Trouble with Spare Ribs

Discussion in 'Pork' started by peavley, Oct 23, 2007.

  1. peavley

    peavley Fire Starter

    I have been smoking now for about a month. The first thing I smoked was a brisket and it was excellent. Then I thought I'd try a pork butt, and it was the best. So I figured I had this smoking thing figured out because after researching on this site it seems that the ribs are pretty easy as long as you follow the 3-2-1 method. I followed the 3-2-1 to the "T", kept the temp fairly consistant at 225 (a few jumps to 250). The ribs never drew back on the bone as I thought they would. The meat was not tender at all, not even close to falling off of the bone which is what my goal was. I was just overall dissapointed with the smoke...and I do not know what the problem may have been. And to top it all off, this time we invited company. The first two smokes I did not invite any company because I was not sure how it would turn out. I guess I will stick with the Pork Butt for now on...or maybe try babybacks? Part of the problem was none of the fat cooked down and the meat was rubbery. Would babybacks be any different?

    Oh well I will try them again I am sure....but as for may be a while before I have the desire to attempt ribs again.[​IMG][​IMG]
  2. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    My first question is on the temperature side. What are you using to measure temp? If some kind of external reader, then fine, but the stock dial on my Chargriller is junk. Not sure what kind of box you're cooking in, but that may be an issue. Asside from that, as I'm sure you've read here, the 3-2-1 is just a reference. Sometimes it takes longer for some meats to cook; I suppose it's a combination of the meat construction.....and of course murphy's in there as well!

    Don't give up on ribs though. They're about as close as we can get to Heaven on this earth! Also, give beef ribs a try. They're a bit cheaper per pound; helps when you are experimenting.

    As far as BB's go, I can't help you there. I don't care for their flavour.
  3. bbq bubba

    bbq bubba Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Sorry to hear that Peavley, first question i have.........were the ribs in a cryovac pac in a "solution", that is, packed in a water solution and not the natural juices.
    You'll have to look at the package, it is usually fine print, we'll go from there [​IMG]
  4. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    A couple of questions and comments for you.

    Are you sure the temps were accurate?

    Were they trimmed St. Louis Style, etc. or the whole big slab?

    Did you pull the membrane off the back of the slab?

    If you want "fall off the bone" increase the time in the foil. After 2 hours check them, if they are not where you want them, keep them in the foil longer. You can get them to where you will have a hard time removing them from the foil if you aren't careful.

    The last hour is more for firming them back up and applying some sauce. If they are where you want them pull them off, don't leave them an hour just because it is the "3-2-1 method". I pretty much never go 1 hour......usually more like 20 to 30 minutes....with 20 being the most common.

    Keep in mind 3-2-1 is more of a rough guideline than a hard rule. If it was that easy, everyone would crank out perfect ribs everytime.

    If you want fall off the bone, I would suggest 3 hours at 225 or so, then run the heat up to 250 to 275, for the "2" portion and check them at 2 hours, if they aren't "fall of the bone", then keep them wrapped until they are. Back the temp back down for the "1", apply some sauce and let things firm up a bit...........when they look right, take them off.....probably 20 to 30 minutes IMO.

    Oh, and don't sweat the pull back from the bone.........some pull way back, others don' doesn't mean much other than "the look".

    Hope that helped.
  5. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    [​IMG] Man I wish places would stop selling those things.
  6. smokin for life

    smokin for life Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Peavley I'm sorry to hear about your ribs, but don't let that bum you out. Heck it may have been a bad rack of ribs like some one said. There could be so many other reasons. As it was said "3-2-1 is just a guide line" even though it was always right on for me. But just check to see if they're what you're looking for. If not chuck em back in untill they are. Remember it's your smoker and you're the boss!! Just don't give up on the ribs, they're really yummy!
  7. hawgheaven

    hawgheaven Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I can't add much to what has already been said, other than I have been "mislead" by my stock temp guage... that has long since been remedied.

    Also, before you foil, make sure you are getting around 1/4" pullback. Also, if you have hot spots in your smoker, try rotating the ribs around on the grates.

    Good luck and don't give up!
  8. peavley

    peavley Fire Starter

    Thank Yall for the advice. To answer a few of your questions...I am smoking with a oklahoma joe longhorn and the stock thermometer is what was used to guage the smoking chamber temp. Should I use a different method to guage this? Should I clean the probe of the thermometer to get the sutt off of it maybe?
    The ribs were not packaged in any kind of solution or anything that I could tell. They were on a piece of styrofoam wrapped in that plastick wrap that they use. I am guessing that the neighborhood store that I bought it from wrapped it up themselves because the ribs were already trimmed...although maybe not enough though. The trimmings were in the package with the ribs, I did pull off the membrane before I rubbed with a storebought pork rub.

    OK I think I answered all of your questions...Thank yall very much for helping me try to figure this one out.
  9. ron50

    ron50 Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I would definitely check the thermometer, sounds like the temperature was off.
  10. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Yep, I think that is the problem as well. Get a digital thermometer, doesn't have to be fancy or remote or anything, just something you can leave the probe in the cooking chamber and watch the temp from the outside. You want to know the temp at the grate level where you are cooking. Even if the stock therm is accurate, it probably isn't properly located.
  11. richtee

    richtee Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I think we found the major culprit right here, guys... whaddia think?

    I'll wager that the thermometer on your unit is at LEAST 50 degrees off actual grill temps... Get a digital and slip it into the smoker at grate level is a good start, I think.

    On edit- Guess I should have read the other replies..LOL good info guys!
  12. fatback joe

    fatback joe Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I thought I was the only one who did first, read second. LOL
  13. zardnok

    zardnok Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    As others have stated, you need a thermometer at grate level. You do not want the temp probe to touch the grill itself though or it will have a nasty heat spike! I recommend taking a standard potato and sticking the temp probe all the way through so the tip sticks out the other side. Then you can just lay the potato on the grate and do not have to worry about damaging your expensive new thermometer.
  14. smokyokie

    smokyokie Smoking Fanatic

    That will also make sure you have accurate temps. The temp of the grate and the temp of the air in the cooking chamber are two different things.

    There is absolutely no way that any pork rib would not be tender if cooked at a true 225* for 6 hours. There are really only two possibilities here that I can see. One is that your thermo is out of order.

    To check it, remove it from your OKJoe, and stick the probe into boiling water. It should read 212*. @ standard atmospheric pressure water an't get any hotter than that, and must be @ that temp in order to boil. Cleaning the probe shouldn't make any difference. When you remove the thermo from the unit, use a wrench or pliers and turn the nut being careful not to turn the head of the thermo. This can ruin them.

    The other possibility is that you had beef ribs rather than pork. Beef back ribs should've been tender in that amount of time, but not necessarily so for short ribs.

    If you're sure that you had pork ribs then it's ppsitive that them grate temp in your smoker was not 225*.

    Next, are you sure you want them"falling off the bone"? In a recent poll her I think it was about 70% or better of folks said they liked them to have a litle more "bite" to them. Also, KCBS rules judge falling off the bone as being overcooked.

    3-2-1 is a good safe way to get started on ribs, but 6 hours is a looooong time for baby backs even @ 225*

    If you get ready to try again, shoot me a PM a couple days ahead of time and I'll bet we can help you out.
  15. peavley

    peavley Fire Starter

    Wow...Thank yall for the advice. I will test the temp guage on the smoker and I will also get another thermometer and rig up to read the temp of the smoke chamber at grate level.

    After two days of having time to get over my frustration I can not see myself giving up on ribs just yet. Thank yall for the advice and encouragement.[​IMG]
  16. placebo

    placebo Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I didn't see it mentioned but when you use the digital therm to check the internal temp of your smoker, remember to use a potato for your probe so it doesn't touch any metal.
  17. smokyokie

    smokyokie Smoking Fanatic

    3 post prior
  18. jmedic25

    jmedic25 Meat Mopper OTBS Member

    Clean your therm and cook some more ribs. You deserve to taste success. Take pics and give us a report

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