How Long to Smoke Ribs – Detailed Ribs Smoking Guide
There is no better joy in the world than to sit down to a plate of smoked ribs. No one complains about the mess that it makes or the fact that you need two plates to eat them. One filled with ribs, and the second plate, empty, anticipating to become the bone collector.
Everyone loves them and wants to make them at home, but they are left wondering, how long to smoke ribs before they hit that perfect mark of, fall of the bones goodness.
You should know that to exactly determine how long it takes to smoke your ribs, are included a lot of different factors such as what type of ribs do you have, how you have prepared them, how are you smoking them etc.
So, I recommend you to read this guide step-by-step to know how to properly prepare your ribs and how long you need to smoke them.
Choosing your Ribs
The first steps in smoking ribs is to prepare yourself; you need to decide first, what kind of ribs you want.
We suggest the spare ribs over the baby back ribs. There is a difference in how long to smoke ribs, depending on which ribs you choose.
Baby back ribs are a leaner meat that are shorter than the spare ribs. Baby backs are loin ribs, while the spare ribs come from the side of the hog. The spare ribs have more fat, which leads to juicier ribs, and that tends to have more flavor.
Choosing the Smoking Method
Next, you must decide how you will smoke your ribs. We prefer the off-set smoker. With the off-set smoker, your fire box is as the term suggests, off-set from where your ribs will be during the smoking process.
How long to smoke ribs is different from one method of smoking to another. This method should be average.
To go with your smoker, we like the flavor of using pecan wood over some other varieties. Pecan is lighter in flavor, not overbearing, and burns a little slower than mesquite of hickory.
What You Need
You will need a few things before start smoking your ribs. You only need a few common ingredients and shopping for your needs shouldn’t take as long it does to actually smoke ribs.
- Spare Ribs
- Olive Oil
- Spices, Paprika, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Coarse Salt, Coarse Ground Black Pepper
- Apple Cider Vinegar or 100% Apple juice in a Spray Bottle
- Pepper Sauce or BBQ Sauce
How to Prepare your Ribs for Smoking
Spare ribs come in a slab and as I mentioned before, how you prepare them determines how long it takes to smoke ribs. We’ll show two of the most popular ribs smoking and preparing styles.
The first one you can try is St. Louis style. Minimal trimming is done on this style. The breast bone is connected at the top, and the sides are untouched. This style will leave you with parts that will end up a little drier on the ends because you have fatter pieces and smaller pieces on the same slab. Another plus side to St. Louis style of smoking ribs is that there is overall more meat. Specifically on the top.
But what we prefer is the Kansas City style. Here you will trim the top, remove the excess fat, even off the ends so you have consistent cooking throughout the process.
If you are cooking in a competition this style may be for you. The consistency is great because the ribs are more equal to one another, and this gives you more of a choice in picking the best ribs to present.
Your excess meat from the trimming can be thrown on the smoker as a treat for the cook to snack on, or cooked in your beans. There is no need to waste any of the wonderful meat.
Special Ribs Smoking Trick: Once you have trimmed the meat and fat off of the ribs, there is a trick that some people miss. On the underside of the ribs is a membrane. A white tissue that if left on will result in a chewy rib.
Start off with a dull knife, like a butter knife, and run it along the edge of the ribs. You should find the membrane, and a small piece will come up. You can use a paper towel to get a better grip of the membrane. Slowly, gently pull the membrane off. This procedure is the same regardless if you are smoking baby back ribs or spare ribs.
Now, after you finished the first preparing step for your ribs, it is time to start your fire for smoking them.
In order to perfectly smoke your ribs, you want to maintain a temperature of 275°. While your smoker warms at the recommended temperature, finish your second rib preparation process.
Take your ribs and rub them down with a tablespoon of olive oil. This will help your spice rub adhere to the meat. Apply the rub, 2 tablespoons pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, 2 dashes of garlic powder and 1 dash of onion powder. Apply as much or as little as you want to your ribs prior to smoking.
Ribs Cooking Tip: Our cooking tip to you is this: We prefer using garlic powder over garlic salt. Doing so, you control the salt yourself and apply the powder as you want it.
How Long to Smoke Ribs
After the preparation is done, the fire is at the recommended temperature and you have a supply of pecan wood (about 4-5 pieces is enough), it is time to place your ribs in the smoker.
First, lay your ribs on the grill, away from the fire with the meat side up. Place a water bowl or tray in with the ribs. This water bath will help you smoke juicy ribs.
You need to frequently watch the temperature gauge and maintain 275°F. If you want to easily maintaining this temperature, you should not open your lid frequently. Every time you open the cover, the heat comes down, the smoke goes out, and you extend the amount of time needed to smoke ribs. Let the wood work its magic. You need to trust yourself here. I know that the temptation is strong to frequently check them, but you need to be stronger.
For two hours, your job consists of two things, checking the gauge, and adding wood if you see the temperature drop 15-25 degrees. In the winter, this will happen faster while in the summer it may not happen as quickly.
After two hours have passed, you can check how long your ribs have smoked so far. You should see a beautiful golden brown appearing. Spray a little of the apple cider vinegar or apple juice on the ribs, put some pepper sauce or BBQ sauce on your ribs, depending if you want a spicy or mild flavor. Just a light coating will do.
After you finish the sauce adding process, it is time to turn your ribs. Put the meat side down on your smoker, add water if necessary to your bath, and let them smoke for another 20-30 minutes.
After 20-30 minutes have passed, check your meat for the last time. If you want, you can spray a little more apple cider vinegar or apply BBQ sauce for the last time, and then wrap the ribs in aluminum foil.
Put it back in the smoker, this time, meat side up. Check again after two hours and your ribs should be cooked.
You do not need to check the temperature of the meat, you just want to feel the rack of ribs. If it’s too loose, then your ribs are a little overcooked. If they feel tight, give them another 20 minutes. You want the feel to be pliable in your hands.
After your ribs are cooked to your desired point, remove them off the smoker and they are ready.
So, in order to determine how long to smoke ribs, a lot of factors are considered. It starts with choosing the right rib type, preparing them and finally smoking them at a constant temperature.
In conclusion, How long to smoke ribs? About 4 hours and 30 minutes at a 275°F temperature.
When they are ready, you will want to cut them parallel to the bone. Some of the meat will fall off the bone, some will have a tender bite to it. Either way, they will taste great.
Enjoy your perfectly cooked ribs and if you have any other special ribs smoking trick, share it with us by leaving a comment down below.