When summer beckons outdoor family time, I want to get outside and cook something on the grill or in my smoker. I don’t know why, but it started when I was in college with simple foods like burgers, chicken, and hot dogs. As I got older and more confident that I wouldn’t ruin a good piece of meat, I began to cook brisket, pork butt, salmon, ribs, and other foods. The more I got outside my comfort zone, the more I fell in love with the art of grilling. I’ll be honest — I’m no expert or chef at some great restaurant. I’m just a guy who loves grilling and smoking meat, and I’m going to share a great rib recipe along with some tips/tricks I’ve picked up along the way!
Step 1: Spare Ribs
I always thought that baby back ribs were the only ribs worth cooking. I was way wrong! Spare ribs have more fat, which equals more flavor. I usually buy the whole spare ribs in the sealed package at the grocery store. I then trim the spare ribs and cut the membrane off the back of the rack before I cover in a rub. (Plenty of videos on YouTube show how to trim spare ribs and cut the membrane off the back.)
Step 2: The Rub
My rib rub has been a work in progress for about 15 years now, and I think I finally have the best combination of spices. I combine 1/2 cup coarse ground pepper and 1/4 cup salt with one tablespoon each of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika in a bowl and mix together. I take the rub and cover both sides of the ribs.
HINT: Put the rib rub in an old spice shaker — this allows you to cover the ribs evenly.
Step 3: Cook
I like to start my fire of regular charcoal briquettes at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before cooking. At this point, I place one to two pieces of oak wood on top of the charcoal for smoke flavor. I use oak mainly because I get it from my yard; we have oak trees that drop branches and limbs all year. I take those branches and chop them up into 1-foot long pieces that are perfect for smoking!
Once the internal heat of the smoker has reached 250 degrees F, I place the ribs in the smoker. Let the ribs cook for 90 minutes without opening the smoker — if you’re lookin’, you ain’t cookin’! At 90 minutes, I spray the ribs with apple cider vinegar and place five to six pats of butter on top; I repeat this process every 30 minutes for another 90 minutes. At that point, I wrap the ribs in foil, which allows the ribs to continue to cook without getting any darker, and place them back in the smoker for at least an hour. Take the ribs out of the smoker and allow to rest wrapped up for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and eating.
HINT: I use an offset smoker so the heat is indirect, but if you have a grill smoker, place charcoal at one end of the grill; this will allow you to place ribs at the other end so they won’t be directly over the fire. Also, place a water pan in the smoker for moisture throughout the cooking process.
Step 4: ENJOY!