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Old 08-16-2006, 09:59 AM   #1
nonthink
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Default My 1st ribs. The Story

Well I did my 1st rack of spare ribs. I’d like to say they were awesome, but alas, I cannot.
Here’s the story and timetable of events.
Sunday morning.
10:00 – removed ribs from the frig.
I unpacked, rinsed, removed the membrane, and applied KC’s rub which consisted of

1/4 cup sifted brown sugar 1 Tbsp ea: Seasoned salt or Tony C's for extra heat Celery salt Accent (omit if you have msg phobia) Onion Powder Garlic Powder Chili Powder Good Hungarian Paprika 1 tsp Black Pepper



10:22 – ignition.
As you can see from this image I tried something different this time.



The idea was to light the lump. Then dump it in the middle of the unlit lump.



It would slowly burn its way out. Well it didn’t work out that way. The unlit lump went up pretty quickly driving my temps. Up to 300 deg. in my smoke chamber.



I can only imagine what the temp. was in the firebox. It must have been very high because there was damage to the paint on the belly of the firebox, and on top.



I needed to close the intake somewhat to bring down the heat.

10:36 – 250 deg.
I reached my cooking temp. of 250 much earlier then I planed. The ribs had only been out since 10:00. I wanted them to be out for at least an hour before I put them on.

11:00 – ribs meet cooking rack with a gentle sizzle.
My temps. Dropped somewhat even with the intake fully open. So I set up a small fan, set it on low speed, and was able to maintain the temps. by adjusting the distance between the fan and firebox.



I also had to make sure I wasn’t kicking up any ash from the firebox in to the smoke chamber.

I warmed up 4 oz. apple juice, and 4 oz. of vinegar and poured them into a spray bottle. The bottle was kept next to the smoke chamber to keep it warm.

11:30 – 1st chunk of Mesquite, and a spray down.

11:55 – started drinking

12:15 – 2nd chunk
From this point on I’ve been adding chunks, spraying, and adding loads of lit lump.
2:05 – drop in temp.
I don’t think I was adding enough lump because my temps. dropped down to about 200. for about 45 mins. so I decided to leave them on for another half hour to make up the temp. loss. I also doubled the amount of lump I was adding and that seemed to help.

2:30 – wrapped ‘em up
I coated the ribs with diluted apple juice (no vinegar) and wrapped them in foil.
I figured they wouldn’t be getting any smoke while wrapped, so I used charcoal to maintain the temp.

3:30 – I added my last load of charcoal
From this point the smoker was holding steady at 250.
4:30 – unwrapped the ribs
I unwrapped the ribs and sprayed them down. They were left in the smoke chamber for another hour being sprayed down, and no more fuel being added.

5:30 – removed
I removed the ribs, and can see they didn’t turn out that great.
They tasted fine. The thicker parts were moist and falling off the bone, but were bit too charred on the outside for my taste. The thinner part was dried out and pretty much inedible.



I think the next time I do spare ribs I’ll run at lower temps. about 225. I think I should have sprayed them down more often. I also should have poured more liquid in the foil. The ribs looked done when I took them out of the foil. I think next time I’ll keep them wrapped and drop them in the cooler for the last hour.

I learned much on this run. I’m sure many of you will have plenty of tips, and suggestion (which are welcome.)

Hopefully, I’ll get to try again soon. But I think I should repair the heat damage first to the firebox. I guess that’s one of the differences between a low-end model like the SS and some of the better ones.

I’m looking forward to comments. So let me have it.
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:03 AM   #2
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They don't look to bad. But if anyone ever does a perfect 1st run in a smoker of any meat, then I think they are lying.

Keep trying as that's the only way to get it close to perfect.

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Old 08-16-2006, 10:04 AM   #3
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I think smokers like the SS and the Char-griller tend to be a little too leaky to enable a really slow 'minion-esque' burn like you tried with pouring the lump into the center of the pile. Try to plug up the leaks to control the airflow more-- I simply used aluminum foil on my old char-griller and that was a decent, cheap and non-permanent solution....

Those ribs looky mighty fine for a first run....and as you found, even your 'mistakes' give you some tasty vittles.
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:13 AM   #4
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I would say you focused a little too much on time. If you were cooking at 250, your ribs were prabably ready to be wrapped at 2-2.5 hours.

Also, how far away from the firebox were the ribs? Might have been in the hot spot.

I've also found that I can make great ribs without spraying. The old saying is, "If you're lookin, you ain't cookin." If you run your temps at about 225, there is no need to open your smoker for at least the first 2 hours. Have a drink. Take a nap. Just leave the smoker alone.
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:16 AM   #5
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It's a small point, but if your lookin' (and spraying) you aren't cookin'. Everytime you open the chamber you spill heat (and moisture) and this will extend your cook time and exacerbate your heat control problems.

Cooking que isn't rocket science, but it does take practice.
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:45 AM   #6
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I wasn't spraying like a nut. maybe once every 45 - 60 mins. And yes I was more focused time then the look of the ribs. The ribs were closer to the stack then the firebox w/ the thicker end facing the heat
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Old 08-16-2006, 10:50 AM   #7
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You would have no excuse to practice if they came out perfect the first time (yours look better than my first ribs)!

Now go get another slab this weekend and revist the smoker and have a drink for me!
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Old 08-16-2006, 12:12 PM   #8
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Yes Sir!!! :)
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Old 08-16-2006, 01:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nonthink
11:55 – started drinking
Thats it! The problem is that you only did that once!!!!!! Whats a matter with you? Didnt you read the brethren handbook?
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Old 08-16-2006, 01:14 PM   #10
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It was a VEEEEERY BIG drink
55 gal. drum size
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Old 08-16-2006, 01:20 PM   #11
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Nonthink - Everybody here has a horror story, and your first smoke is as good a place to have one as any. for a first cook your ribs looks pretty good. Don't be too tuff on yourself; it's supposed to be fun. Most people in this game are their own worst critic. Don't worry about the bottom of your firebox, provided you didn't burn thru it...

I'm about to start rambling, so feel free to stop reading at any time.

Try cooking them hotter, not colder. Do a couple of racks at 275*. Don't look at your watch to often, but allow for a 3 to 4 hour cook time at the higher temp. With smoking, it's not done when the time is up, it's done when it's done. Don't foil at this stage of the learning-curve (I try to never foil as a cooking method). It's hard to tell how your ribs are cooking when they are all wrapped-up. use visual and tactile cues as to how well done your ribs are. A couple of things to look for are the flexibility of the rack, the ability to separate two ribs, and meat pull-back on the bone. The rack will go from relatively stiff and bendable in a slight arc, to wiggly and bendable at an angle. Also try and pull two ribs apart. The ease with which two ribs can be separated is a good indication of doneness. Also look as to how the meat has pulled-back on the bone. With practice, you will be able to press the rib meat and feel the rebound as an indication of cooking progress.

Looking at your time-line, and finished product, you sprayed too soon. Only waiting a 1/2 hour did not allow the bark to set-up. For ribs, I'd wait for at least 1-1/2 hours to start spraying, which to me is more like a misting. I don't point the sprayer at the meat, but try and envelop the meat in a cloud of moisture.

From your time-line, it doesn't sound like you were flipping or rotating the rack. I typically hang my ribs, but in a smoker like yours, I start out bone-down, with the thickest part of the rack towards the firebox. When I open the smoker to to do the first spray, I also flip and rotate the rack so that it is meat-side-down and depending on how it looks I either keep the thick side towards the fire or swap it end for end. The next time I'm opening the smoker is around 45 minutes later, at which time I am spraying, flipping and rotating the rack and am continuing to do this for the remainder of the cook. As with a final cook time, the times provided here are not written in stone, but are driven by cooking temperature and what you are seeing. With bigger cuts of meat, I'd be opening the smoker a lot less frequently. The slogan "if yer look'n yer not cook'n" is correct, but because you're cooking ribs, and not taking internal temperatures or cooking to the clock, you do need to look at them to determine if they are done. Avoid the temptation to open the smoker for everyone that wants to see what you are doing. You should have a plan of what you are going to do when the door is open, and execute that plan as rapidly as possible.

In regards to rib-prep, I am a firm believer in not over-seasoning meat, but from the pictures, it appears as if you need to apply your rub a little more generously. I like to use a shaker bottle like the kind you would use for cheese or oregano in a pizzeria. I apply the rub in a similar fashion and consistency to heavily salting meat.You may also find that slathering the rack in yellow mustard before you apply the rub helps the rub to adhere to the ribs. I do not rub the rub into the meat.

In regards to fire and fire control, it appears from the pictures that you don't have enough elevation on your coal-bed for good circulation. You want at least three or four inches below your coals for air circulation. A simple ring or square coal basket made from expanded metal would go a long way to helping you with temperature control. I'd also recommend avoiding lump charcoal as your primary heat source and switching to Kingsford brickets (K's all up and the arrow "<" pointed to magnetic north). At this stage of the game you are trying to limit your variables as much as possible. Temperature control is one of the keys to good consistent BBQ. Lump burns hot, but it burns fast. Brickets don't get as hot, but they burn for much longer at a steady temperature, which will help with your temperature control. If you can get a better handle on cooking temp, you can better focus on what you are cooking. In regards to wood choice, if you really like the flavor of mesquite, stick with it, but it's very strong and tends to overpower most meats. I like to grill with mesquite, because it burns very hot, but not smoke with it. Try hickory or a fruitwood.

Finally, you are at the onset of spending a lot of time and money on your new hobby, go and buy yourself if you don't already have one, a good remote probe thermometer so that you can tell what the temperature is right where the ribs are cooking. I do not measure my ribs internal temperature as a gauge of their doneness.

This is how I do it (most of the time ;-)), but there is not necessarily a right way or a wrong way, but the way that works for you.

Stick with your motto ("Through experience comes wisdom"), an you will be ok.
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Last edited by RichardF; 08-16-2006 at 02:29 PM..
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Old 08-16-2006, 01:34 PM   #12
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Ah, a million ways to cook good que. Just find what works for you, and don't get too complicated!
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Old 08-16-2006, 02:00 PM   #13
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[quote=RichardF]

I'm about to start rambling, so feel free to stop reading at any time.

Try cooking them hotter, not colder. Do a couple of racks at 275*. Don't look at your watch to often, but allow for a 3 to 4 hour cook time at the higher temp. With smoking, it's not done when the time is up, it's done when it's done. ............................................... burns very hot, but not smoke with it. Try hickory or a fruitwood.

--------------------------------------------------------------

I have a few rib cooks under my belt, but still find this post really well done and helpful. I have a special family guest visiting and this post really makes me confident about the racks I plan to cook this week-end.

Many thanks RichardF !
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Old 08-16-2006, 02:00 PM   #14
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I would stay away from the mesquite as it is very strong. Home Depot sells the bag of Hickory chunks for $10. You might want to try a pre made rub to start out with. If you p.m. me your address I will send u some. As others said, If your looking u ain't cooking. You don't need to spray them down as they will get "juicified" when u foil them. I would say I pour about 2-4 oz of apple juice on the ribs when I foil. Keep the rack away from the firebox. Use the opposite side of the smoker and rotate them every 45 minutes or so. I always leave them bone down until they get wrapped, then they are bone up in the foil(sitting in all that apple juice).

The temp gauge might not be that accurate on your smoker so try to keep it at around 250 so u have a leeway of 30 degrees on either side. Don't foil the ribs until u see the meat pull away from the ends of the bones. Once foiled, leave them in for no more than an hour or you will overcook them. After they come out of the foil putt em back on the smoker and LIGHTLY baste them with sauce. Last thing, if you listen to rap or hip hop your ribs will come out like CHIT. Ribs like Rock and Roll. They LOVE Pink Floyd.

Dang....now I want ribs.
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Old 08-16-2006, 02:05 PM   #15
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Don't feel bad if they didn't turn out great... I don't know how many racks I've done just this year, but, Sunday, I put 3 racks on and went off to spend time with my dog (another thread)... I didn't pay much attention as my focus was elsewhere, and the smoker got up to about 400... The ribs weren't great.

funny part was that a friend stopped by, saw the ribs on the counter and tried one... he kept going back for more, telling me my ribs were good. My wife laughed and told him those were throwaways, and if he liked those, he needed to come by for some good ones next time I make them... Just another excuse to cook ribs, I guess!

The moral here is that it doesn't matter if it's your first or not.. You'll have a rib horror story eventually!
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