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Re-educate me on ribs!

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    Re-educate me on ribs!

    So, I'm no expert, but I have been avidly making BBQ now for a good 15 years, progressing from an electric MES to a UDS that I built (in 2007), a couple of GMG pellet burners, and most recently, primarily just using Weber kettles with Slow 'n Sear and Vortex add-ons (with my eye on talking my wife into a Weber Summit Charcoal). I've been a member of various BBQ forums throughout the years (including this one) and I tend to research things to death, so I've read a lot about techniques for cooking things. I used to cook a lot of ribs and pulled pork. The frequency of my cooks has slowed considerably over the past few years as I've gotten busier with life (work and kids' activities). One advantage of working from home via the social distancing protocols here in Montana is that I have time to char meat while I work. So yesterday I threw a slab of baby backs on the kettle with the SNS. I ran (on average) in the 240-250 range for temps (see image with Fireboard graph of ambient temps in 2 locations), and went with a 3-1-1 approach using the old Texas crutch the "middle" hour with some apple juice in the foil. Also attached is a pic of the finished ribs. The flavor was great, but for the third time in a row doing baby backs, I felt like they weren't "done" enough. I don't need them to be falling off the bone necessarily, but they were a pretty tough pull to get meat off the bone with your teeth. The obvious answer is more time on the grill, but am I wrong that baby backs are "suppsed" to only take 5 hours? I know that you can't cook based on time, but I still see people consistently talking about 6 hours for spares and 5 hours for baby backs even at 225*. Are baby backs just meatier now coming from the store? I typically get ribs from Costco, but these were pre-packaged from Albertsons. They did seem very meaty. I knew when I was taking them off that they probably needed more time, but the accompaniments for dinner were ready and with little kids in the mix, I didn't have the luxury of pushing dinner to 8 pm.

    I clearly need some re-education here, so please fire away. Thanks in advance!
    Attached Files

    #2
    One thing I am going to do today is check the ambient temp probes for my Fireboard in some boiling water, but I doubt that's the issue.

    Comment


      #3
      That thick loin meat is the culprit, in my experience. I hate to throw away food, but I don't feel too guilty about trimming some of that lean meat off the top when no amount of cooking is going to get it to the texture that I prefer.

      "Extra Meaty" on the packaging says to me that they are just trying to sell me a lot of loin meat for the price of rib meat.

      Comment


      • Ahumadora
        Ahumadora commented
        Editing a comment
        You beat me too it Steve..

      • GolfGeezer
        GolfGeezer commented
        Editing a comment
        +1 on this. Albertsons has been selling these "extra meaty baby back pork loin" ribs for many months now. They do take extra time - they seem to have extra fat as well.

      • thedonald78
        thedonald78 commented
        Editing a comment
        I dug the packaging out of the garbage and they did say "extra meaty" on them. I've felt like the Costco ribs here have also been very meaty, at least the baby backs. It never occurred to me to possibly trim them a bit. I guess I can do that if I'm pressed for time next time or just give myself more time. Thanks!

      #4
      Maybe how the baby backs were cut. If they left alot of loin meat on the back side of the rib it usually ends up tough n dry. Forget the clock, digital crap and just cook em tilll they are done. You are at home all day so no rush. Also lubricate yourself with more beverage may help to not overthink things too much.

      Maybe we should start a new thread. "How to cook ribs while working from home" . I guess we can't use the old "Fax machine was out of paper" line anymore..

      Comment


        #5
        use the bend test, not time. I cook StLewis and I go naked @225°

        Comment


          #6
          First off, to try to help answer your question, remember bigger is not better with ribs. That said, meat cutters in my area tend to want to sell rather thick 'loin back' ribs labeled as "baby back" ribs, and I think this is where the confusion lies. Loin meat, which is otherwise rather inexpensive, gets a premium when more is left on the ribs, so I feel like this is what many do. In my area, it's not uncommon to see to 3.5 to 4.5 lb racks of "baby" back ribs, they're monsters, and those unfamiliar think bigger is better, like a 30-pk of beer is better than a 24-pk. These ware wayyyy too thick (in my personal opinion) to cook up nicely. That thick outer layer of loin meat dries out and becomes a less-satisfying-to-eat dry insulation layer preventing the internal layers of meat from rendering and softening, (read: much longer cook time) and it disrupts our 'bend test' method of telling when the rack is ready.

          To circumvent this, you could try: a) looking for racks that are 3lb or less, preferably (for me) 2.5 to 2.75lb/rack for back ribs. I've found that these cook up very nice; or b) you could fillet the meat down to be a uniform thickness across and eliminate that thicker layer on top. Cook it up for stir fry or something and it's enjoyed and not wasted. At 225-250 I find 6hrs is my average, sometimes even 7 hrs isn't unheard of for back ribs, but don't watch the clock, only use time as a general target of dinner time. Meathead mentions 4-5hrs for baby backs, but I am certain this is for true "baby" back ribs, most likely 2.25 to 2.5 lbs/rack.

          Comment


          • MartinNC
            MartinNC commented
            Editing a comment
            Speaking of beer. I have started adding a little brew to the foil instead of apple juice or some such if you want to do the crutch. It is a great flavor and there are so many to choose from. A good "hoppy" beer mixed with your sauce caramelized on top creates an awesome flavor for the finished product. Keep smoking all

          • thedonald78
            thedonald78 commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks Huskee. This all makes perfect sense.

          • Henrik
            Henrik commented
            Editing a comment
            +1 on what Ahumadora said on the beer 😄

          #7
          thedonald78 I second all the advice above, but given that most ribs I cook ARE the extra meaty "loin back" ribs from Sam's Club and sometimes Costco, I'll go ahead and chime in, as I never trim meat from the ribs.

          Basically, before I came to The Pit, I followed the 3-2-1 method for spares, and 2-2-1 method for baby back ribs. And all the sources I found when I learned that method basically said to do 2-2-1, not 3-1-1, for baby backs. I noticed that you did 3-1-1. I always had great results that the family loved when crutching the ribs, and think the fact that I did 2 hours in the braising stage (the Texas crutch) versus your 1 hour, made a big difference in tenderness. Crutching them for 2 hours versus 1 would go a long way to pushing them to doneness I imagine, if crunched for time.

          Now, the past couple of years I do not believe I have wrapped a single rack of ribs in foil, but I have found that these thick loin back ribs do take more than the 4-5 hours that conventional wisdom says it should take, if you don't wrap them. I've had some disappointing cooks, most recently when cooking 6 slabs of the thick loin back ribs on my offset for my son's birthday on December 26th. It was time to eat, and I knew the ribs were not as done as I wanted, but we went ahead and pulled the best looking slabs and took them inside, probably around the 5 hour point. I left 3 racks of ribs on the offset, unattended, for almost another hour, while we ate, and those ribs were WAY better as leftovers than the ribs we ate that night. The offset likes to run around 250, give or take, but is also 25 to 30 degrees hotter near the firebox than at the exhaust end, so I rotate things hourly.

          My family a few times has requested the old method, as they like it more fall off the bone than I do, but so far I've resisted them. I just picked up 3 slabs of ribs from The Fresh Market this morning, and plan to ration those out one rack at a time, with the first cook being some char-siu ribs, blasphemy style ribs (cooked as individual bones).

          Comment


          • thedonald78
            thedonald78 commented
            Editing a comment
            That all makes sense. The 3-1-1 was in reaction to a trend that I seem to remember reading about a while back that said that 2 hours in the crutch was too long and might lead to mushy meat. I realize of course that all is relative. Obviously in my case I was more on the undercooked end of the scale than the overcooked in the end!

          #8
          My recommendation would be to switch to st. louis ribs. I've stopped doing baby backs because I can only find either the extra meaty ones which I don't like or shiners...can't find the goldilocks ribs. I found the extra meaty were too hard to tell if they were done because the bend test doesn't really work and the loin meat dries out.

          I've always preferred St. Louis spare ribs anyway but liked mixing it up with baby backs but now its only spare ribs for me.

          Comment


          • TripleB
            TripleB commented
            Editing a comment
            I've switched over to Stl Ribs myself. I'll buy spare ribs, cut them down to Stl ribs and then use the trimmed portions to make a broth for soup (e.g. White Bean Soup w/ Collard Greens). Pork broth is sooo good.

          #9
          Switched to St. Louis a while ago for this very reason. Just picked up a pack from Costco yesterday.

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