Slow-Smoked Spareribs with Sweet BBQ Sauce

I had a craving for ribs this week so it was inevitable that I would be firing up the smoker early Saturday morning.  To cook spareribs right you need to take your time, so plan to spend a minimum of six hours cooking the ribs.

I like to prepare my sauce in advance so that it’s one less thing to do while I’m barbecuing.  This recipe is a jazzed-up version of Steven Raichlen’s Basic Barbecue Sauce.

Sweet Barbecue Sauce

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of your favourite barbecue rub
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Heat over medium-low heat until the sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce the temperature to low and simmer uncovered until the sauce reaches the desired consistency, approximately 30 – 45 minutes.

Spareribs

I prefer to cut my spareribs St Louis Style rather than serve as an entire slab.  This gives the ribs a nice uniform appearance and eliminates all the cartilage of the rib tips.  You can either do this yourself or ask your butcher to trim the ribs for you.  I like to throw the rib tips on the smoker for three hours and have them as a snack while I’m waiting for the spareribs to finish cooking.

Once the ribs are trimmed, rub them down on both sides with a light coating of prepared yellow mustard.  This will help the dry rub adhere to the ribs, which will be our next step.

Sprinkle the ribs on both sides with your favourite barbecue rub.  For a good recipe, check out Meathead’s Memphis Dust.  You want the rub to cover the whole surface, but don’t apply it too heavy.

Spareribs and rib tips ready for the smoker.

Prepare your smoker for indirect cooking over low heat (225° to 250°F).

It’s really up to you what type of wood you use for smoking the spareribs.  I’m partial to hickory but this time I decided to mix it up and use a combination of apple and cherry wood.  The cherry wood adds a nice red colour to the ribs!  I used 3 cups of woods chips (by volume), soaked in warm water overnight.

We will be using the 3-2-1 method for cooking spareribs.  In my experience this yields the absolute best result for spareribs; tender meat that tugs off the bone cleanly, but still has a little chew to it.

  1. Add the ribs to the smoker, meat-side up, and smoke for 3 hours.
  2. After 3 hours pull the ribs off the smoker, wrap in foil, and add half a cup of apple juice in the foil packet.  Place the ribs back on the smoker meat-side down and cook for 2 hours.
  3. Remove the ribs from the foil and discard (the foil and juice, not the ribs).  Re-apply a light coating of the dry rub as some of it will have come off in the juice.
  4. Return the ribs to the smoker and cook for 1 hour.  In the last 15 minutes you can apply a light coating of barbecue sauce and allow it to bake onto the ribs.

Cut the ribs into individual pieces and serve.

Slow-Smoked Spareribs with Sweet BBQ Sauce

Pulled Pork

Is there anything better than tender, smokey delicious pork?  In addition to smoking ribs this past weekend, I figured I may as well throw a pork butt on there too.  Why not, there was room!

I’m cooking an 8 lb pork butt that will leave me with plenty of leftovers.

The first step I took is adding some extra moisture and flavour to the pork by injecting it with a nice little marinade.  The beauty of injection is that I can do it right before the meat goes on the smoker, and I get far better penetration than if I were to attempt marinating the pork overnight.

Injection

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Follow up the injection with a nice spice rub.  The mustard is there to help the rub stick to the pork; you simply rub it on prior to applying the spice rub.

Rub

Smoke

  • 6 cups hickory wood chips, soaked overnight, drained

This sauce recipe is courtesy of Big Bob Gibson.  Simple and delicious!

Carolina Mustard Sauce

  • 3/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Directions

Prepare your smoker for indirect cooking over low heat (225° to 250°F).

Place the pork butt on the smoker grill and add 1/4 cup of drained wood chips.  Every half hour add an additional 1/4 cup of wood chips until they are all gone.

Smoke for approximately 5 hours until a nice bark has formed and the internal temperature has stalled between 150 – 160°F.

Once the pork butt hits the stall period, remove it from the cooker.  Place the pork butt in a disposable aluminium pan, add 1 cup of unsweetened apple juice for moisture, and tightly wrap the pan with aluminium foil.  Return the wrapped pork butt to the smoker.  Or you can cheat like I did and finish the cook inside the indoor oven.

Cook until the internal temperature reaches 190°F.

Remove the wrapped pork butt from the smoker and let it rest (in the foil) for 1 hour.

After the rest period pull the pork, apply the sauce, and serve.

Pulled Pork

Lessons Learned

Awhile back I attempted to cook a small pork shoulder on my smoker.  After 8 hours of cooking the butt was not getting above 155°F; it had held that temperature for approximately 4 hours.

So this time around I utilized the foiling method (Texas crutch).  I found that this reduced the total cook time to approximately 8 hours.  The internal temperature of the pork butt steadily rose and did not stall.

Obviously a huge benefit to foiling is that the butt cooks one heck of a lot faster.  However a drawback to using this method is that you will lose the crispy exterior bark as foiling will cause the exterior to remain moist.  I figured by the time you pull it apart and sauce the pork, will you really notice the missing bark?  Maybe, but to me it wasn’t worth the extra cook time and headaches.

Tools of the Trade – Part 1

Thermometers

If you’re not using a good thermometer you are essentially cooking blind.

Grill and Meat Probe Thermometer

My favourite thermometer to use on a long cook is the Maverick ET-732.  This thermometer will monitor the temperature of your BBQ at grill level (where you put the meat) as well as monitor the temperature of your roast with its leave-in probe.  Not only that, it sends the temperature readings wirelessly to a handheld receiver.  This is a great feature as it allows me to be inside the house and still monitoring the temps.

Instant Read Thermometer

For those times when using a leave-in probe is not practical, for example when cooking burgers or pork chops, I prefer to use an instant read thermometer.  This takes the guess work out of when your meat is done, and never again will you serve under/over cooked meat to your guests.

The model I use is the Thermoworks MTC Mini Handheld equipped with a fast response meat probe.  This thermometer will read temps in less than 2 seconds and leaves a hole the size of a pin.  Perfect for not letting all those tasty juices escape when measuring the temperature.

Additional Reading

For more in-depth reading I highly recommend checking out Meathead’s article on thermometers over at Amazingribs.com.

Cookbooks

Some of my favourite resources for recipes.

Weber’s Charcoal Grilling , The Art of Cooking with Live Fire,  Jamie Purviance

Weber’s Smoke, A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill, Jamie Purviance

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book, Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary BBQ Joint, Chris Lilly

Introduction

Hello and welcome!

My intention with creating this blog is to document my attempts at producing some great barbecue on my Weber kettle grill.

I hope you will stick around and follow me on my adventures in outdoor cooking.

- Russell

Slow & Low BBQ Bar + Grill
Cocoa Beach, FL