Express Ribs

I’ve been wanting to cook ribs, but the weather has been so cool and stormy that it’s been tough to find the time to get them done without getting drenched or blown off the deck.

It looked like I had a good opportunity coming up on Saturday, but I wanted to shorten the the cooking time just in case we had the change plans.  So rather than my usual straight 5 hour cook, I decided to speed things up by going with the 3-2-1 method at a higher temperature.

The 3-2-1 (or in this case 1.5-1-.75) method it is a great way to cook ribs long enough so that they are tender without drying them out. The first number is how many hours the ribs are smoked over indirect heat unwrapped. The second number is how many hours they are cooked after being double wrapped in heavy-duty foil. The final number is how many hours they are finished unwrapped. This combination gives the ribs a smoky flavor, breaks down the toughness of the meat, and adds a final crispy bark.

I had 2 nice racks of baby back ribs that I seasoned heavily with Tasty Licks Ribit Rub courtesy of Fred’s Music & BBQ Supply.

I set up my Big Green Egg for an indirect cook at 350°F (that’s right, three-fifty) – filling the firebox with lump charcoal and using an inverted plate setter to diffuse the heat and a drip pan with a little water in it to catch the fat. I used a chunk of guava wood for smoke.

I arranged the ribs bone side down on the grate, then closed the lid and let the BGE do its magic for an hour. I flipped the ribs bone side up, and let them go for another 30 minutes. Then I removed the ribs to a sheet of heavy-duty foil and wrapped them up tightly. I did the same thing with a second layer. The ribs then went back on, meat side down, for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, I flipped the rib bundle over so it was bone side down and let it go for another 30 minutes.

After their braise in the foil you can see how the meat has really started to pull away from the bone.

After an hour of braising, I removed the ribs from the foil and put them on the grill bone side down. I let them cook for 30 minutes and then started checking for doneness. When ribs are done a slab will start to crack when you pick up one end with a pair of tongs. These were already at that point. All I had to do was look at them hard and the meat would start to pull away from the bone.

I sauced the meat side with Sticky Hog and let them cook for another 10 minutes. I flipped them carefully, sauced the bone side and let them go for another ten. Then I flipped them meat side up and gave them a final coat of sauce and let them cook for a final 5 minutes.

I removed the ribs from the grill and let them rest about 10 minutes before serving tearing into them.

The Verdict: ★★★★☆
Despite the short 3 hour and 15 minute cook time, these were some of the most tender and tasty ribs I’ve ever made. The meat had a bit of chewy bark and pulled away from the bone easily, but didn’t fall off in a soggy mess. The Ribit Rub gave the ribs a nice paprika-laden warmth.

I was a little disappointed that the ribs didn’t have more bark and were a little light on smokiness. The smoke I understand – less time in the smoke equals less smokiness. But I thought that the temp would make up for the time on the bark.

Update – The Verdict: ★★★★★: I had a chance to do these again this weekend and used oak and apple wood for smoke. The added wood really bumped up the smokiness. I also switched to Dizzy Pig’s Dizzy dust for the rub, which gave me better bark :), but less heat :(.

I don’t know if I like all the futzing around with the foil, but it’s good to know that if I need to I can crank out some quality ribs in a limited amount of time.

4 thoughts on “Express Ribs”

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been wanting to do some ribs but just haven’t been able to block out enough time for them. I’m gonna give this method a try this weekend. I hope they turn out half as good as yours look.

    1. You are most welcome. the only thing I would add is that if you are doing 3 racks you’ll want to want and make sure the ones closest to the edge of the drip pan aren’t getting overcooked. I jockeyed the racks around a couple of times to make sure everybody was cooking at the same rate. Let us know how it goes.

  2. That’s one reason I don’t enter contests, I’m horrible on timing. It’s done when they get done. I like your ideas on shortening the time.

    Did you add any flavors at the foiling processes?

    1. I didn’t add anything to the foiling, but might be seriously tempted in the future to try the Adam Perry Lang thing with apple juice and honey.

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