June 2nd, 2014
01:30 PM ET
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America's Test Kitchen  is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full¬time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most foolproof recipe. America’s Test Kitchen's online cooking school is based on nearly 20 years of test kitchen work in our own facility, on the recipes created for Cook's Illustrated magazine, and on our two public television cooking shows.

The secret to great barbecue in your own backyard isn’t necessarily going out and buying all sorts of special equipment. You don’t require a smoker, and you don’t need the huge barbecue pits the pitmasters use in the South. All you need is a grill, some wood chips, and a disposable roasting pan filled with water to convert a charcoal kettle into a makeshift smoker.

For slow, steady, indirect heat, we bank all the coals to one side and pile lit coals on top of unlit coals to keep the fire going without opening the lid. Sprinkling soaked wood chips—rather than large chunks—over the coals introduces just enough smoke flavor, and a pan of water placed under the racks helps stabilize the air temperature and moisten the meat. (To replicate this method on a gas grill, we place the soaked wood chips and water in disposable aluminum pie plates and set them on the burners.)

These modifications are so successful that the ribs only need to spend 90 minutes on the grill to get the big, Memphis taste we were after.

Memphis style ribs

Memphis-Style Barbecued Spareribs
Serves 4-6

Note: Don’t remove the membrane that runs along the bone side of the ribs; it prevents some of the fat from rendering out, leading to more tender results. Pouring lit briquettes over unlit briquettes provides the low, steady heat necessary for effective smoking. To maintain a constant temperature, manipulate the upper and lower vents of your grill and do not remove the lid any more often than necessary. For less spiciness, reduce the cayenne to 1/2 teaspoon.


2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon table salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 racks St. Louis-style spareribs, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds each
1/2 cup apple juice
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
large disposable aluminum roasting pan
1/2 cup wood chips, soaked


1. Combine rub ingredients in small bowl. Place racks on rimmed baking sheet; sprinkle rub on both sides of each rack, rubbing and pressing to adhere. Set racks aside while preparing grill.

2. Combine apple juice and vinegar in small bowl; set aside. Open top and bottom grill vents halfway and arrange 15 unlit charcoal briquettes evenly on 1 side of grill. Place disposable pan filled with 1 inch water on other side of grill. Light large chimney starter filled one-third with charcoal (about 33 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are half coated with thin layer of ash, about 15 minutes. Empty coals into grill on top of unlit briquettes to cover half of grill. Sprinkle soaked wood chips over coals. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush.

3. Place ribs, meat side down, on grate over water pan. Cover grill, positioning top vent over ribs to draw smoke through grill. Cook ribs 45 minutes, adjusting vents to keep temperature inside grill around 250 to 275 degrees. Flip ribs meat side up, turn 180 degrees, and switch their positions so that rack that was nearer fire is on outside.

Brush each rack with 2 tablespoons apple juice mixture; cover grill and cook another 45 minutes. About 30 minutes before removing ribs from grill, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees.

4. Transfer ribs, meat side up, to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Brush top of each rib with 2 tablespoons apple juice mixture. Pour 1 1/2 cups water into bottom of baking sheet; roast 1 hour. Brush ribs with remaining apple juice mixture and continue to roast until meat is tender but not falling off bone (internal temperature should be 195 to 200 degrees), 1 to 2 hours.

Transfer ribs to cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 15 minutes. Cut ribs between bones to separate and serve.

More from America's Test Kitchen:
A tutorial on Memphis-Style Barbecued Spareribs from our Online Cooking School
Tasting Apple Cider Vinegar
Watch Bridget Lancaster Make Memphis Spareribs
Our favorite charcoal grill

Make a brilliant pork butt
Five slices of barbecue wisdom
Five tips for hot dog success
How to smoke a brisket in your backyard
Rack up on rib pointers
Take a stab at a slab – an intro to ribs
Five steps to steak supremacy
Hearts afire! Liver, marrow, kidneys and more great offal for the grill
Whole hog BBQ - the Mount Everest of Meat
Five cuts of meat to buy and grill
A prime rib primer
Lobster roll 101
What every carnivore should know

soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Proud Wife

    My husband was recently in a friendly BBQ contest with some great men from our church who had access to the BIG GUNS of BBQ equipment while he was truly the underdog with our small Weber grill. It was a divine intervention to run across this article at just the right time as we were not sure how to accomplish a big taste. As a good recipe should, having step by step explanations for this process, resulted in the most delicious ribs I've ever tasted.... AND he won the BBQ contest by a landslide. We will be using this recipe for years to come... Thanks for making him look like a real grillmaster!

    June 23, 2014 at 6:15 pm |
  2. ericrynne

    I love this post. It shows that it doesn't take all the bells and whistles to make some delicious bbq. Very well written! The ribs looks finger licking good! Yum


    June 19, 2014 at 12:38 am |
  3. foodsinthefastlane

    Reblogged this on Foodsinthefastlane.me and commented:
    Happy Father's Day! Today is the perfect day to do some outdoor "smokin".

    June 15, 2014 at 11:33 am |
  4. SixDegrees

    Food: America's newest religion.

    June 4, 2014 at 7:19 am |
    • Nice Try, Spoon

      Ok. Now go to the Belief blog and post, "Religion. America's newest food." Equal time and all ...

      June 4, 2014 at 7:36 am |
      • Nice Try, Spoon

        Why are we waiting for moderation?

        June 4, 2014 at 8:30 am |
  5. hoosierdaddy

    "Americas Test Kitchen" They test their recipes 30, 40, even up to 70 times... That pales in comparison to the of thousands of "smokes" that occur each year in the south making amazing BBQ that doesn't use an oven or leave the membrane on. Nice try CNN but your test kitchen sounds pretty sheltered and unaware of what authentic BBQ is really about.

    June 3, 2014 at 1:01 pm |
  6. bs1

    OMG! This advice is so bad if someone were to try it they would likely be turned off on attempting to do BBQ ever again. Please, please look up the BBQ FAQ on the 'Net and read it completely, then follow that advice to do proper ribs that you will love and will continue to cook.

    June 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Voodoo Idol

    To suggest that ribs will be "done" in 90 minutes is a joke. You keep that heat at 225 or so for about 4 – 5 hours for some fall-of-the-bone, juicy, tender deliciousness. And remove the membrane – it's not good eats.

    June 3, 2014 at 8:48 am |
    • Randy Goodwood

      Fall Off the Bone ribs are never what you want. You want them tender and easy to tear away from the bone without being chewy. Unless you're making McRibs (BARF!!)

      June 3, 2014 at 8:56 am |
  8. jdoe

    Some of the best BBQ I've had are from when I was traveling in a poor country. No fancy, expensive equipment required. They used simple homemade stuff. The difference is that they used wood coal, which made a huge different in flavor and taste. The meat is also always marinated beforehand, so the flavor permeates throughout.

    June 3, 2014 at 3:52 am |
    • Randy Goodwood

      Another helpful hint for removing the membrane, get yourself a pair of curved needle nose pliers. Don't store then in your tool box you nut bars!! Keep them clean, lightly oiled (olive oil) and in the utensil drawer for ribs. Cut your full rack (12 – 16 bones) in half with a very sharp knife. Take the pliers, curved nose facing away from the ribs, and grab the freshly cut edge of the membrane with the pliers and peel back. Sometimes you may have to grab a second time in the middle, but usually it comes off in one large piece.

      June 3, 2014 at 7:34 am |
      • Botch

        Another trick I finally learned wrt peeling off the membrane: it's MUCH easier if the ribs are at room temperature, rather than refrigerator-cold.

        June 3, 2014 at 2:20 pm |
        • Tracy

          I have to say I'm surprised people remove the membrane on ribs before cooking. that's like removing the skin from a potato before you bake it.

          June 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm |
        • Botch

          @Tracy: Hmmm, I might just try that! :D

          June 3, 2014 at 2:33 pm |
        • Caslon

          Using the rounded back end of a spoon to start the membrane peeling is helpful.

          June 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm |
      • Steve Armstrong

        a spoon works perfect. slip the edge of the spoon under the membrane, roll it over the edge, grip it with your thumb and pull. if it doesn't come, go to the other end and repeat. the whole membrane in one easy pull

        June 3, 2014 at 7:29 pm |
  9. JJ

    Ok I'm a competition cook and I cringed when I read this. Yes everyone has their own techniques and ideas about what good BBQ is but this isn't even in the ball park. Someone mentioned foil and I can tell you almost every competition cook out there wraps their ribs in foil. Period. It retains moisture. Smoke doesn't penetrate the meat any longer after 2-3 hours anyway so there's no sense in drying out your meat. Low and slow isn't always best either, I cook at 275 for my ribs. Consistent even temperature is really the key. The fluctuating heat on a grill will kill your ribs.

    June 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm |
  10. oneSTARman

    I have to cringe a little when I read about 'Killer' BBQ Food and think about E.Coli and Salmonella

    June 2, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
    • Anthony Bowbanthony

      I was thinking more of carcinogens and clogged arteries =(

      June 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
      • Wilma Dichphitt

        God did not intend for you to die with a colon full of tofu and spinach.

        June 2, 2014 at 8:00 pm |
        • Hesus Christmas

          Really? Talked to Him yourself did you?

          June 2, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
    • Randy Goodwood

      I was excited to read yet another article on how to make the world's best tasting ribs (which I already do by the way). Everything seemed good up until step 2. The I saw it, 15 briquettes. BRIQUETTES?? Are you freakin' kiddin' me?? Here's a Canadian take on the US tradition of Q'ing.

      1 – NEVER use briquettes!! EVER!!! Lump Charcoal rules.

      2 – Buy a ceramic smoker, Eggs, Olives, whichever. They're amazing, especially in the winter. I've held 250 deg for three hours in -20 deg weather

      3 – Experiment, experiment, experiment. That's how you learn. It took me almost two years to develop my rib technique but it was worth it.

      4 – Remove the membrane, it serves no purpose.

      5 – Use wood chips sparingly, too much smoke can mask the other flavours. I prefer apple wood.

      I could go on and on but you get the drift. BBQ'ing is a proud Canadian tradition and no longer the sole proprietorship of those southern mountainous regions we always hear about.

      June 2, 2014 at 10:46 pm |
      • Bill

        Agree apple is good smoking wood, but, pecan rules. I've tried them all and pecan is the best. I don't know if you can get pecan wood in Canada

        June 3, 2014 at 8:59 am |
      • Tracy

        I'm sure you make some pretty good ribs, but I've developed a bare bones approach to the problem, to avoid putting too much effort in, or spending a lot. I use an old charcoal grill that I've had for about 10 years, it's one of the big rectangular grills with adjustable grate. I keep the grate all the way down, and use a cookie sheet that's wired to the top front of the grill itself. I've got a Weber that I use for grilling burgers and steaks, so this is a dedicated smoker. I use regular Kingsford charcoal, no wood chips or anything special, and I use a dry rub that you can get from walmart (grill mates, either memphis or texas flavor). It takes about 6-8 hours to cook, and all I have to do is check the temperature occasionally, and maybe refresh the charcoal once. And my ribs turn out about as good as any I've had – good flavor with no sauce, and almost fall off the bone but not quite, the bone pieces still stay together if you're not too rough with it.

        June 3, 2014 at 7:03 pm |
  11. Tracy

    If you want a long burning low heat with charcoal, you need to make a "coal train", a long thin mound of charcoal. You light one end and it will slowly burn down to the other end. I can keep my grill at 200-250 for around 5 hours with one mound, then redo if needed.

    June 2, 2014 at 7:12 pm |
    • Tracy

      forgot to add- you cover the charcoal with a big cookie sheet placed diagonally, starting over the charcoal up front, then sloping down to the back of the grill, ribs go over the cookie sheet.

      June 2, 2014 at 7:16 pm |
      • Toad

        Very interesting. It is really hard to keep that heat down with charcoal in a Weber grill, which is what I'm working with for the time being. I'll try your suggestions.

        June 2, 2014 at 9:26 pm |
        • Carn E. Vore

          You can get some really good bbq from a Weber, it just takes some practice.
          I leave my top vents open an use only the bottom damper to control the temp on my Weber. I put about 12 unlit briquettes in the bowl on the opposite side from where the ribs will go and light about 20-25 in a chimney. When they're hot I dump then on the unlit ones. I put a couple of chunks of apple wood on the coals and put the lid on. I let it go for about 30 minutes, using only the bottom damper to adjust the temperature, before I put my ribs on. I smoke them for about 3-4 hours until ready. Depending on various factors you may need to add about 10-15 more coals midway through your cook.

          June 5, 2014 at 11:25 pm |
        • Toad

          Very useful indeed; the contrast with what I've been trying is stark (I had a different setup before, and this kettle grill is an interesting challenge). Appreciate the tips.

          How about this, learning from a comment section. People wouldn't believe me if I told them.

          June 6, 2014 at 1:35 am |
      • BigTexun

        Tracy knows how to do it!

        I have a komodo type grill, it is an insulated egg-shaped grill similar to a green egg, but rather than ceramic, it is twin-shell steel with insulation.

        I like to make charcoal trains, like Tracy does, as low-slow cooks are easier if you light a small fraction of the charcoal, and burn across your bed of coal. What you want is to have the coals spread the fire gradually, but mostly closed dampers will do that. A variation of the train is the labyrinth, which is some sort of metal separator so that your train can be longer, even if you have a physically small space for the coals.

        In addition to the cookie-sheet over the coals (in a komodo you have to use a round sheet) I place a pizza stone, and on top of that a foil pan of water. Water is a kind of temperature regulator, and with good contact with the pizza stone, it will keep the heat coming off of the stone at an even, moist, 212 degrees. Of course the fire will drive the temperature up a bit from that, but the large mass of water really helps regulate the temperature because of the physics of the phase change, it makes damper adjustments a bit easier.

        I also cover the charcoal train with dry wood chips, no need to worry about the chips catching fire and burning too quickly, there won't be enough oxygen in there for that.. I use oak lump coal, and oak chips, when I'm doing a brisket.

        The cool thing about a Komodo is that at low-slow cooking temperatures, a full load of charcoal lumps in my Komodo will burn for anywhere from 30 to 70 hours. So I load it once, then have many cooks on it. The Komodo grills can sear steaks at 1100*f, or slow cook a brisket at 220. With the efficiency of the Komodo in smoker configuration, one bag of lump charcoal will last a long time. I burn in 48 hours what my old off-set could burn in about 1 or 2 hours.

        I built a computerized temperature controller, but I only need it on windy days. The wind gusts tend to increase the chimny draw, so it is like having the damper open too wide when the wind blows.

        For my next trick, I might try to build an insulated offset smoker.

        My pizza stone may be overkill, a metal sheet/pan, with a foil pan with one to two liters of water should be effective.

        My briskets come out fall-apart-tender, have a great bark, and amaizing flavor. Seasoning can be complex or simple, I started out with the fancy rubs (similar to the article's rub, but with more kick) but my favorite is just salt and fresh-ground black pepper. I grind the pepper into a flour-like consistancy, then dust the entire brisket until it is quite thick.

        No one ever wants bbq sauce with my brisket...

        But with regard to the article, I think I would try to finish the ribs in the smoker, and I would probably want to have the meat to the point of falling off the bone. If your meat is extremely tender, the main challenge is in cutting it without knocking the meat off the bone. The first requirement for slicing tender meat is to have a really sharp knife that is coated with a thin coat of oil (I use olive oil, but any cooking oil or fat from the meat will do). I use a Smith's diamond
        sharpening set to get a perfect razor edge on my knives.

        June 3, 2014 at 1:26 am |
        • Jillmill

          Thanks for the tips!

          June 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm |
        • KC

          Nice write up. I recently picked up a CharGriller Akorn and since then ahve retire my offset rig as well as the propane fired box. Komodo style is the only way to go. Very stingy on its use of charcoal. I've had the thing for abut 2 months, have smoked and grilled on it several times a week and I'm still on the first bag of Cowboy lump. While the water pan makes a great heat sink, I find in superflous for moisture retention.
          I was using a pizza stone but it cracked on me when i was heat cleaning it, they really don't like over 700 degrees. I found that a grill covered with a terra cotta saucer works just as well.

          June 3, 2014 at 6:29 pm |
      • Toad

        So, I've got a rack of ribs on the ol' Weber now, and I'm using the methods advocated here, adapted to the size and shape of the utensils I have on hand. To get a container of water in as a heat sink, I put a cast iron skillet in the middle, built a charcoal 'train' of unlit coals from a mound of lit ones in a ring around the skillet, put a cookie sheet in there to deflect direct heat, and...well, that's about it.

        Last time I did some ribs, I got sloppy and the temps got completely out of control. It was just for the wife and me, but still. So this time, I'm hoping to redeem myself and keep those friggin' temperatures down. Smoke these things instead of incinerating them.

        As for the guy in a different thread above who said NEVER USE BRIQUETTES, I say yeah, well, whatever. If that's not too bold. I find lump charcoal to be cumbersome and mess to use. Briquettes can be carefully arranged in a configuration like I've descriped, where as with lump, you'd have to break up the bigger pieces and get all detailed with it. The convenience difference is immense. As to the taste difference, to me it's theoretical. Of course, you're better off with wood burning in a proper bbq pit, anyone can taste that, but in a Weber with charcoal, I'm going with the ease of briquettes.

        June 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
        • Toad

          I used a polite variant of an impolite word in that, silly me; so I don't know if you can see that. I'll try to omit such stylistic frills from now on.

          So, that went OK, with a coal train, cookie sheet for heat deflection, and a cast iron skillet full of water for a heat sink, and it was a'ight. The baby back ribs were ready in about an hour and a half–that's too quick, but they were still rather tender. No smokiness at all, using just charcoal with no wood chips. OK for a quick meal; wouldn't want to serve it to guests.

          I can get much better results with a sidecar type grill that you can buy at the Depot for about $200 or whatever–you can just build your fire out of whatever you like, create a baffle with aluminum foil, shove those ribs over to the other end, and they'll cook nice and slow and smoky without a lot of effort. Right now, we're moving from place to place a bit, but when we put down roots on a property, I'll look into one of those egg or komodo types of deals, but they do run pricey. But until then, I'm about to give up on anything but steaks and burgers and brats on this Weber thingy.

          June 8, 2014 at 12:45 am |
        • Toad

          Correction: Actually, that's kAmado, not komodo, now that I look it up. Who knew.

          Another correction: and chicken. Burgers, steaks, brats and chicken, on a Weber.

          And shrimp. You can do those on a Weber, no problem. And veggies. And scallops. And fish. Let's just say, seafood in general. And lamb, probably, but the spousal unit won't let me cook meats that she didn't eat before the age of ten.

          But ribs on a Weber? This boy's skills don't stretch that far.

          June 8, 2014 at 1:03 am |
    • SixDegrees

      That's basically what's done in the article.

      June 3, 2014 at 3:41 am |
      • Tracy

        basically will get you half way there.

        June 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm |
  12. Bob

    There are plenty of ways to cook great ribs and I would be hard pressed to turn any of them down. These are my suggestions (not saying these are better than any other way):

    Take the membrane off. Your guests and family should not be expected to have another job when they come to the table. The ribs will be tender without the membrane if you kept the temperature low. And the membrane tends to char easily anyway. I'm not sure if the membrane prevents the smoke from penetrating the meat, but I suspect it doesn't help.

    Use a gas grill or gas smoker. It's not impossible to use charcoal by any means, but it's a lot more work to keep the low temperature.

    Even though I use gas for heat, I like to use some charcoal so I still get the charcoal flavor. I use two pans in the smoker: I use one pan for the charcoal and another pan for the smoldering chips. Best of both worlds.

    I use real apple cider instead of apple "juice." You'll get some genuine apple flavor. I'm not sure how apple "juice" is made but it's not from any apples I ever saw.

    If you have a spray bottle, use that for applying the liquid mixture. It's quick and anything more than a mist won't stick to the meat anyway.

    Make sure your chips soaked overnight. The large chunks can burn if they're not saturated. It won't hurt the ribs but I hate the time and expense of putting more wood in the smoker.

    I like to cut the ribs in pairs. The meat shouldn't fall off the bone, but if you're cutting between every rib before you serve, the ribs will get torn up pretty easily. And who eats just one rib anyway? Unless you're like me and eat a whole rack yourself...

    Don't move the ribs around, especially if you took the membrane off. Ribs shouldn't be getting direct heat so there's no reason to be flipping them.

    Finish cooking them where they started–in the smoker or on the grill. No one wants to be at a barbeque and see their meat coming out of the oven. When I have folks over for a barbeque, I want them smelling it as they drive down the street.

    I hope everyone enjoys their barbeques this year.

    June 2, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
    • Toad

      Good advice, including on the membrane. The recipe's instruction "DON'T remove the membrane" is a bit like saying "DON'T devein your shrimp." Many people have their minds made up already that the membrane is gross and that properly prepared ribs should have it removed. On the other hand, if you take it off–which takes about 10 seconds–nobody's going to be, like, hey where's the membrane, I got ripped off.

      The idea that leaving the membrane on leads to "more tender results" by holding fat in, or something, may or may not be–I haven't done the A/B test that the recipe implies has been done by somebody somewhere–but I'm very skeptical, and anyway, it's just a standard courtesy to your guests to remove it.

      June 2, 2014 at 9:21 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        Leaving the membrane on is a recent foodie fad. You'll see the same thing all over Food Network, too, these days. I don't think there's any justification for it, other than drawing attention to the pit master for being a "renegade."

        June 3, 2014 at 3:43 am |
        • Toad

          Yeah, I try to stay out of touch, but I guess I have run across it a few times online, now that you mention it. I know Alton Brown doesn't even mention the membrane in his recipe for baby backs; maybe he's influencing folks in this. Can't go along with it, and I'm reassured to see I'm in agreement with quite a few other comments. But I'll try not to wince if somebody serves me ribs in this new, lazy style. It's just whatever you get used to, I'm sure.

          June 3, 2014 at 7:15 am |
  13. Thinking things through

    Between the America's Test Kitchen post here, and some suggestions for respondents, I'm getting a bunch of good ideas in the ready! I have a batch of pork country-style ribs, ready to hit the fire tomorrow or Wednesday night.

    June 2, 2014 at 6:52 pm |
  14. Fiona

    Given recent events, CNN may want to rethink the "Making Killer Ribs in Your Backyard" headline on the homepage. Just a thought.

    June 2, 2014 at 6:08 pm |
    • nepawoods

      Recent events?

      June 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
  15. JimmyFlim

    I've been using a heavy dutch oven for ribs and they turn out pretty well each time...

    1) Season ribs and throw them on the grill, browning each side on high heat (10 min or so).
    2) Cut them into single ribs and throw them in a dutch oven with some braising liquid (I use soy, bbq sauce, grated ginger, water). In the oven at 275 for about 2 hours.
    3) Put them back on the grill for about 5-10 minutes, turning frequently to get a final char. And reduce the dutch oven braising liquid and drizzle it over the ribs once they're off the grill for the last time.

    Makes pretty good ribs.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
  16. Tony

    The hardest part of putting ribs on the grill is controlling the temperature. Too many times, cook put in too much charcoal. The heat can rise to 350F plus and stay there for an hour. Use just enough charcoal to bring the temperature to 225-250f. Then maintaining that temp for an hour before bringing them into the oven.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:51 pm |
  17. Carn E. Vore

    The water in the drip pan is unnecessary. Ribs are fatty enough that won't dry out during smoking.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
    • Bar B Que

      Anyone who has studied competition bbq knows that you have to have high humidity in the cooking area. This is either by drip pan, water pan or pot of water. That's what the pro's do.

      June 2, 2014 at 7:45 pm |
      • SixDegrees

        Some do, some don't.

        There's nothing to "study" when it comes to barbecue other than a massive collection of ad hoc methods that have little influence on the actual outcome when confronted with the highly variable meat quality and temperatures typically encountered, not to mention the vagaries of judge's personalities.

        June 3, 2014 at 3:45 am |
        • Tracy

          I don't use high humidity, no water at all in fact. It's called smoking, not steaming. And I would never remove the membrane before cooking (or ever).

          June 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm |
        • Carn E. Vore

          I was going to reply but you said it best. I've made ribs with and without the water pan many times and have determined that the water is unnecessary. He can deal with that...or not.

          June 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
  18. Pat

    I've always been told that removing the membrane just helps the smokey flavor of the ribs. It doesn't have anything to do with tenderness. Also, a quick note, using apple or cherry wood chips is key. Some prefer Mesquite or Hickory but the smoke flavor of those is too strong for me.

    June 2, 2014 at 5:41 pm |
    • Bar B Que

      Pecan wood, post oak or peach are the best for smoking. Applewood is also quite nice. Again, guys who win money at competitions generally use these woods.

      June 2, 2014 at 7:47 pm |
      • Carn E. Vore

        Who gives a crap? Smoke with what you like the flavor of, not what someone else uses just because they're in "competition". BBQ is down-home slow cooking, and there are a million ways to get the results you want. It's not the domain of pretentious d-bags...well, for MOST of us it's not.

        June 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm |
  19. asdf

    Want great ribs then learn to use the Texas crutch aluminum foil. The purists will deny but that has been my experience. Nothing makes ribs more tender or juicy then spending an hour an half minimum stewing in their own juices and some water mist and or marinade. You caramelize the BBQ with high heat after or not at all (people add their own sauce at the table) depending on where in the country you are from.

    June 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm |
    • asdf

      By marinade I mean perhaps a tiny bit of light oil mixed with the mist or perhaps lemon or fruit juice. You can also forsake the water and marinade entirely and just roll with a dry rub but the ribs may be slightly less juicy.

      June 2, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
    • asdf

      Bah wish I could edit previous post. Didn't mean lemon but apple. Suppose you could use it but not sure of taste. Also always use indirect heat when cooking ribs (except perhaps at end to caramelize BBQ sauce for 15 min tops). Finally for a good smoke flavor before putting in foil pretty much cold smoke or smoke at very low temp for the first hour or two to get the smoke flavor in the meat and then wrap in foil and finish cooking.

      June 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
      • asdf

        Actually see a lot of marinades that use lemon as well. Personally I generally don't mess with marinades on ribs and instead put dry rub on them for several hours before cooking. I then just mist them with a water bottle either with just water or if the ribs are looking real lean I might add a little bit of oil also to the spray bottle before I wrap them in foil.

        June 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
    • hurf

      "fall off the bone" ribs arent as good as normally smoked ribs. Ribs should have a bite to them, not be wet and soggy like theyve been cooked in a crock pot. They still taste great since there is no wrong way to make ribs, but not as good as stick-to-the-bone ribs.

      June 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm |
  20. The Enlightened Restauranteer

    "... located just outside of Boston.. " Boston? LOL. Stick to tha lobstah chumps.

    June 2, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
    • Carn E. Vore

      Yeah, because cooking another region's cuisine is SO damned difficult.

      June 2, 2014 at 5:46 pm |
  21. Sid

    soaking chips? water pan? BZZZ!!! the real key to great ribs (besides the obvious low heat & removing membrane) is to WRAP them about an hour to hr 1/2 in! they only absorb smoke for that period anyway so beyond that you're drying them out. take them out at that point & wrap them TIGHTLY in heavy duty foil for the remainder of the cook!

    on a somewhat related note I'm trying an experiment tonight/tomorrow – I'm going to smoke a small brisket for an hour at 200 then sous vide it for 12 at 180. should be interesting...

    June 2, 2014 at 3:44 pm |
    • Toad

      Yep, if you can maintain those temperatures, should be very interesting, as in totally delicious. Had a Texas pro tell me the key to brisket is keeping the temps below the boiling point. I can't do it with my equipment.

      June 2, 2014 at 9:34 pm |
    • Botch

      I would up your sous vid to 200 or 205. I never have a brisket off my Big Green Egg done at any lower temperatures than that (I use a Thermapen to check the temp, but I don't really need to read it, when the probe slides in like buttah, it's ready!)

      June 3, 2014 at 2:31 pm |
  22. Jeff Sheffield

    Not that it is a huge deal, but you are 100% wrong about not removing the membrane on the bone side. Removing that membrane does not affect the tenderness if the ribs are cooked properly, and removing it greatly enhances the dining experience by not having the papery texture of that cooked membrane.

    June 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
    • Buzz Herman

      Agreed the membrane is only enjoyed by a few (my wife) and doesn't make the ribs any less tasty. People think they are fancier and easier to separate without the membrane.

      June 2, 2014 at 5:32 pm |
    • hurf

      I was unable to remove the silver skin one time because it just wouldnt come off, made the bottom part of the ribs inedible (I now check all ribs I buy and make sure there is a nice white layer of fat under it so its easy to take off)

      June 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
      • Bar B Que

        Using a knife and paper towel are how you remove the membrane. That thing is greasy and slippery which makes the paper towel essential.

        June 2, 2014 at 7:50 pm |
        • sportsfaninyyc

          Thanks for the paper towel trick, sometimes that membrane pulls right off, most times was a slippery pain in the ass to remove. Great tip!

          June 2, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
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