When to sauce ribs? (When the typical cook-time isn't enough.)

Discussion in 'Pork' started by kargov, Jun 10, 2014.

  1. kargov

    kargov Fire Starter

    Hey all,

    I'm smoking baby-backs for the first time this Saturday. In the past, I've had trouble when smoking spares because I tend to put the sauce on at the wrong time. For example, if I'm doing 3-2-1, I'll put on sauce in the last 45m - 1hr. However, the times I've done this, the ribs just haven't been ready and have needed a couple more hours, and the sauce ends up burning.

    In the few times I've smoked I've learned the meat is ready when it's ready, and not to live by set numbers.

    So, with this in mind, what indicators can I look for in ribs (both baby-back & spares) to know when I should begin saucing? I know when to take them off based on the pull-back, bend, etc...just not when to begin saucing, as I don't know when there'll only be one more hour left.



  2. talan64

    talan64 Meat Mopper

    I've come to not saucing any of my meat while on the smoker.

    I use a good rub (either Jeff's or my own), and complete the smoke. 

    I let the eater decide how much and which sauce they want to add.
  3. kargov

    kargov Fire Starter

    Do you find a difference in saucing after or before?

    I'm looking for a carmelization. I find my bark is sometimes a tad soggy. I'm not sure if that's due to poor timing on saucing; too much rub; or the brown sugar, honey, & apple juice added during the foiling process.

    Cheers, Talan.

    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014
  4. yotzee

    yotzee Smoking Fanatic

    If you are foiling that is why you are getting soggy bark.

    You can sauce in the last 20 minutes or so and get carmelization.  I usually do 2 light layers of sauce one about 30 mins from done and one about 10 mins from done.

    Also, stop depending on time to tell you when your meat is near done.  Let the meat tell you when its near done.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2014
  5. brandon91

    brandon91 Meat Mopper

    I always sauce after the 2hr foiling and back in the smoker another hour. Maybe monitor the temps and start adding at a specific temp.
  6. ps0303

    ps0303 Meat Mopper

    I have always used the 3-2-1 method and never had burned ribs nor have they needed more time to cook.  What are your temps you are smoking at?

    I do my ribs about 225-250.  Smoke for three hours, wrap for two with butter, brown sugar, and honey, and then unwrap for the last hour with a light sauce on them.  Perfect every time.
  7. kargov

    kargov Fire Starter

    I thought it was difficult to measure temps on ribs given the little amount of meat – or am I mistaken? I suppose there's no visual indication, then. And thanks!
    Thanks! I was having temperature issues the last time I smoked ribs (started at 275, ended at around 200 so I had to throw in the oven to finish 'em.) However, I know what issues caused that and it won't happen again for this smoke. I'll try 225-250 @ 2-2-1 for Baby Back & try a light sauce for the last hour, as you've advised.

  8. seenred

    seenred Smoking Guru Group Lead OTBS Member

    Hi Kargov,

    When I'm saucing (I don't usually, but sometimes I do), I let the ribs get about 99% done before mopping on the sauce.  I agree that it's challenging to get accurate internal temps (IT's) in ribs because of all the bones, but it's not really necessary anyway.  The easiest way I've found to test for doneness is by checking the pullback from the bone, and the "bend test".  Pullback:  the meat "shrinkage" will expose about a half inch to and inch of bone on the side of the rack.  Bend test:  with tongs, pick up a rack from one end...if the rack bends to at least a 45* angle in the middle, and if the meat on the top cracks a little as it bends, they are very close to done.  Whether foiling with the 3-2-1 or 2-2-1 method, or just letting them ride the whole way "naked",  this is the point where I would sauce...they really only need about 20-30 minutes for the sauce to carmelize nicely.

    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014
    kargov likes this.
  9. kargov

    kargov Fire Starter

    Thanks! My understanding was that they were done at that point – but if that's the point I can mop on the sauce...sounds good!

  10. yotzee

    yotzee Smoking Fanatic

    I did a rack yesterday with no foiling.  As Red said I waited until the bend test told me they were about done than lathered on a layer of sauce, 10 mins layer a second layer and 10 mins later off.  The sauce was perfect.

    Another key is don't OVER sauce.  Commercial sauces are full of sugars and high fructose corn syrup.  A little goes along way.   I barely use them anymore.
    kargov likes this.
  11. kargov

    kargov Fire Starter

    Sounds good! Gonna make my own sauce, but I'll try the two thin layers on all but one, and one thicker layer on the one to see the difference.

    Oh, and do you just sauce the tops or go fully around?

    Thanks guys! :)
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2014
  12. yotzee

    yotzee Smoking Fanatic

    I sauce the tops and a little around the sides. I use nice thin coats that just spread over the meat and bones. I usually do 2 coats.

    After about a year of doing everything from trying different homemade cooked sauces from scratch to playing with variations of altering commercial sauces (mostly Sweet Baby Rays) I think what we like best is the homemade Carolina style sauce I originally used for my pulled pork. Its a ketchup & apple cider vinegar base with yellow mustard, my rub, pepper flake and molasses. I add a little extra molasses to get it just a bit thicker and a little cayenne to give it that sweet heat. It spreads on nice and thickens just enough to give a sticky sauce that isn't all gooped on. Its just enough to not mask the pork flavor, and the vinegar accentuates the meat nicely.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014

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