Usually I use baby back ribs, easy to find and they don't take very long to cook, which is what I used before. This time I would use a St. Louis cut of ribs. I went over to the local butcher and picked up three racks, about 3 pounds each, enough to feed 5-6 people. These are what you typically see in a rib cookoff competition. They are spare ribs cut down to a uniform rectangular size which enables even cooking and people don't need to fight for the best pieces. Baby backs are higher up on the hog, spare ribs are lower. They are meatier, thicker which requires a longer cooking time.
I put together a rub mix which includes brown sugar, cumin, garlic and onion powder, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Washed and patted dry, I sprinkled generously the rub using a spice shaker held high to let it rain down which will ensure I get even coverage.
Now some people boil their ribs first, ooh, in beer even! Egads man! Wake up! You just made some nice pork stock...would you first boil your t-bone?
So these St. Louis will take about 5-6 hours. I got my smoke on at 11 AM at 225 using maple pellets , perfect. This is going to be great, I don't have to fool with adding heat or chips, nothin'. It will stay regulated regardless of outside temp or wind. I will spritz them every hour or so with apple juice for an extra layer of subtle flavor and moisture. Hickory, mesquite, fruit woods tend be a bit harsh. Maple is not over-powering yet it will add a nice sweet smoke flavor layer. I will use the 3-2-1 method, 3 hours on the grill, 2 hours on the grill, wrapped in foil with a bit of apple juice then 1 hour out of the foil with my mop sauce going on. I did not use this method on my baby back comparison ribs so it's not a true side by side.
While they are basking a way in the smoke, I will prepare my sides. To me, BBQ must have a slaw of some sort, or something like it. I got out my madoline, no not that kind, it's a slicer doo-hicky, perfect for making a lot of thinly sliced veggies evenly and quickly. This salad is great for mixing things up, a substitute for your normal slaw or green salad. Take all sorts of veggies which can be eaten raw, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, fennel bulb is great, radishes, even beets but add those after you have mixed everything or everything will turn red. With the right combinations it looks fabulous, all the different colors really pop. I made a topping for it made with 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar, salt & pepper, almost like a pickle brine. This works great against the intense smokey, bbq saucey ribs, it cleansed the pallet, fresh and crunchy. I also threw together some baked beans, another "must-have" with barbecue with a bit of the rub mix and bbq sauce I used on the ribs mixed in to tie it all together.
I got a great bbq sauce recipe from a guy at work, he made it from memory of his grandfathers recipe. It's a Carolina vinegar sauce made with white vinegar, Tabasco, ketchup, pepper, cayenne, pepper flakes...and yes, it has a definite kick. I used a store bought sauce when cooking the ribs, this other sauce was added as you go per person from a squeeze bottle.
The one on the bottom is the Traeger, the pink is not under cooked meat...is it?...could it be?...YES!, it's a smoke ring, yeah! Mission accomplished! These ribs were miles above the Weber version, a huge difference. They didn't fall off the bone, they came off the bone...just where you took a bite and nothing else. :-)
Well worth the new smoker honey!
Music of choice to cook by: Elvis, blues.