Smoked Baby Back Ribs

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(Click on pic to enlarge)

This is a standard dish here at Ducks Mahal.

Smoking meats is an art in most of the southern states. You can find great BBQ from Virginia as far west as Kansas and as far south as Texas to Florida.  Each state has its own style for shakes, rubs, smoking wood, sweet, sour, pepper, sauces from butter and brown sugar, to no sauce, to what we use here, a sweet/sour tomato sauce.

The trick is in the wood. When I smoke birds I use an apple or pear wood, for beef I use mesquite and hickory and for pork I use pecan.

Ribs need a good rub or shake. Actually it is a lot of spices to shake on the meat and then rub into the meat before cooking. The spices neutralize any gamy flavor in the meat and adds flavor and sometimes a little heat from cayenne pepper.

When eaten, ribs are supposed to come right off the bone with little or no tug when biting the meat away from the bone. Some people go so far as to par boil ribs first but I advise against that.  Par boiling changes the texture and robs the meat of flavor.  The technique used to get the meat to fall off the bone is to wrap them in aluminum foil and steam them in their own juices for the last hour. The other important steps is not to add any sugar or sugary sauce until the last 20 minutes of cooking.  On direct heat sugar will burn, which ruins the texture and the taste.

To baste the ribs, fill a spray water bottle with 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup of water.  While smoking the ribs, turn over the meat and spray the meat on both sides with this baste to regenerate moisture.

Prepare the racks by pulling away the membrane on the bottom along the bone and trim any excess fat.

Shake (for one rack of ribs)

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In a small food processor mix:

  • 2 TBSP paprika
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP lemon pepper
  • 1 TBSP salt
  • 1 TBSP dried basil
  • 1/2 TBSP cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 TBSP white pepper
  • 1 TBSP McCormick Montreal Chicken seasoning

Rub the shake into the meat and let rest for about an hour in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

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Get the smoker ready.  I use a smoker with a side box.  I start a small bundle of coals then place the wood on the coals.  The ribs should cook at  200° to 250° for three hours.  Two hours directly on the grill and the last hour on the grill wrapped in aluminum foil.  Check on the meat and the fire every 30 minutes while cooking.  Whatever pit you use, cook ribs on indirect heat.

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After three hours of cooking open the foil and lather the BBQ sauce onto the ribs.  Close the foil and cook another 20 minutes.  This technique lets the BBQ sauce caramelize and glaze onto the meat. Remove and cut the rack into single ribs.

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The nice thing about this rack is at one end the butcher left a little of the pork loin on the rack.  The thick rib on the left pictured above is part of the pork loin.

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There are many things you can do with ribs.  On this section pictured above, I actually cut the meat away at the top and made this half-rack in a french style like a rack of lamb.

BTW, I use a favorite store-bought BBQ sauce.

When eaten the meat has a smoky wood flavor fused into the smoke ring and the outer meat has a slight heat from the pepper covered with a caramelized tomato/sweet/sour sauce.  Lot of flavors, lots of enjoyment.

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