Mailman, Meatman or me? Tough Ribs

Discussion in 'Pork' started by fpmich, Jun 24, 2014.

  1. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    Tough ribs, or underdone ribs is the problem this year for me.   Can't understand it.  Last year they came out great with same methods.

    Yes, I've just rechecked my Maverick therm with boiling water.  Dead on!

    OK. So I've ruled out the mailman. 

    He has never stopped and walked to be back yard, to see what I'm smoking.  I need a better mailman!

    Now a couple of days ago I again, smoked some spares.

    This time I decided to not trim at all, other than remove silver skin, and was again going to try no-foil.  Same results as with my last cook of 3 slabs, trimmed SL style. On that cook, I foiled two. racks, and left one 'not foiled' in the smoker.  All were very underdone at end of 6 hours.  I cooked those at an average temp of 230* to 245*.  I ended up foiling and finishing in foiled in oven for additional 2-1/2 -3 hours before becoming tender, but still not fall off the bone.

    The current, two whole slab racks were the same way, even though I had not trimmed them SL style.  Cooked them a bit higher @ 240*-260* average, without foiling.  Spritzed twice and that is the only two times I opened the lid on coking chamber. Flipped and turned & rotated positions, when spritzing.  I ended up having to foil and bake in oven at 230* for 2 1/2 to 3 hours more, before becoming tender enough to eat.   I ate some before foiling, because I was starving, but it was very tough.  No cartilage break down at all.

    Now all 5 of these slabs came from the same meat market.  They always has awesome meat, never inferior, or low grade.  I will never have to smoke sausages of any kind, because theirs are so good, I could never improve on it.

    More info:

    This meat market sells the slabs with no enhancing at all.   Just the way it came off the pig!

     However they were only $1.89 lb.  10 cents lower than anyone else.  Maybe that's a tip off that they are starting to go cheaper quality?  I sure hope not.  I love their meats and sausages!

    I'm using horizontal  offset char-griller unit.

    I'm thinking maybe the ones I done last year were enhanced.  I only had 1 or 2 that required more time foiled, and possibly they came from same meat market that I like.  Last year I bought from "whoever had a sale".  Wall-mart, Meier, GFS as well as this meat market.  I didn't pay attention as whose came out best.  I was excited!  I had a new smoker!  LOL


    Should I treat spares that are "just pig"  (not enhanced in any way)  differently, than those from the big box stores?

    Should I lower my temps to 220*-230* and allow more time?

    Tomorrow, I am going to check out Walmart, Meier's and GFS labels, to see if is the enhanced thing or not.

    Maybe enhanced is the way to go for tender ribs with less time than 8-9 hours.  Just cut back on the salt in rub?

    So is it the meat man, or me?  [​IMG]

    I suspect a lower temp may needed between (220*-230*) is needed using 3-2-1 or maybe 7 hours when not foiling, in spite of a lot of threads saying 250*-275* with no foil is great at 5-6 hours.  Maybe we are looking for different textures.

    I sure wish 240*-260* would work for me because it's easier for me to maintain that temp than is is 225*.  225* takes a lot of tending for me.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2014
  2. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    It's you.

    First, I think you should be cooking ribs at 260° minimum, 275°, if you can maintain it, will be better IMHO.

    Your full spares would have needed about 8 hours to cook at the temps you have been cooking ribs.

    Cooking at higher temps will give you better and more consistent results, that's been my experience. YMMV.
  3. alblancher

    alblancher Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    Do the slabs your butcher get come from a national packer or are they locally raised.  I'm just guessing that they could be from an older, mature pig.

    Only thing I could suggest is to get a slab or two from both the meat guy and the chain store.  Cook them the same way and do a taste test.

    I don't see you doing anything wrong, what are you using for moisture when you foil?
  4. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I smoke my ribs in a 265* smoker all the time so if 240-260 is where your smoker likes to run do it.

    Last year a buddy brought over some ribs off a pig his girls raised for 4h. We did them side by side with store bought (enhanced ribs). The store bought ribs were done sooner and the final product was not as dry as the ribs from the one they raised. So I'd have to say enhancement probably has a good bit to do with it.

    We did another couple racks from their pigs that we brined in Pop's brine, bacon on a stick thread? Those came out much better.

    I do know that their farm Raised non-enhanced pig was also leaner than the commercial ribs we were doing too.
  5. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    OK.  Here we go.

    I called the meat market I used, and asked if their ribs were enhanced in any way.  I was right.  They are not. 

    Do you buy from within Michigan (local), or from a big packer?   Big packer.  Usually IBP or Prairie Farms.  Prairie Farms is what I had bought. 

    They were quite lean and missing the skirt meat.

    Today I made a trip into town "just" to check spares in stores. 

    First stop GFS. 

    They did not list ingredients, nor, did it say whether or not enhanced, or who the processer was.  Asked a worker and they didn't know. 

    Price for full slab rib (not trimmed) 2.99 lb.  Are you kidding me??!!

    Next was Meijer's. 

    Theirs also, did not list ingredients, nor say whether enhanced or not.  Couldn't find anyone to ask about it.

    Price for full slab 2.79 lb.

    Then off to Walmart.
    Low and behold... they actually listed "Enhanced for tenderness" on the label.  Price for full slab, 1.99 lb.

    AND, they were packed in singles.  So I made sure I bought two of same weight, and same bend of package, to test my theory out of enhanced cooking shorter times, than for non-enhanced ribs.  One will be cooked full slab, and one will be trimmed to STL cut.

    I suspect they will cook more quickly to tenderness than the non-enhanced.  But we'll see in a couple of days.

    Nothing against enhanced, other than salt control, and nothing against the non-enhanced, other than time.  Just have to pay more attention to what I'm buying I guess.

    But if these sucker turn out tough after normal times, I'm gonna be pizzed!  LOL  Cause then I don't know what else to do.


    Last year, new to smoking, and new horizontal smoker, I stuck with the 225* and the 3-2-1 method.  It worked great.  Usually, but not always.

    I used to panic if my temp went above 235* or lower than 220*.  So I was always running out to adjust the air or coals.  I'm more relaxed now and don't sweat fluctuations too much.

    However, I am new to cooking them at 250*-275* or even higher, as some on the forums.  I wonder how well the cartiledge or connective tissues breaks down at those higher temps.

    Will it make my ribs more dry, or will they still be moist inside?  What if I cooked at 275* for 2-3 hours then lowered temp to 225*-235*?  Would that help or hinder?

    I'm leaning towards non-foiling for the bark, but still want them quite tender inside.
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2014
  6. noboundaries

    noboundaries Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    It will be interesting as the summer progresses to watch the smoking results experienced folks are getting from the current supply of meat on the market.  The droughts, diseases, reduced stocks, and feed issues won't stop retailers from finding supplies for their demand.  Prices have already risen.  Quality may suffer.  Just will be interesting to watch and see what happens.  Might be time to start brining spares and BBs.
  7. fpmich

    fpmich Smoking Fanatic

    It was the Meatman!

    OK, maybe a little bit me too.  [​IMG]

    I cooked the two ribs I got from Walmart that were enhanced and cooked them whole without trimming at all.  Full slabs, just like I did the ones from the meat market.

    Cook went almost identical to the last one.  My temps today settled in @ 250*-265* for the most part, compared to 240*-255* the other ones cooked at.

    Both cooks went un-foiled and only spritzed twice.  Today, I pulled them at 6 1/2 hours and they were too tender for my taste,  Fall off the bone.

    I wasn't expecting them to be done yet as they were full slabs.  I should've pulled them at 5 or 5 1/2 hours and they would've been perfect for me.

    The ribs from before were very tough last time at 6 hours, and needed another 3 hours in oven foiled, before becoming tender.

    The enhancement seems to do the trick for shorter cooking times.  I did notice they were a little salty with a slight hammy flavor from the brine pumped in. 

    My rub has very little salt in it, but my next batch of rub will not contain any.

    Because of the salty hammy taste, I think I will finish with sauce on the Walmart ones  from now on, to cover it up a little bit,

    Now I have to watch times closer for doneness, and pay attention to what kind of ribs I am buying.

    When using the non-enhanced ones, I will use salt on them as well as plan on 3 hour longer cook time. 

    After resting 30 minutes tented loosely to cool.  The rack on the bottom is missing a rib that fell out when I removed them from smoker.

    You can see they are over-done.  Even the thick parts.

  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Good review of your rib selection.

    I always start checking ribs (baby back or spares) right around the 4 hour mark for doneness. I look at the pull back on the bones, and if it's a full rack I'll do the bend test. If they look close I'll check every 20-30 minutes after that. Most of the time I cook our ribs for the whole time directly on the grill no foil.

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