We definitely prefer to use lump charcoal instead of briquettes. Lump charcoal alone will provide a nice smokey flavor, however briquettes, even competition smoking briquettes seem a little flat on the smoke flavor. If using briquettes we highly recommend to also use smoking wood chips. Either harvest your own from fruit or other good smoking wood (ie. apple or stone fruit trimmings, hickory, pecan wood) or buy smoking chips. You can use either St. Louis-style Ribs or Baby Back ribs. The St. Louis will take an hour or two longer because of the bigger bones.BBQ sauce is optional. Use your favorite sauce at the end of smoking the pork ribs. Here's a homemade sauce we love.
Servings: 4People per slab
1slabSt. Louis Cut Pork Ribs or 1 slab Baby Back Ribs (usually about 2.5 lbs)
Optional - fruit or nut wood cuttings or chips (if using chips-soak in water for @30 minutes before using)
Rinse the ribs and if needed, remove the membrane from the underside of the ribs. Here's a link for instruction on how to remove the membrane. Season the ribs liberally with salt and pepper. If using sauce, don't add the sauce yet. You'll sauce them towards the end of smoking.
Light charcoal (a chimney is our favorite method). If using a side smoker box, place the lit charcoal next to the side vent door (furthest from the grill), then stack the unlit charcoal going towards the grill (not on top of the already lit charcoal). Start with the vents open just a little bit.
Place the ribs in the smoker and close door. After about 15 minutes, check the smoker's temperature. You'll want to keep the temperature between 225°F-275°F. Adjust the vents as needed (less air to cool the temperature, more to increase the heat).While smoking occasionally adjust the vents to keep the cooking temperature between 225°F-275°F. If using briquettes *see head note, add a handful of wood cuttings or chips on top of the lit charcoal two or three times during the smoking. (Don't do this too much or else the meat will be overly smoky. Once every hour to hour and half is usually perfect).
Cook for 3-4 hours for baby back ribs, 5-6 hours for St. Louis cut ribs. *see following optional instructions if cooking with a sauce. When finished, the ribs should be tender, but not quite falling off the bone. It is nice for them to have a little bite to the meat.
Cooking ribs with a sauce, two options
Depending on your setup and preference, Option 1 is nice if you are serving straight from the smoker. Option 2 gives a better crust and is great if you are cooking the ribs ahead of time and then want to re-heat them before serving. Both options you'll cook the ribs mostly without any sauce. It is just used at the end. Option 1: Brush the sauce on the ribs in the smoker when you feel they have about 45 minutes or so left to cook. If desired, brush again when serving. Option 2: Cook the ribs completely without sauce. When ready to serve: Sauce the ribs (individually after being cut or the whole slab) and then quickly sear the coated ribs over direct heat (directly over coals or directly over a gas grill on medium-high).