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Rib disaster

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    Rib disaster

    Hey folks looking for help to figure out what did I do wrong today.. Think I followed same procedure that I've done many times, never had a result like this. Unfortunately didn't take photos as I was too bummed.

    Smoked 3 racks of spares trimmed to St Louis. GMG Davy Crockett at 275, with a rack insert. Rubbed an hour before. Two racks on top rack, one rack plus trimmed tips below.

    Spritzed after just under an hour, all looking good. Bottom rack looking a little more advanced than top.

    Came back for another spritz about an hour later.. Bottom rack getting a little black, and rib tips on the right incinerated (more on this later). Foiled the bottom rack (adding more rub, a little maple syrup, and grape juice). Put that back and let the top two go a little longer, then foiled them as well. Stacked those two (wrapped individually) on top rack and moved bottom up to top at that point, as I worried bottom was too hot.

    Checked in 45 mins later...all racks temping between 200 and 215. One rack seemed just about perfect, and ate well. But one charred to point of inedible; instead of bend test, was stiff and I could break it in half like a stick. All moisture gone. And one in between, mostly edible inside but the bark was black and crunchy and tasted burnt. The charred racks were also sticking to the foil, was hard to peel off.

    My thoughts:
    * Never seen ribs get dried-out and crunchy while wrapped in foil with liquid.
    * Does sticking to foil mean maple syrup was bad idea, or is that just reflective of the general overcook? Usually I use honey or agave, figured maple would behave similar.
    * I would be temped to blame smoker thermo sensor...but have cooked on it 5 other times in last 2 weeks and all great. * GMG suggests moving heat shield to even out temp left-right, and the difference among bottom rack rib tips suggest I should give this a try. But hard to imagine that explains the whole thing.
    * How did the one rack come out perfect while others inedible? I know it was one of the top racks which I stacked after foiling...maybe good one was on top and stacking helped shield it from too much heat??

    ​​​​​​It has been at least 5 years since I had ribs turn out this badly...would love to figure out what went wrong. Any thoughts much appreciated!

    So, two of your racks turned out black, bark way too crusty, and one of them completely dry, burnt, inedible. But the third was fine. They were clearly cooking fast early in the cook. After foiling, only the rack most protected from heat came out edible.

    My take is that your temp inside your smoker was much higher than you think it was. For what my two cents are worth.


    • Dewesq55
      Dewesq55 commented
      Editing a comment
      Sounds right to me, too, Eric.

    I suspect a bad temp read out. Sounds too hot. I don’t think your syrup wouldn’t have hurt you at 275 for just 45 minutes. I too cook my ribs about 275, if I leave them wrapped too long they fall off the bone.


      On my pellet if I set that dude to 275 I promise I'll have some 350+ temps on the chimney end of things. And if the edges of any racks are on the edge of the drip pan, they are getting toasted, big time. Ask me how I know.


        If they were dried out & black they were over cooked, plain & simple. Syrup & or foil don’t overcook Wibs.


        • ecowper
          ecowper commented
          Editing a comment

        Check temps in multiple places in your GMG. This is clearly a case of hot spots, charring the ribs too soon and too fast.


          Agree with above temps were hotter than you thought. Could the foil have leaked on two out of the three resulting in the loss of liquid in two? If not perfectly sealed liquids will steam out under high heat.


            Thanks gang. This must be it. Would actually jive with recent results as I think about it, e.g. did chicken the other day with smoker set for 375, came out perfect with crisp skin although the smoker temp readout never got over 350. I'm going to try adjusting the heat shield, must have misplaced when I cleaned it recently. As I read GMG documentation, sounds like bad placement can throw off the thermal sensor generally in addition to left-right uneven-ness.

            Really appreciate everyone chiming in here, I'm always wary of jumping to "smoker temp readout was wrong" conclusion but seems the clear answer here.


              I treat my pellet cooker the same as my charcoal kettles, stickburner & other cookers in that I always place a grate probe in there, sometimes 2. They will always tell the truth. My advice is get into the habit of doing that and adjust the control's temp to what your grate probes are telling you. Similar to how we're taught to ignore lid thermometers on kettles & gassers.


              • Huskee
                Huskee commented
                Editing a comment
                Can't be remiss with the pricey delicacies Panhead John

              • Rod
                Rod commented
                Editing a comment
                Definitely use a grate probe.

              • Dewesq55
                Dewesq55 commented
                Editing a comment
                I do this with my ThermoTemp propane cooker and highly recommend it as well. My cooker keeps fairly stable temps, but they're not always at the temp the dial says it's set for so I adjust the dial to the remote probe.

              Originally posted by Huskee View Post
              I treat my pellet cooker the same as my charcoal kettles, stickburner & other cookers in that I always place a grate probe in there, sometimes 2. They will always tell the truth. My advice is get into the habit of doing that and adjust the control's temp to what your grate probes are telling you. Similar to how we're taught to ignore lid thermometers on kettles & gassers.
              How do you usually regulate the temperature?


              • FireMan
                FireMan commented
                Editing a comment
                Or (I can’t resist) the knob on the left! 😳
                Last edited by FireMan; July 29, 2021, 08:21 AM.

              You might just need to clean the RTD in your pit too. It could be gunked up and giving inaccurate readings. To go along with above advice, I almost always have my Fireboard hooked up for smoking sessions. However, to be completely honest since I cook ribs to appearance that would be the cook I might not use it. Though at the first signs of oddities, it would be fetched and setup to troubleshoot what was going on.


                Get to know your grill. Take temp readings throughout the grill with the grill set to different temps.
                Chart and log the findings. Great reference.
                Try the "Burnt Biscuit Test." Using the pop-open biscuits, place them all around in a hot grill.


                  Extreme ambient temps also have a big impact on pellet grills. The pellet grills I used to have would never be able to maintain low temps this time of year. I'd have to crack the lid with a ball of foil to help keep the temps down. When it's real hot outside and the grill set to 225 or 250, it would spend the majority of the time at 300+ if I didn't crack the lid.


                    Thanks again everyone.. It really is awesome how this crowd jumps in to help on something like this, good to know I'm never alone in the ongoing pursuit of bbq.

                    In daylight I opened it all up and sure enough, when I cleaned it last week I misplaced the heat shield by half an inch. I'm betting that's enough to cause a 50 degree swing (they suggest moving an eighth of an inch at a time to experiment). Fixed it now and hoping all good next time!

                    I am surprised by so much advice to use a grate probe routinely on pellet cooker.. I do use for cookers where I control the fire, but on a pellet machine I think would just drive me insane, tempting me to fiddle with controls throughout instead of setting and forgetting which is the point! Totally agree it's a great way to troubleshoot when something seems wrong, and will do that here if I have more trouble.



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