Super Bowl? NASCAR at Daytona? World Series? March Madness? The Masters? Memorial Day, 4th of July, or Labor Day? All these events are a great opportunity to practice those BBQing skills. One thing we do at these type of events is test out new recipes and other slow smoking techniques. If you have a new sauce or rub you want to try out, cook some ribs using your regular recipe. This is your "control" group or the group that you are comparing the new recipe to. Then cook some ribs using your new recipe and make this your "test" group. Keep them seperate. Then hold a taste testing with family members and get their opinion on which is better. If you are a competitor, this information is invaluable.
Another thing you can do is have a mini-contest... set up some rules and have your friends bring over their best ribs, chicken, butts, or brisket. Then have your friends and family be the judges. It can even turn into an annual event. It's great fun too. This is how a lot of bigger contests got started. If you don't have a big expensive offset smoker, don't worry! You can smoke some pretty good BBQ on a standard Weber Kettle grill. If you don't have one already, order one now in our BBQ Store. Here's how to do it...
Just about everybody has a Weber kettle charcoal grill in their back yard. If you are going on a picnic or camping, it's a "must have" item to bring. You can smoke some pretty good ribs on these things. Here's how to do smoked ribs on a Weber kettle - i.e. How to set it up so that you are "offset smoking" and not grilling... I simply start it up by making two piles of charcoal briquettes on opposite sides of the grill (away from the center). Make sure your vents on the bottom of the grill are open and not clogged with ashes. I then squirt my lighter fluid on the briquettes and light them (note - if you do this right without splashing lighter fluid all over the place and letting your coals burn till good and white, you will get no lighter fluid taste. Be sure to use the new oderless fluid too. If you still hate lighter fluid, just use a charcoal chimney).
Start soaking your wood chips at least an hour before you will need them. You can place a disposable aluminum pan between your charcoal piles and fill it with about an inch of warm water or beer if you want.
You can either buy spareribs or what is called loin back ribs. If you buy the big spareribs, cut the brisket end off the ribs at the joint (this is called St Louis cut and we have an entire newsletter explaining this). Then trim the skirt meat off. Don't throw this away - you can cook it separately and eat it too. You also want to pull the membrane off the back side of the ribs. If you want, you can put your favorite dry rub on both sides of your ribs at this time. I prefer the more natural taste of the smoked meat with a little BBQ sauce, so I do not apply any rub or any other seasonings before smoking.
When you are ready to start smoking, place your grate on the grill so that the holes near the handles are over your charcoal piles. This way, you can add charcoal as needed to maintain your heat. Some newer models have hinged grates for this purpose.
Now all you do is place your meat in the center of the grate - away from the charcoal piles. When I smoke ribs, I use a rib rack on top of the grate. Weber makes a good rib rack and you can get one at any good store that sells Weber grills. Place your trimmed pieces anywhere not directly over the coals. Throw some soaked mesquite chips directly on the charcoal and close the lid (don't overdo the mesquite chips - mesquite imparts a strong smoke taste so a little goes a long way). Feel free to used soaked hickory, pecan, oak, apple, or any other "flavor" of wood chips that suits your taste buds. I personally like mesquite as I feel it is the only smoke flavor that will not get covered up by your sauce. If done right, it's not overpowering, but you can still taste that delicious smoke flavor.
Open the vents on the lid all the way and insert a thermometer through one of the vent holes. This is important! I use one of those confection/deep fry style thermometers with the clip and long stem on it. It's important to measure the temperature as close to the meat as possible. Smoke your ribs at 230 - 240 deg F. If the temperature is too high (around 300 deg) for the first 30 minutes, don't worry about it too much. If it gets any hotter than 300 deg then crack the lid a little to let some heat escape. When the temperature gets too low, just open the lid and toss in a few new briquettes and/or soaked wood chips. Try to stay "ahead of the game" as far as heat is concerned because it's easier to cool down a hot smoker than it is to get it back up to temperature if your fire goes out.
Cook the ribs for 3 hours. Don't open the lid unless absolutely necessary - remember, "if you're looking, you ain't cooking". While you are adding charcoal, you can also spray the ribs with apple juice to keep them moist. After 3 hours, take your ribs off and wrap tightly in foil and return to the grill for one more hour.
After one hour in the foil, take your ribs out of the foil and place back on the grill. You'll know your ribs are getting done when the meat is pulling away from the bone - this is a sure sign that your ribs are getting done. Maybe gently tug on one of the bones to see if it is "loose". Also... if you pick up one end of a slab with a pair of tongs and your slab bends down 90°, then that is another sign that your ribs are getting done.
After removing from the foil, apply your favorite BBQ sauce and glaze the ribs for one more hour. You can cut your BBQ Sauce with honey to make a sweet glaze if that is what you like. Apply your glaze to both sides and flip after 15 minutes and reapply glaze after each 15 minutes. After one hour of glazing, let your ribs rest for at least 15 minutes and then slice between each bone. You are now ready to sink your teeth into some of the best ribs you have ever tasted! Mouth watering, tender, and falling off the bone good!