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Last Meal Ribs... need help

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    Last Meal Ribs... need help

    Pitmasters this is Pit Boss. This thread is here to help anyone who is cooking Last Meal Ribs that has mid cook questions. Several members are following this thread and will give you helpful tips and recommendations to help you with your particular cook. Thanks to Mettius for the original post.

    Pit Boss


    This past Sunday, I tried to make the "Last Meal" Ribs, per the article. I was really looking forward to trying them.
    I used my Large BGE with plate setter. Temp monitored with the Maverick probe at the grate level 2" beside the meat, but still positioned above the plate setter.

    I used a St. Louis rack weighing in at 1.6lbs. They looked a bit small meat-wise, but they were the only ribs my grocery store (HEB, a Texas chain) carried that were not previously frozen. They were "Natural" (claiming free range, no antibiotics, hormones, etc.)

    I don't really like wet sauces, so was aiming for dry ribs.
    First I sprinkled on 3/4 teaspoons of Kosher salt and put the rack in the fridge for about 65 minutes on a rack so air could circulate underneath as well. Then I used 3 Tablespoons of the Memphis Dust rub per side of the ribs after rubbing olive oil on the rack (I did peel the membrane prior to salting). I used no salt in the Memphis Dust recipe.

    5 hours later the ribs weren't quite splitting when I did the bounce test, but it was 10:30 PM and spouse was getting ravenous.

    Overall I was disappointed. The ribs were very sweet, even for my wife (She likes sweet things, I'm more of a salty/savory pallet). Is that what the recipe is supposed to be? (I double checked my ingredients, I followed the instructions to the letter).

    I did have a heck of a time holding temperature in the BGE, it kept wanting to drop towards 200 or up to 250. I was playing yo-yo with it the whole cook trying to get grate temp at 225. I used 4 oz of hickory chunks and at 30 min in to the cook I added 4oz more. They didn't seem to really produce much smoke. I suspect the charcoal temps were just too low to burn it? Or was the burning wood the reason I couldn't hold temp at 225? I'm not sure if the temperature fluctuations caused issues.

    Previously the only rib rub I've tried was a Martha Steward recipe from the today show website. It always came out way to salty (even for me). But this seems the other extreme.

    Any advice? (I've got a whole bunch of the Memphis Dust left as I did the recipe as specified in the article.)
    Last edited by Mettius; July 15, 2014, 12:43 AM.

    I don't know about others, but I rarely, if ever, start a rack of SLC (and never a full rack of spareribs) after 12 noon. I usually start no later than 10AM just in case I get a stubborn rack. My wife doesn't like to eat before 4PM usually, but I don't like to be starving at 6PM.

    I've never used a rig like the BGE, but I suspect that the yo-yo temperatures could be associated with the burning wood if it was flaming up. I know I have a constant battle with that with my stick burner. I've even seen wood chips produce the effect. I don't know the answer to dealing with that, but you can be sure someone else here does.

    I've also never tried using the recipe for MMD, but mine is similar in nature. The good news is that the current one doesn't include salt so you can play with a bit in small parts of what you have left and on the meat. This is just my personal preference, but I like a touch of cinnamon on my pork, maybe that would blend in. Again, try it by taking a very small amount of what you have left and adding not even a pinch to see what it does.

    I think the best advice I can give is to start at 9AM, and have a couple of cold ones along the way. They might not directly affect the meat, but they might well help you enjoy the cook which can't hurt it. And trust me, things get better when football season starts and you have more things to think about than whether or not the cook chamber is 5 or 10 degrees away from what you want.


    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      I agree with not starting ribs after 10am, good advice. I started some at 1pm once and it scared me, I was nervous but feeling alittle cocky. Ate dinner at 7pm, not too bad but usually it's best to allow plenty extra time.

    • Mettius
      Mettius commented
      Editing a comment
      Sadly, as I work late many nights (small business owner) I'm often not home until 2AM. Wife of course has a regular schedule job, so the logistics are a bit rough sometimes. But I take your point about making sure I have enough time to finish with extra hours to spare!

    Welcome to The Pit, Mettius!

    I've never heard anyone say the MD recipe was too sweet, especially for someone who likes sweet like your wife. What I find with no-salt rubs is that it helps to also add a little bit of 'fnishing salt', salt the exterior of the ribs either before placing on the smoker or before eating, to help balance out the sweetness in the rub...but only a little until you're sure what your tastes will be. I have to do this, it's my personal preference. Dry brining is great, and the no-salt rubs help to prevent oversalting, but some salt seems to be necessary here and there to counteract the sweetness of the rub. As for your leftover rub, take half of it and add a pinch of salt to it until it tastes balanced to you, and store it in a different container/bag. The other half leave saltless. Try adding a pinch of finishing salt to the crust of the no-salt rubbed ribs, and/or try a different approach on your next cook by doing a rack with the no-salt and the salted version both, and taste test the difference to see what you prefer. There are no set-in-stone rules, BBQ is interpreted differently by each palate, and Meathead only suggests that you try his recipe as written, THEN adjust to your personal taste.

    A temp range of 200-250 is fine, with 225 being the sweet spot, so don't sweat it if you get fluctuations like that. Burning wood sure does affect temps fluctuations, but small chunks shouldn't. We usually find that to be the case with logs. What kind of charcoal are you using? Lump charcoal tends to yo-yo a lot more than briqs which are more measurable and consistent. Next time you do ribs, allow yourself an extra 2 or 3 hrs in case the ribs take longer or in case there's trouble heating the smoker up, etc. You can always hold done ribs in foil in a faux cambro or oven at 170 deg so they stay warm until dinner but don't keep cooking. But as we've all found out it stinks when you're waiting for them to be done well past dinner time.

    Look forward to hearing how these suggestions work out for you in future cooks. Be sure to share some bragging pictures too!


    • Mettius
      Mettius commented
      Editing a comment
      I used chunks of hickory this time. In the past I've used chips. Maybe Chunks don't work so well in the BGE as chips? I was browsing a few more egg-centric forums and I see some folks advocate mixing the chucks into the charcoal vs. throwing them directly on the burning charcoal. Also some suggest putting the paraffin starter on top of the coals instead of down inside... guess I'll have to experiment more.

    I use lump charcoal. One problem with the ribs is judging doneness. I had the maverick temp probe in at start, but it reported 135 degrees in short order which from the articles here I'm sure is bone temp affecting the read, so I just yanked it and tried to go on time and "bounce test". I admit to not feeling very confident about knowing when the food is done if I can't take an internal temp reading.


    • boftx
      boftx commented
      Editing a comment
      I know that MH says otherwise (and he is far more knowledgable than me) but I find that wrapping my ribs in foil after about 4 hours with a bit of butter and maybe a touch of molasses and then going for another hour or two gets them nice and tender the way my wife likes them. They are probably over-cooked by competition standards since the meat pulls away from the bone pretty easy, but my wife is happy and let's face it: if momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy.

    • Huskee
      Huskee commented
      Editing a comment
      Lol botfx, you got that right. No rules here, just tips. Makes 'em how you likes 'em. How she likes 'em. I've been known to braise mine in the oven in a pan with foil on top like lasagna when certain friends are coming over since they like theirs fall apart. It's all good!

    Mettius, one of the harder things to break away from is the IT (internal temp) addiction when doing ribs. You're right, it was probably bone temp messing with you, bone takes a while to heat up since it's mostly air (insulated) then BAM! it blasts up hotter than the meat in most cases. When you get a tiny crack from the bend/bounce test, it might still need more time. Wait until you get a definite crack or three, but not until the whole slab breaks in two. After two or 3 rib cooks you'll have it down. It's like new job, awkward at first but soon you'll be a pro and you'll be helping someone else with your tips!


      Mettius looks like a lot of good advice has been given out so far. As far as what you've learned from other forums, I agree putting the paraffin block on TOP of the charcoal is a good idea. It's really hard to manage temps on a kamado if you get the whole pile of charcoal going. I also like the idea of adding a chunk or two of wood into the pile, but in the beginning make sure to also add a chunk of wood near the lit coals so you get smoke right from the very beginning. It doesn't take a lot of smoke in a Kamado as they are very efficient in using air (so the smoke hangs out a while in the pit), so don't worry if there's only a little bit of smoke coming out the exhaust.


        So, I'm definitely not a BGE expert, by any means (since I don't have one), but I've done the last meal ribs quite a few times with success on my Weber kettle. For me, the keys to St Louis cut ribs are to start them early, and to let the grill do the work. It almost sounds like (from your initial post) that you may have played with the grill so much trying to get the temperature range right, that you inadvertently caused some cooling of your grill (and ribs) - leading to a longer cook time. Here are my recommendations: 1. Pre-salt the ribs before the rub. When I take the ribs out of the packaging, I sprinkle a little table salt on the top, and let the meat rest in the fridge for about 30-45 minutes before putting on the rub. 2. Do a "butt wake-up". I always wake up extra early when I'm doing a pork butt to get the grill going and get the meat out. If I want a butt to be done by 6PM, I'll wake up at 4:30 or 5 to get it on, then I'll go back to sleep once everything is set. If you know your grill well, you should know how many lit to unlit coals you need to keep the grill going steady for X number hours. If it finishes early, throw it in a cambro/cooler. 3. I would definitely use chunked wood, but if you're going to use chips, put them in foil. You could do the same with chunks too. You'll probably just have to play with your BGE to find the right balance. Hope that helps, and good luck with your ribs!


          Forgot to mention, that for the "butt wake-up" the grill is on a concrete pad away from the house (you know, so I don't burn the house down while not watching my grill), I sleep on a couch in relative proximity (cause my wife doesn't like sleeping next to a smoked-out dude), and I wake up at least every hour to make sure the temp is remaining constant. Also, I saw in another post you had that you use chunks instead of briquettes. I've found briquettes give you a lot more consistent temperature and a longer burn. And, always add hot (white) briquettes to the grill once the cook has started.


            Mettius I'd like to make this a permanent sticky thread for all folks that want to ask mid cook questions while doing Last Meal Ribs. I'd also edit your first comment with a banner statement to that effect. Cool with this?


            • Mettius
              Mettius commented
              Editing a comment
              Certainly. On that note, should I start a new thread for "LMR - Take II" which is in progress as I type, or just keep running with this thread?

            • Huskee
              Huskee commented
              Editing a comment
              Take II sounds good to me

            It took me three tries to get the LMR down to what they should be. The first time I didn't put a water bath in the grill just kept the ribs on the non direct heat end and I didn't smoke them. 7 hrs and they still were not done. I also mad the mistake of not putting my maverick probe on the meat level next to it so the grill was to cold.
            2nd time I used the water bath but again put the maverick probe to high and the grill was to cold, I didn't use the smoker box, and after 7 hrs I had to doctor them to get them done as the folks were starving. Gggrrrrr!!

            The 3rd time was the charm. I used the smoker box for the first 2 hrs, water bath, and the maverick probe was on the lower grate. Temp oscillated between 225*F and 250*F and at the end of 6 hrs they were perfect. Temp was at least 195*F in the thick meaty section. All three time I removed the membrane on the back side and marinated the dry rub for 48 hrs. The meat the third time was not fall off the bone but it was just like MH described it.

            Mettius, just keep working with it and all of a sudden you will be there.


              After my disappointing results with Take I of LMR (Last Meal Ribs). I picked up two more racks of St. Louis cut ribs. Weight 3.7 lbs pre-cooked.
              Last time (see my LMR plea for help) in my quest for not previously frozen ribs I purchased a rack of HEB Natural (free range, no bad stuff, they give the pigs vacations, etc), but it only weighed in at 1.75 lbs. The result? Something wrong, and way too sweet. This time I went for the regular ribs (previously frozen, but much meatier!) I'll try the other rack tomorrow or so in case it turns out too sweet again, so I can try it with more salt.

              Take II is in progress as I type this. Beer #2 is about to be poured. I'm excited! I am hoping for a better result this time.
              Pictures to come after I get that beer and check on things...


                Each rack is 3.75lbs? Those are some honkin' ribs man. Man Vs Food. Probably need to allow more cooking time. On to beer #2 myself here in a min....

                We'll all be here waiting to see the results!


                  Given your time constraints, I'd be tempted to cook at 300 - 325 or so and wrap em after about 2 1/2 - 3hrs with some butter. You might not get quite the smoke ring you want, but they'd be tender. I just don't see how any decent size SLC can cook in less than 5hrs at 225. Mine always take longer.


                  • boftx
                    boftx commented
                    Editing a comment
                    So you have ribs while your wife settles for brats? I hope you know a good divorce lawyer.

                  • Huskee
                    Huskee commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I say if she's ok with it, make her think you're doing the noble thing by letting her eat the delicious brats while you do the chore of waiting up for those pesky ribs. Win-win!

                  • boftx
                    boftx commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Somebody please break my fingers before I start telling (or typing, rather) blonde jokes.

                  Before cooking Click image for larger version

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                  After cooking Click image for larger version

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                  Above were "Take I"
                  Last edited by Mettius; July 18, 2014, 07:44 PM.


                    Step 1: Dry Brine

                    I sprinkled just shy of 3/4 teaspoons on the ribs (after removing the silver membrane thingie). I've always struggled with having enough room in the fridge to put the meat for a dry brine (baking sheet big, fridge small), and especially after reading that it should be on a grate to allow airflow all around it. But today as I stared at one of my wife's bread cooling racks I realized I could fit it in my keg/beer fridge. Sure the baking sheet wouldn't fit, but some foil underneath that bread rack worked like a charm! (and fit on the near useless shelf in front of the compressor compartment). No beer was harmed during this operation (though one was opened). Click image for larger version

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                    The beer fridge!

                    Step 2: Do Battle With Egg

                    Next was the task of dialing in the Egg (Big Green Egg) temperature. In Take I, I fought with the air inlet/outlets trying to keep the temperature in line. It wasn't fun, and once the egg heats up, it just doesn't want to come back down.
                    This time, after some more Egg-centric forum reading. I mixed wood chunks (hickory) into the coal bed and lit a starter on top of everything. (Theory being it would burn down into the bed and not get too hot too fast.
                    Another change is I left the lid of the egg open while getting charcoal going. My theory is that this would keep the BGE ceramics from absorbing heat early and leading to a too hot egg (which then requires shutting down vents, which may have caused poor burning inside and perhaps been one of my key troubles on Take I).
                    After 45 minutes though two coals were starting to get going temp was too low. I put another paraffin starter in, wedged between the two burning coals and but another long chunk of lump bridged over them to catch the flame. 30 minutes after that, we have an egg which is at 224 degrees. Though it took a long time, eventually I got there without overshooting temp.
                    Click image for larger version

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                    The setup

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                    Click image for larger version

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                    Initial Vent Setup. I had to open the bottom more than in the above photo to get temp up to 225.
                    Attached Files
                    Last edited by Mettius; July 16, 2014, 05:43 PM.



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