These smoked pork ribs, which are coated in a spice rub and cooked low and slow on the smoker, are simply the best we’ve ever tried. Here’s how to make them.
Adapted from Jake Levin | Smokehouse Handbook | Storey Publishing, 2019
We thought we knew how to make smoked pork ribs. In fact, we were confident that our go-to recipe couldn’t be improved upon. Then we tried these. And now there’s no going back.–Angie Zoobkoff
Smoked Pork Ribs FAQs
How do I remove the membrane from ribs?
Removing the membrane, or silver skin, from your ribs makes them easier to separate. The membrane tends to toughen up when it’s cooked so you’re better off getting rid of it if you’re able. Using an inverted spoon to loosen a corner (slide it underneath and use it to lift the membrane), grab the silverskin with a paper towel (it’s slippery), and slowly pull it off. You can use a small knife but, in our experience, a spoon is less likely to cut through the membrane and…possibly your fingers. If you’re not confident with this, any butcher should agree to do it for you
What’s the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs?
Spare ribs and baby back ribs are cut from different parts of the pig. Back ribs come from the muscle that runs along the back of the pig and are meatier than side ribs, which are cut from the area close to the pig’s belly. Either will work well for smoking.
What should you serve with smoked pork ribs?
As author Jake Levin suggests, go all out and serve up some classic Southern sides such as cornbread, beans, potato salad, or mac and cheese alongside your smoked meat.
Smoked Pork Ribs
- Smoker, wood chips, chunks, or pellets (depending on your smoker), spray bottle
For the barbecue spice rub
- 1/2 cup fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1/2 cup ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup muscovado turbinado, or light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
For the smoked pork ribs
- 2 tablespoons pork barbecue rub or more, if needed
- 1 rack pork ribs spare or baby back, membranes removed
- Water cider vinegar, or a combination
- 1/3 cup store bought or homemade barbecue sauce
Make the barbecue spice rub
- In an airtight container, mix the rub ingredients together. Cover and store in a cool, dry place for up to several months.
Make the smoked pork ribs
- About an hour before smoking, sprinkle 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the rub on each side of ribs and use your hands to spread it evenly, with the meat still visible beneath the rub. Reserve the remaining rub for other uses.
- Prep your smoker per manufacturer’s directions for a temperature between 225° and 250°F (110° and 120°C). Toss the wood chips, chunks, or pellets in the smokebox or according to manufacturer’s directions.
- Place your ribs, bone side down, in the smoker. Place a pan of water below or near the ribs to hydrate the environment. Fill a spray bottle with water or cider vinegar.
- Smoke the ribs, maintaining the smoker temperature and adding wood as needed, until the ribs are a very deep reddish brown, 2 1/2 to 3 hours, depending on the exact temperature of your smoker and the thickness of the ribs. Occasionally spritz the ribs with the spray bottle.
- When the ribs are done, lightly brush the top with barbecue sauce and smoke for 15 minutes more.
- Flip the ribs, brush the top with barbecue sauce, and smoke for 15 minutes more.
- Remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap the ribs in a couple layers of regular foil and crimp to seal. Return the ribs to the smoker and cook until they’re exceptionally tender and the internal temperature reaches 190°F (88°C), about 1 hour.
- Keep the ribs wrapped in foil and let them rest for 30 minutes before unwrapping and serving.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
We’ve been smoking pork ribs in our BGE (Big Green Egg) for many years now. I thought that we had a foolproof recipe, a recipe so good that there’s been no reason to ever order ribs out. And then we tried these ribs. What makes ribs good, for the most part, is the method that you use to cook them. You need some good ribs, a rub that you like, the wood used to smoke them with, and then it’s all about time and temperature. That’s where the method comes in. This method produces high-quality barbecue.
We had consistent heat around 250°F through the smoking process. We used BGE charcoal and added chunks of plum wood at the perimeter of the coals instead of chips, which produced a great smoke flavor in the meat. The initial smoke time was 3 hours (we may try less next time). The two 15-minute saucing interludes were new for us, and really added another layer of flavor and a chewy texture to the finished product. We also had never foil-wrapped ribs at the end of cooking, and from now on that is how we plan to finish the process. Wrapping maintained the moistness while the meat finished cooking.
Next time we’ll reduce the temperature 10 to 15°F and reduce the smoke time a bit.
My favorite BBQ sauce, if you even need one, is found on this site in the barbecue beef brisket recipe.
There is a LOT of pepper in this rub but the end result is delicious. It’s also delicious on chicken thighs and smoked sausage that has been split and the rub put on the cut side.
I used applewood to smoke the ribs and had good color on the ribs after 3 hours using a gas smoker with a water tray. I felt like the ribs were ready to eat after the barbecue sauce was applied but wrapped them in foil to see what impact that would have on the final product. I’ve never used this technique before but I like the final result.
The ribs were falling off the bone but still had enough bite that you knew you were still eating a rib. The total time was about 5 hours and I’d estimate that you’ll spend about 30 minutes on-and-off during this process.
Originally published August 14, 2019
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Making ribs like these is relatively simple and makes everyone happy. The result is a porky delicious barbecue with a nice balance of sweetness, fat, and spice.
The recipe is pretty well laid out, such that even a beginner barbecuer should be able to handle making a couple of nice rib slabs with no problem. Although you cannot leave these and go run errands, so even if the actual work is minor, you still have to tend to them every 30 minutes.
I used my offset Texas-style smoker. In the spray bottle, I used a mixture of water and cider vinegar. From start to finish, I smoked the ribs for about 3 1/2 hours. The instructions for how to know when to wrap them and test for doneness are spot on. When the ribs “bend” easily, they’re done. They’re ready to wrap with foil after about 2 1/2 hours. They had the right deep mahogany color.
I used St. Louis-style spare ribs. I smoked 2 slabs, not just 1, and each slab is a generous serving for 2 people. I wanted a classic rub flavor and this fit the bill but also had a nice twist with the coriander in there. I really liked that.