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 cooked meat, 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 the required time for smoking, 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 them and also how long you need to smoke them.
Choosing your Ribs
The first steps are to prepare yourself; you need to decide first, what kind of ribs you want.
We suggest the spare ribs over the baby back ones. There is a difference in time required to smoke, depending on which one you choose.
Baby back ones are a leaner meat that are shorter than the spare ones. Baby backs are loin ribs, with their name referring to their location, high up on the pig's back, while the spare ribs come from the side of the hog. The spare ribs cut have more fat, which leads to juicier final cook, and that tends to have more flavor.
Choosing the Smoking Method
Next, you must decide how you will smoke your meat. 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.
If you don't have an offset smoker, then any other smoker/grill will work great too, as long as you can have control over the cooking temperature.
The required smoking time is different from one method of smoking to another. For 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 meat. You only need a few common ingredients and shopping for your needs shouldn’t take as long.
How to Prepare your Ribs for Smoking
Spare ribs come in a slab and as I mentioned before, how you prepare them determines the smoking time. 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 is that there is overall more meat. Specifically on the top.
But what we prefer is the Kansas City Ribs 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.
Preparing the Smoker
Now, after you finished the first preparing step, it is time to start your fire and start cooking them.
In order to perfectly cook your ribs, you want to maintain a cooking temperature of 220-250°F. While your smoker warms at the recommended temperature, finish your second rib preparation process.
Applying Dry Rub to Ribs before Smoking
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 meat prior to smoking.
Cooking Tip: One useful tip for you to have in mind is to use garlic powder over garlic salt. Doing so, you control the salt yourself and apply the powder as you want it.
How Long Should You 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 meat in the smoker.
First, lay them on the grill, away from the fire with the meat side up. Place a water bowl or tray in with your meat. This water bath will help you make a juicy final cook.
You need to frequently watch the temperature gauge and maintain 225°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 them to know the progress so far. You should see a beautiful golden brown appearing. Spray a little of the apple cider vinegar or apple juice, put some pepper sauce or BBQ sauce on them, 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 sides. 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 medium-thick BBQ sauce for the last time, and then wrap your meat in aluminum foil.
Put it back in the smoker, this time, meat side up. Check again after two hours and your meat 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 they 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 pork ribs are cooked to your desired point, remove them off the smoker and they are ready.
Ribs Smoking Graph and Times
To have a better understanding of the whole process of smoking your ribs, we put together a summary table with step-by-step process, including the cooking temperatures and the target internal temperature.
Target Internal Temperature
Kansas City Style
So, in order to determine how much time is needed for a rib smoking cook, 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 240°F temperature. Different methods require different cooking time and that's the time it required when you use an offset smoker.
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 cooking trick, share it with us by leaving a comment down below.