Approximately 1 million years ago, one of our ancestors, Homo Erectus, began using fire to cook meat in a cave in southern Africa. I don’t know for a fact, but I am pretty sure that ever since then, men have been standing around the fire. drinking their favorite beverage, cooking meat, and telling each other when to flip the steak or that the coals are too hot. Many scientists believe that the consumption of cooked meat is responsible for our brains doubling in size over a relatively short period of about 500,000 years. So basically the reason you are reading this on your phone or computer instead of on a cave wall is that some caveman discovered that meat + fire = good. For many people today, grilling meat is about the only thing they have in common with our ancestral way of life. Maybe that is why grilling is still so popular even among the most domesticated men today. There is just something very satisfying about cooking meat, it is something everyone, and certainly any self-respecting man, should know how to do. I wouldn’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I would have to say most of the stuff that comes off my grill tastes pretty damn good, with exception to Christmas 2013 but that’s a discussion for another time. One of my favorite things to cook is a baby back ribs, they are pretty simple, and when done right, are one of the best pieces of meat you can shove in your face hole. Here is how I do it:
First things first, you need to start with a good piece of meat. Your local butcher shop is the best place to start. I prefer to smoke baby back ribs because of how meaty they are, but spare ribs are also an excellent choice and are often preferred by competition smokers because of their appearance and uniformity. I found a rack of beef ribs at the store so I decided to give them a try as well, these are a total experiment as I have never done them before. Once you have selected the perfect rack of ribs there is a very important step that is often overlooked or skipped. There is a layer of connective tissue or membrane on the back side of the ribs that needs to be removed prior to smoking. The best way to remove it is to take a sharp knife and skin the back side of the ribs just like you were filleting a fish, once you have a piece filleted off that is large enough to grip, just rip it off. If you don’t take this connective tissue off, it will turn into this inedible, crispy leather sheet on the back of the ribs.
While you are preparing your meat, fire up your smoker and get it to 225 degrees. I am using a Pitboss pellet grill, if you need a smoker, you can get buy the Pitboss here. It won’t take too long for your smoker to reach 225, so head back inside and get your meat ready. I am using a combination of Boar’s Night Out White Lightning and Famous Dave’s Rib Rub to season my ribs. Don’t be shy when it comes to seasoning the ribs, load it up and rub it in good. Once you have the ribs seasoned just right, throw them on the smoker and head back inside to make the sauce you will brush on the ribs.
Some people like their ribs saucy and some people like them dry, I prefer mine right in the middle so I like to brush sauce on them about every hour of smoking. Take about a cup of bbq sauce and about a half cup of whiskey and mix it up in a glass or a bowl. I am using Bulleit Bourbon and Famous Dave’s Texas Pit bbq sauce for this little concoction. If you like it a little more spicy, try using Famous Dave’s Devil’s Spit instead. Using a grill brush, spread the sauce all over the ribs every hour or so until the ribs are done.
The next step is probably the most important in my book. Take about three ounces of that bourbon, pour it into a chilled mason jar, sip on it while you prepare your side dishes, watch football, or whatever else you decide to do for the 5-6 hours your ribs are smoking. Repeat as desired, but be careful, don’t overindulge and forget about your ribs!
Ok, maybe that last step is the second most important, this one is probably a little more important. What temperature do you need to cook your ribs too? How will you know when they are done? According to the USDA, pork is safe for consumption at 145 degrees, but if you take your ribs off the smoker at 145 they will be tougher than woodpecker lips. Ribs are full of connective tissue, cartilage, and fat, these different tissues need to be cooked to a much higher temperature to be desirable to eat. You want to shoot for 190 to 203 degrees on your ribs. It can be hard to get an accurate temperature reading due to the difference in the thickness of the meat and also because of the proximity of the bones. The best way to know for sure your ribs are done is the “Bend Test” which is basically grabbing the end of the ribs with your tongs and letting gravity naturally bend them, your ribs are done when the surface of the ribs crack and nearly break from being bent. I was not able to get a picture of this but here is one from the guys over at amazingribs.com.
Given the difference in thickness between the beef ribs and the pork ribs, it is no surprise that they weren’t done at the same time. The beef ribs were done first so I took them off and double wrapped them in aluminum foil and put them in a large plastic container to stay hot until the meal was ready. The pork ribs took about a half hour longer in the smoker and they were ready to eat. As you can see, they looked pretty dang good, but I didn’t spend all afternoon smoking these things so they would just look pretty, the important thing is how they turned out. Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say, the first words out of Kristin’s mouth were “Babe! These are the best ribs you’ve ever cooked.” and our distinguished dinner guess, David Shirk, affectionately known as Davey Dumpling, said, “These are the best ribs I’ve ever had!”
I have to say that these ribs did turn out pretty awesome, There are some other methods for smoking ribs, and I’m sure everybody has their own opinion on the best way to do them, I am interested in trying some other methods, but I will definitely keep doing them like this too. I was really excited about the beef ribs because I had never tried them before and because they look awesome. I found myself a little disappointed in them due to the lack of meat on the ribs. At first look, you would think there is a lot of meat on them because they are huge. In reality, the bones are huge, the meat in between them is fairly insubstantial. The meat you do end up with is delicious though. I will keep my eyes out for a rack of beef ribs that looks a bit meatier but in the future, I will probably stick to good old fashion pork ribs though.
As always, I appreciate you taking time out of your day to read about what we have going on here at Whiskey Creek Farm! Stop back soon to read about my attempt to load nine little piggies into a stock trailer!