How to Smoke Ribs on a Charcoal Smoker 

Use charcoal smoker to cook smoked ribs.

Ribs smoked over an open fire have the potential to cook perfectly or poorly. Using a charcoal grill or smoker increases the risk of overcooking the ribs, making it difficult to eat them. There’s also a chance that the ribs will be undercooked as well.

You can choose between three various cuts of ribs when purchasing ribs. These are spare ribs, baby back ribs, and St. Louis spare ribs, among other things. Baby back ribs are preferred in Chicago, while spare ribs are preferred in most other country regions because they are more delicious.

A rack of ribs can’t simply be grilled over some hot coals, unlike a hamburger or a steak. Over charcoal and wood, baby back and BBQ spare ribs are smoked for four and one-half hours. This tried-and-true method for smoking and seasoning luscious pork ribs will make grilling a flawless rack of ribs a breeze for you from that point on.

Steps on Using Charcoal Smoker for Smoke Ribs

Step 1: Preparation of the Ribs

In order to cook ribs, you must first clean, cut, and prepare the meat ahead of time before cooking it. Find any extra fat on the meat’s edges. A small part of fat enhances the flavor of your food, but too much fat causes the meat to become tough and stringy.

Remove the skin-like membranes on the underside or “bone sides” of the baby’s back ribs after rinsing and drying with a clean paper towel. Peel the membrane from the ribs by grabbing it with a cloth, then slide a dinner knife beneath the membrane among the bones about the 2nd or 3rd bones from the end. Make sure to evenly and liberally apply the rub on both sides. 

Adding a barbeque rub now is the best time to apply it. While you may buy a pre-made rub, making your own allows you to control how much salt goes into it. In addition to cayenne pepper and garlic, you can add brown sugar to your rub to provide a little bit of sweetness. It would be best if you coated ribs in spices before cooking. It would be best if you did not use sugar-based sauces at this time.

Step 2: Preparing the Fire and Charcoal

Make a low fire on only one half of the grill, then move the heat to the other. We recommend that you do so while sipping a couple of cold beers. If you prefer a more smoky flavor, you can add charcoal and remove the grill grates, as well as soaked wood bits if you desire. You should place water in a foil pan on the other side. It will help to keep the ribs juiciness and flavorful throughout the cooking process. Please set on fire on your grill, let it heat up to 275°F, after removing and replacing the grates. While cooking, be sure to keep an eye on the fire and replenish it with charcoal as necessary.

Prepare your smoker; it doesn’t require much time. In the smoker lay a flat charcoal chimney. Before lighting those at the very top of the chimney, place briquettes in it. You should not add a chimney until the coals have cooled down completely. Alternatively to charcoal, you can use wood. Some home cooks prefer to cook with both charcoal and wood. You should set your offset smoker to 210 to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Ribs that are juicy and tender can be cooked at this temperature. Racks should be placed inside the smoker on the grates when it’s at the right temperature. 

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Adding orange juice or apple to a recipe might be a home chef’s secret weapon. Put a cup of the liquid in a small water pan that sits near where the ribs will be cooking in the smoker. Using the juice as a source of moisture, heat from the inside will distribute the flavor throughout the meat.

Step 3: Smoke Your Unwrapped Ribs

Once the smoker has reached a temperature of at least 250 degrees, you should begin to see smoke rising from the grill. Clean smoke is vital since it is at this initial step that the meat absorbs the smoke and tastes like creosote.

Grill or bake your ribs for the duration of time specified below: 

  • Spares from St. Louis: cook without the wrap for three hours
  • Unwrapped baby backs: cook for two and a half hours

Step 4: Start Smoking Your Wrapped Ribs

Wrapping the ribs in tinfoil is the final step after they’ve been cooked unwrapped in the previous cooking step. Wrapping is advantageous in a variety of ways. It prevents smoke from being absorbed. Too much smoke can ruin a barbecue texture and flavor, so limit to 2 to 3 hours of smoking and reduce cooking time. When cooking ribs, it helps to keep them moist and tender by preventing them from becoming too dark.

It would be best if you placed tinfoil on top of a baking paper that has been covered with aluminum foil. The tinfoil should be big enough to cover the whole rack of ribs, such that at least 3 – 4 inches of tinfoil is exposed all around the entire rack. Create a tiny hole or bow in the baking sheet and middle of the tinfoil by pressing down on the center. It will keep the juice of the wrap in place.

Make sure you stick to the times I’ve provided. You may expect the ribs to be exceptionally juicy and easy to take apart.

  • St. Louis spares: grill in one hour fifteen minutes with wrapping in a foil.
  • Wrapped baby backs in aluminum foil and cooked for one hour

Step 5: Unwrap and Continue Cooking Till Finished

Before serving, carefully unwrap each rib and set it bone side down on the grill. To give it a little more substance, it will need some time to rest. To see it is ready to cook, you have to recheck it after 15 minutes. Perfectly smoked ribs have reached a temperature of roughly 200 ° F. However, I must tell you that it is pretty difficult to precisely measure this temperature due to the proximity of the bones. You can tell if your ribs are done cooking by folding them or cracking them up.

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As you raise to about a third of the rack, use a set of tongs to perform a bend checking or test. In order to check if they are good to go, fold the remaining two-thirds of the ribs over 90 degrees. You’ll also see that the rib meat begins to split at the bend. The bend test should be repeated every fifteen to thirty minutes, depending on how close the previous test result was to completion. It’s sauce time when they’re close fifteen to thirty minutes away—this is the best guess.

Step 6: Drizzle Barbecue Sauce Over Ribs and Serve

Adding barbecue sauce to ribs at the end of the cooking process is the best method to ensure they are done to your liking. Adding too much sugar to sauces might cause them to burn if done incorrectly. Begin by basting the bones side of the ribs with a basting brush, then move on to the meat side with a spoon. Once they’re flipped over, drizzle some sauce on the other side of them. Expect to wait fifteen minutes before reopening the grills and completing a bending test or saucing. If you decide to re-sauce the ribs, be sure to do so only on the very tops.

It’s time to remove them from the smoker and let them rest after they pass the bending test and cook for at least fifteen minutes with sauce. Slicing the ribs is easiest when you use a knife to cut through the meat within the bones. The outer borders of the ribs are marked by smoke rings, which are easy to spot. Pork ribs smoked to perfection have a characteristic pink color that many novice BBQers mistake for undercooked meat.

Recommendations and Tips

Preparing Food at a Low and Slow Rate Temperature

Wood chips should be sprinkled over onto burning coals on both sides of the metal pan when you’re ready to cook. Shortly afterward, you should be able to detect smoke. It would be best if you placed the grilling grate on the grill. Ventilate your home to maintain a comfortable temperature. Lower heat smoking is recommended.

When removing the grill’s cover, your hand should be around four inches away from the grilling grate. Hands over the grate should stay warm for eight to ten seconds at ‘low’ heat about 250 to 300 ° F. An accurate method of monitoring your smoker’s temperature is by inserting a stay-in probing thermometer. An excellent tool for this is ThermoWorks’ Smoke, commonly used in grilling. 

It provides a convenient way to keep tabs on your smoker’s internal and external temperatures and the meat you’re cooking simultaneously. You can monitor temperatures while you’re doing other things, thanks to a wireless transmitter. A must-have accessory for anyone who wants to improve their smoking skills! 

Smoking might take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. The low and slow cooking procedure is what tenderizes and fills the meat with a delicious taste. If you want a good smoke, you can’t rush it and risk ruining it by overheating it.

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Charcoal Grill Maintenance

For each hour, you’ll need to replenish the coals and wood chips in the pan with a few more. Maintaining a steady level of smoke and heat is essential. To ensure that the desired temperature is maintained, you should check it at least once per hour.

How to Maintain the Correct Temp for Charcoal?

The amount of time it takes to cook ribs is determined by two factors: the thickness of the meat and the temperature of your grill. The temperature of your grill can be affected by factors such as the temperature of the outside air, amount of moisture in the grill, type of charcoal, and amount of airflow used in the grill. However, if you’re using a Weber kettle and standard Kingsford briquettes, the following procedure is nearly infallible for keeping the temperature under control:

Set the kettle to the appropriate temperature. Before cooking, set the bottom ventilation lever, so the bottom vents open only a tiny amount. You can open the top vent all the way or just a little bit. It will be pretty hot for the first thirty minutes, perhaps as high as 400°F, but that will pass quickly. Set the vent at the top. Increasingly close the top vent until no more smoke is escaping from it, but do not completely shut it off. It will speed up the rate at which the temperature drops. Reopening the top vent a bit when the temperature reaches 225°F to 250°F is an option.

Keep an eye out for the temperature. If the grill temperature drops too low, double-check that the bottom vent isn’t entirely shut. Continue to widen the top duct until it is nearly fully open. While modifying the upper and bottom openings simultaneously may be tempting, it is possible to go overboard. Adjust the vents sequentially, then wait a few minutes before checking the temperature. Adjust the setting as necessary.

Remember that if you entirely seal off both vents, you’ll lose your heat. The upper vent dampers must always be half-open to keep the fire from being smothered by combustion fumes. It’s important to note that the dampers may be practically wide open at times and almost closed at others – following a few rounds, you’ll discover that every smoke is unique, and you’ll learn to go with the current.

To maintain a steady temperature, keep the lid tightly closed. The ribs are going to be checked at the end. It is recommended to check them earlier than usual, but it may depend on how hot or how high the temperature changes were while cooking.

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