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Grilling and BBQ How To Meats

How to Make Competition Worthy Barbecue Ribs

By Bill Anderson

Great barbecue recipes are hard to come by. Most recipes and books leave out important information like times and temperatures. That’s because so much depends on your cooking conditions. But if you know the basics and what to look for, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Prepping Your Grill

Perfectly cooked and sauced. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just about everybody has a Weber kettle charcoal grill in their back yard. You can smoke some pretty good ribs on these things. This is one of my favorite barbeque recipes because I can use mesquite wood and Lee will not allow me to put mesquite in his expensive Lang Smoker because of the residue it leaves on the inside surfaces. Anyway… here’s how to set up your charcoal grill 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.

Start soaking your wood chips at least an hour before you will need them. I make sure the charcoal is white before I start smoking so that all the lighter fluid has burnt up and does not give your meat a lighter fluid taste. If you want to use a charcoal chimney to start your charcoal, that’s OK too – some people hate using lighter fluid. Just dump your “white” charcoal from the chimney on opposite sides of the grill when they are ready. 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.

Prepping your Ribs
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. 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. That’s the great thing about barbecue recipes… you can change them up to suit your liking! Just don’t change the “technique” too much.

Let’s Start 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. This is another way to personalize your barbeque recipes… there are all different types of woods and wood combinations that you can use. There are even unique and exotic woods like grape vine. 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.

Control the Temperature
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.

Ready for Glazing
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. Barbeque recipes are not an exact science… you have to use some common sense. If it’s cold outside, or humid, or dry your times and temps may vary. Just keep an eye on things and increase or decrease times accordingly.

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!

About the Author
Bill Anderson

For more information on slow smoking ribs, butts, chicken, and brisket, please visit Bill Anderson’s web site at

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