Please help: How can I make great ribs, to be superb ribs?

Discussion in 'Electric Smokers' started by kryinggame, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    Hey gang, my question is related to spare ribs and I always make my ribs in my 30 inch MES.

    From what my friends and family say, my ribs are great but to me, they're an A-. I want to make them an A.

    My goal is to get more firmmer ribs (when I do the bend test).

    I'm gonna tell you step by step how I prepare my ribs.
    1. Using spare ribs tat have been cleaned up, I rub them down using Jeff's rub and let them sit overnight
    2. The next morning, I'll get my MES ready. Get it up to 275
    3. Once it reaches 275, I'll put my rack in, along with my AMNPS and will lock the chamber and set it for 235 degrees and keep the timer to 7 hrs;
    4. I don't like the 3-2-1 method. I don't like meat thats falling off the bones. I just let the ribs cook for the entire 6 hours;
    5. After 4 hours of smoking, I'll open the chamber to spray some apple juice;
    6. The 5th hour, I'll squirt a bit more apple juice on it.
    7. At the 6th hour, I'll do the bend test. Generally, the ribs are about to break apart at this point.
    8. I'll take the ribs out and will wrap them in foil for 20 - 30 minutes before cutting up.
    The problem is not in the flavor. Everyone loves them. IF, there are any left overs, they taste better the next day. Simply put, I don't like soft, breaking apart ribs. I like my pork with more tug to them, which is why I avoid the dang 3-2-1 method.

    I know the "general rule" for done ribs is about 225 degrees at 6 hours. To get more tug or toughness out my ribs, should I smoke them for less time and less temperature?

    Please gents, I'd like to hear proven points.

    Thanks much![​IMG]
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012
  2.  With ANY experiment change only one parameter at a time.  I would experiment with just letting them rest on the cutting board unwrapped to see if you may get a bit more firmness.  If that does not get them to where you like them, try another parameter, say lower heat to 225* with all else being the same. Continue changing one parameter until you get what you are looking for.

    IMHO the wrap for 20-30 min are allowing the ribs to continue cooking and actually steaming making them softer.

    The good news is as you experiement over time you get to eat some good ribs.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2012
  3. rdknb

    rdknb Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I would adjust the 3 2 1 to something like 3 1.5 1.5 Just keep working on that and you will get them just like you what them.  Having them not foiled as long will put more tug in them.
  4. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    Great advice Bama, I've made the mistake of changing too many things at once and then I didn't know what really worked. I'm going to remember your advice and try to use it. Thank You!
  5. werdwolf

    werdwolf Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I use temp 230, 2.5 to 3 (depends on how meaty they are), 1.5, 0.5    The very  ends are fall off the bone but the middle have just a little tug.  I just put a small amount of liquid in the foil, no spritzing.  You will just need to practice a little more until you get it just right for you.  Agree with above don't make to many changes at once.  And enjoy eating those practice sessions!
  6. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the reply but again, I don't use the 3-2-1 method. I prefer to keep the ribs in for the entire duration because any variation of the 3-2-1 will make the ribs moist/soft. This is what I'm trying to avoid.

  7. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Woah, yes, I can see in the photo how tender they really are...lots of meat fracturing when you sliced them up...been there a few times myself. They don't appear to be dried-out, though, so part of what you're doing with spraying, and I'm told the MES has a humid smoke chamber, is helping to keep them moist. It's not easy to get tender ribs that aren't getting dry with all open grate cooking in some smokers.

    OK, now for a fix: Line #7 is what tells most of the story to me. They're already over-cooked according to your liking if they're difficult to remove from the smoker due to being so tender. That said, for a bit more tug and less tenderness, I'd cut back on your temps by about 10* and probably also cut the total time in the smoker by 15-20 minutes the next time around. You could also preheat the smoker @ 240-250* degrees instead of 275*, unless you see too much temp drop after you load it and get it closed up for the initial stage of you rib smoke. The initial chamber temp, if too high, can increase the rate at which your food will begin to cook, thereby reducing overall cooking time, even if you cut back temps after a few minutes. But, you should notice a fairly significant change in texture after dropping temp and total time just a bit, preheat temp can have a slight effect, as well.

    The foiling to rest may allow a slight carry-over which continues to cook the ribs, but I don't think in this case it would be much at all, as your ribs will likely be near, if not over, 200* internal temp to be so tender they're falling apart when removed to rest, and by the time you wrestle around a minute to get them out of the smoker and into foil, they will loose some surface thermal energy, and the cooking process will begin to reverse and draw heat back out. Also, the foil is cold...not much mass, but it's still a cold object contacting the meat.

    As for resting foiled, I don't if I smoke all open grate or finish on open grates (3-2-1 or variants) will soften your bark, if you're after a heavy and stiff bark...which, by the way, you mentioned spraying apple juice @ 4th and 5th hour, but nothing else at the end, so you're building up some extra sugars along with the additional moisture. You could spray at the 3rd and 4th hours, then let it go after that, if you want a more prominent bark on your ribs. The bark will also aid in keeping the slab a bit more stiff for handling, even if it is more tender inside when finished, but a great bark, if you want it, is best left alone after 90-120 minutes, and open grate for at least the last hour. If you go for bark, remember this: slicing will be a bit more challenging...a serrated blade makes for easy work with a great bark.

    Anyway,slow it down just a bit on temps, and drop a few minutes time off, and I think you'll get closer to what you are describing as your grade "A" texture for a bit more tug and chew to your spare ribs.

    As Bama mentioned, you can do too much at a time when making adjustments, so make smaller adjustments if you are making more than one at a time. Hence why I stated to drop a little of each (temps and time).

    Many great smokes to ya!!!

  8. This is pretty much a departure from the way most folks cook ribs. This sounds terribly simple. And you know what? I'm going to do my ribs the next time this way. Thanks for sharing!
  9. ecto1

    ecto1 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    You can cook a 3-2-1 rib with some tug you just modify.  I do it all the time I would guess that most of the time I spend only about an hour in the foil.
  10. s2k9k

    s2k9k AMNPS Test Group

    I've only done 3-2-1 one time and I might  not have hit the times right on but they were not "fall of the bone" they were very firm but tender. I don't know what I did and thought that's how 3-2-1 were supposed to be until I read about the "fall off the bone" texture later and wondered why mine weren't. I didn't care because I like them a little firm.
  11. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    Sir, like I've said these ribs will get a A- grade. My friends love them. Some people love that falling off the bone ribs, I don't. I like my ribs tough. The method I posted is simple. Since posting my original message, I've eaten more than 1/2 the rack (and drank lots of beer).  I'm just looking to make them firmer. But otherwise, these are dang good ribs.
  12. urbanredneck

    urbanredneck Fire Starter

    Just did some St Louis style myself yesterday (Forgot to snap pictures though)- Got them on the smoker at [email protected] 245 degrees, pulled them off at about 7:00- turned out just the way I like, a little bit of pull on the meat, not falling to pieces, which I've done a few times myself.  Normally I'm running at 225 for 6 hours- I think you may want to either adjust time or temp, that 10 degrees can make a world of difference.  I have done the 3-2-1 method as well, but I'm in the same camp as you on it- I would rather just go out and spray my ribs every hour after the bark gets set, usually after three or so.

    Not that I use an electric anymore, I'm using a cheater fan with my stick burner.
  13. kryinggame

    kryinggame Smoking Fanatic

    Hey man, I'm with you. I think in order to get the ribs the way I want them, I'm going to drop down to 225 degrees and check them at the 5 hour mark. Everyone has a preference and I prefer not to do the 3-2-1 method. I think that's just gross. If I want soft meat, I'll do pulled pork.
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

     You gleaned the info given by some learned guys and came up with a great answer! This is what I would have recommended. Great job all...JJ
  15. jirodriguez

    jirodriguez Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yeah.... for open grate ribs I drop my temps to 210-220, and at the lower temp you don't really need to spritz them, just let them do their thing for 4 to 4.5 hrs. I check them at the 4 to 4.5 hr. mark with the bend test, I have had some racks be done right at the 5 hr mark, and others need an little more time, but I want to check them about 1/2 before I think they will be done just in case. If you sauce them in the smoker use the last 1/2 hour or hour to do that. I do rest mine in foil for about 30-40 min. to realy help keep the moisture from bleeding out when you cut them.
  16. deltadude

    deltadude Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I don't know how to respond to that comment.  All I can say is we do several 30-50 people bbqs a year with my ribs, and they all keep coming back.  To my surprise a couple of years ago someone brought a friend, what I didn't know, the friend was a local food critic for the main paper.  She told the person who brought her my ribs were the best she ever had.  I foil my ribs, and use either 321 or 221 as a rule of thumb only.

    The goal great tasting ribs with desired texture and tenderness, which includes having to pull the bone away with a firm tug, it does NOT include meat falling off the bone.

    I preheat to 270º, cook at 225º.

    The problem most have with 321 or 221 is they follow the time structure as if they were on a train, which arrives or leaves at a specific time.  321 or 221 is a rule of thumb only, not every smoker is the same and not all ribs are the same.  So how to you gauge when to go from stage 1 to stage 2 the foil stage?  "Pullback", how far has the meat pulled back from the rib bone tip?  If is 1/2" guess what you have over cooked your ribs, I look for about 1/4" no more than 3/8", and then I foil, I only use apple juice which is room temp, the ribs will steam in the foil making them tender.  However the down side when using foiling is the bark gets soft.  However after the time have been in foil at least 90 min. I check one of my foiled rib packets, if they have enough tenderness (I check for bend and pull off the smallest bone and taste),  At this stage I don't want ready to eat tenderness because they are going to cook another hour brushed with BBQ sauce or dry (if dry I spritz with apple juice).  Note I have also removed the water pan for the final stage, caution monitor temp closely 220-225º.  After the hour of cooking to get a better bark, I have two choices, 1st is serve them.  The second is I let them sit, foiled yeah that loosens the bark again, and when it's time to eat I throw the ribs on the grill and get some heat and char, grill is on med. 

    Note also I sometimes skip the 3rd stage, with heat off, and keep them double sealed in foil, and a couple hours later I when all are ready to eat, will grill them about 30 min hitting with sauce.  Even if I'm serving them dry they still go on the grill.
  17. flash

    flash Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Really that is all I would do. 3-2-1 is just a starting point. I think they turn out great. But you have to adjust it to YOUR taste.


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