about 245-250*F should be perfect to cook your ribs to 200-205*F, however I forgot to check the pellet level in the hopper before running some errands as mentioned above. So while I wasn’t as thrilled with my results as usual, they still turned out really good. Typically the bark doesn’t get this dark, but the higher heat of the oven blackened it a bit. It wasn’t charred or burnt though, and still had great flavor.
Annnnnd the money shot. Check out that smoke ring!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure to allow the meat 15-20 minutes to rest before cutting. This allows the juices to re-distribute through the meat. I found that if you cut them too soon the meat tends to “brown over” and not look as appetizing.
Final Thoughts: Overall I was still very happy with the results, even though I had a little brain fart with the fuel. I think that the 225*F starting temp and gradual increase is a good technique to help add some smokiness on the front end and really help to develop a rich bark and get a nice smoke ring. Flavor profile was great, although the meat in the middle of the slab seemed a little oilier than usual.