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How do you know when the ribs are done?

Tear Test

The best way for you to determine if the ribs are done is to use your hands. Pick them up with gloves on your hands and twist the ribs at the top of the rib to see if you see the meat start tearing away from the bone. When done the rib meat will tear away from the bone cleanly. If they are tough to tear then leave them on the smoker for more cooking. You should feel the ribs give in the middle if you hold the rack by the two ends. You will see the give in the rack of ribs when they are done.

Once you see the meat cleanly pull away from the bone take them off the pit and enjoy. If you don’t have a good pair of gloves that can handle the heat, the grease, and holding or moving the meat then we have those on our site so order a pair of those gloves with your rub order and you won’t need another tool around the pit for moving or holding the meats you are cooking.

Toothpick Method

Tooth picks are great around the smoker to do things like hold stuffed meat together but they are great when it comes time to test the meat for doneness. You can use a toothpick to determine if the ribs are done by simply running a toothpick between two bones and see if it passes thru the meat easily. If you feel resistance then the meat is not as tender as you may prefer it to be so let the ribs cook a bit longer.

Feel Method

You can pick the rack of ribs up in the middle of the rack and the two sides should drop down a few inches as you hold the ribs. The more it drops down the more tender the ribs are.

Bones of the ribs are exposed (this does not always happen to a rack of ribs)

You will sometimes see the meat pull down the bone of the rib. This is just an indication that the meat is shrinking and it is not the best way to determine if the ribs are cooked to your liking. They are pretty when the bone is exposed but do not use this as a measure of the doneness of the rib. You will notice also that ribs that are wrapped in foil for a hour or so that the rib bone is often more exposed than ribs that are cooked without wrapping.

For grilling you can cook either baby backs or spares over direct heat. Prepare the ribs the same way as before except this time you will be cooking directly over a very hot fire.  Add some smoke flavor to the ribs by adding some wood to your fire. See our website at for a discussion on adding smoke to the gas or charcoal fire.

If you are grilling your ribs and you start to see a heavy char forming on the bottom of the rib just place a piece of aluminum foil under the rib and that will knock the direct heat coming from under the rib off of the rib. Watch the ribs carefully as to not burn the coating of rub or sauce you have on the ribs. Rubs and sauces all have some sugar in them and sugar will burn at a little over 300 degrees so use the aluminum foil to keep the ribs from getting burned or too heavily charred.  Cooking time for the baby back ribs on the grill (try to stay in the 300 degree range on the grill) will be about 1 to 1½ hours and for spares about 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours.

If you want to finish off the ribs will a BBQ sauce add the sauce the last 15 minutes of the cooking time. This will keep the sauce from burning. You can even add the sauce to the rib after it has finished cooking and you are getting ready to slice the ribs.


I have had hundreds of questions about wrapping ribs. Here are my thoughts. There are a lot of smokers that prefer to wrap their ribs during the cooking process to shorten the cooking time and to also make the ribs fall of the bone tender. I prefer not to wrap my ribs but if you would like to wrap your ribs during the cooking process then there are a couple of rules of thought on this.

If you wrap your ribs the meat texture will begin to change. They can get mushy if you leave them wrapped too long so be careful with the wrapping of ribs. I hate to change the wonderful texture of ribs so I stay away from wrapping except in competition where the judges think the meat has to be falling off the bone. I personally like to pick up the rib bone and eat the meat off of it. You decide and try both methods.

Cooking times and the 3-2-1 Method

Spare ribs: If you are cooking on a pit (low and slow 225 to 235 degrees) then the general rule of thought is to do the ribs using the 3-2-1 method. That is the method that says 3 hours uncovered on the pit, then wrap for 2 hours, and then take them out of the foil and put them back on the pit for another hour to tighten the ribs back up. I find that wrapping the ribs for 2 hours the ribs are overcooked so use the same method and do the ribs 3 hours on the pit unwrapped then 1 ½  hours wrapped then another ½ hour unwrapped back on the pit to tighten up the ribs. Pour or spray some liquid over the top of the ribs to give it some moisture when you wrap the ribs. You can use apple juice, or the best I think is some spray margarine and spray the top of the ribs real well. You can add some honey or brown sugar or both to give a much sweeter taste to the rib.

Baby Back ribs: For the smoker, use the same method but cut your time to say 2 hours on the smoker unwrapped, 1 hour wrapped, and then 15 to 30 minutes back on the smoker uncovered to tighten the ribs back up. Again, add some liquid to the ribs that you are wrapping like apple juice, honey, butter, or spray margarine. This will give the ribs some moisture to work with inside the wrapping.

If you are cooking baby backs on the grill then use a 1 hour on the grill, 45 minutes wrapped and then 15 minutes to tighten the ribs back up.

Cutting the Ribs

First, fresh cut ribs straight out of the pit are the most wonderful tasting ribs you will ever pick up. Dripping with natural juices and full of flavor it just does not get any better than a rib coming off the pit and cut while it is hot and then eaten immediately.

Ribs should be cut off the full rack when you are ready to serve them and you should not cut them in advance as the rib will dry out as the air hits the meat. So try and cut the ribs right when you need them and cut just enough for everyone to enjoy and then cut more for the second round of eating. And there will be a round 2 and maybe a round 3.

The best way to cut your ribs is to lay the rib on a cutting board with the bone side of the ribs facing you. You are going to want to cut between the bones where the meat is. You can take a sharp knife and just place it between the rib bones starting at the top of the rib and work it down between the rib bones. Once you get pretty good at this and for some great show to your friends you can stand the rib on end and with a really sharp knife and nice cooked ribs take the knife, starting at the top between the bones run the knife down the rib letting the knife naturally follow the rib bone. Makes a nice show and it will impress the friends. And then once they eat your ribs you will be the rib king.

So get out there and cook some ribs because with practice you will just get better.

PPS: Pass this on to your friends and neighbors so they can also learn about cooking great ribs. They will love the fact that you thought of them while learning about ribs.

I found this to be a great primer for those looking to get started cooking ribs. It reflects much of what we discuss on the forum. It is copyrighted, but they specifically say to pass it on, so here it is. I hope you get something out of it. I had to post it in 2 parts because it was to big for a single post.

Texas BBQ Rub’s Step-by Step Guide to
Your Best BBQ Ever

Article 4
Tender Succulent Pork Ribs

In this Article you are going to learn some methods and secrets for cooking pork ribs, St. Luis Pork Ribs, Baby Back ribs, whole pork spare ribs, and then County Style pork ribs. In the world of smoking and grilling meat the most enjoyed meat you can cook for family and friends is a great pork ribs and you are going to learn how to do that right now.

When it comes to ribs the styles are different, the ribs cooked are different, but one thing remains the same. Ribs are made for smoking and grilling and they are a favorite of all. Whether you like your ribs wet, dry, with sauce, without sauce, fall of the bone tender and moist, or you like them where you can pick up the bone and eat the succulent meat right of the bone they are all good. It is your call on this. But there is not another piece of meat you can grab with your hands and eat right off the bone.

But the two common things everyone wants are great tasting ribs and a rib so full of natural juices that it drips out of the ribs.

Let’s cook some flavorful juicy ribs you will be proud of.

There are a few big questions you may be asking yourself and have tried finding good answers to:

1.      Do I need to remove the membranes from the ribs before I cook them?
2.      What is the easiest way to remove the membrane from the ribs?
3.      Do I need to wrap the ribs? And if so when do I do it?
4.      What is the simple 3-2-1 method talked about for cooking ribs?
5.      How do I know when the ribs are done?
6.      When do I add the sauce if I want to add some to the ribs?
7.      How tender do I need to cook the ribs and how do I do that?

The answer to these questions and others will be covered in depth in this article.

PORK RIBS-Finding the right rib at the store

You are standing in the store with all of those ribs in packages and really don’t know which packages of ribs to pick up and take home and cook.

Well there are three basic things you will need to look for in a pork rib to help you decide which ones deserves your cooking.

1.      The amount of meat on the rib (you want to have some meat on them so look at them carefully to decide which ones have the most meat on them. And it is best to find ribs that are fairly uniform in thickness across the rib). If they are frozen look at the thickness of the package cause you really can’t feel the meat. If they are not frozen you can feel the meat above a bone and feel just how much meat there is on that rib. You are looking for a nice even thickness with a good amount of meat.
2.      Then you are going to look at the amount of fat on the rib itself. In spare ribs or St Louis spare ribs you are looking for a nice feathering of fat across the rib. You don’t want a rib that all of the fat is clumped in one side of the rib. For baby back ribs you want the same but these ribs are not typically feathered with a nice amount of fat so look for a rack that has just a nice amount of fat across the rib. In other words no large fat cap covering the entire rib surface.
3.      You could stop right here and have some great ribs to cook on the pit or grill. But there is one more thing that makes serving the ribs once they are cooked easier to present to everyone. Flip the rib over and look at the bones of the rib. Try to find a rack that the bones are fairly straight across the rib. Usually you see a couple of straight bones and then all of a sudden the bones start curving. This is not a deal killer on the ribs it is just easier if the rib bones are straight when it come to cutting them for your guests.

Pick out a couple of racks of good ribs and now get them home and time to prep them.

But first…….the biggest question asked most when it comes to cooking ribs…..


The big question or debate among rib cookers is whether or not the membrane should be removed from the ribs prior to cooking or do you cook with the membrane on the ribs. Ask 100 people and it seems you will get 50 that say remove the membrane and 50 that say leave it on there.

The membrane is a very thin piece of cartilage that is on the bone side of the rack of ribs. It is the white heavy skin that covers the bone side of the rib. Remove it or not to remove it? Let’s discuss this and then you can decide.

You can remove the membrane by peeling it off. Use a sharp knife and slip it under the membrane at one end of the rack of ribs and peal back enough to get a good grip on the membrane. Some suggest using a screwdriver to pry under the membrane instead of a knife, it is much safer. Try gripping the membrane with a paper towel or pliers and then peeling it off the rack. This takes some practice so just keep working at it. Adds time to your preparation so plan extra time to get these off if you so desire.

Tip: The best thing that I have seen used for removing the membranes from ribs is a catfish skin remover (not sure that is the correct name) but what it is it looks like a pair of pliers except the end is about 2 inches wide and you can grip the membrane with it and work it off the rib. You should be able to find one of these pretty easy at a good outdoor supply store.

My personal preference and the way I cook all of my ribs is to leave the membrane on the ribs when you cook them. That being said, I’m sure there are plenty of you out there that remove the membrane and I have no problem with that if you are getting a good moist rib after it has cooked. If you are grilling the ribs, then I might have a tendency to agree with you to take off the membrane.

A Big Advantage of leaving the membrane on the ribs is……...

TIP: The juices of the ribs are actually held in the meat by the membrane as the ribs cook: so they hold much more of their natural juices.

And as a note you can always remove the membrane after you cook the ribs if that is the way you prefer to serve them.

Some argue that spices and smoke cannot penetrate the membrane so you lose some of the flavor you are trying to get into the meat. If you are cooking your ribs at say 220 to 225 degrees the membrane will actually start to tear apart and can actually disappear as the rib cooks over a long time. It no longer is in its single piece stage and does not change or hamper any of the smoke flavor or rub flavor you are trying to get into the meat.

If you are grilling ribs, then perhaps the best way to get the ribs to their most tender and best tasting stage is to remove the membrane because the ribs you are grilling are not going to be exposed to the long periods of low heat but rather higher heat for a shorter period of time.

So, this decision rests with you. Try it both ways and find out which way you prefer the ribs. Membrane off or membrane on. Now let’s get into the discussion of the different types of ribs.


The Spare Rib comes from the side of the pig, right next to the belly. You ever heard the term “side of ribs” well it comes from talking about spare ribs and where they come from.

You usually buy spare ribs in the whole “rack”. There are 13 bones in a full rack of ribs. As you learned earlier try to find racks of ribs that are nice and meaty, feathered with a nice fat, and have some nice straight bones for easier cutting and presenting to your friends and family.

There are two distinct sides to the rack of ribs, a bone side (covered by the membrane) and a meat side. The rack will be a little curved. You can buy spares with either the skirt (an extra flap of meat attached to the bottom of the rack) on or the skirt off. Most of the wholesale and supermarkets sell their spares with the skirt on. Just leave it on there and cook it and enjoy.

Spare ribs are a little meatier than baby backs and they are fattier because of where they come off the pig. And they usually cost 2/3 as much as baby backs. Remember that fat is where the flavor is and spare ribs just have a better covering of fat across the rib than do baby back ribs.

Some folks cut the spare rib rack into what many will call St. Louis cut spareribs. Basically, they cut the bottom of the ribs off right above the knuckle and square up the rack. Hey folks cook what you enjoy cooking because people will eat any rib you cook if it done correctly. If you do like to cook the whole rack of untrimmed spare ribs there is some of the best tasting meat down in the knuckles of the rib. So enjoy them.

An Interesting Note

You see restaurants advertising ribs on their menus either as a whole rack or half rack. These can be any number of ribs that the restaurant wishes to call a rack or a half rack. So a half rack can be 3 ribs and a full rack can be 6 ribs. Not exactly a full rack of ribs, as we know them.


The Baby Back ribs are sometimes referred to as “back” ribs or Loin Back ribs. The baby in baby back actually comes from the size of the ribs themselves. They are much smaller in nature than the spare ribs, as the rack on baby backs will weight only 1½ pounds to 4 pounds. They appear to be thicker than spare ribs because of the shape of the bones and they have a little less fat on them and very rarely do you see a nice feathering of fat across a baby back rib. The meat from the baby backs comes from the loin (the back part of the pig, where the better cuts of meat on the pig are located). Remember you are looking for a nice amount of meat on this rib so try to get them close to the 4 pound range to ensure you there is a good amount of meat on the ribs. You may find some baby back ribs that say extra meaty on them as they will tend to have more meat on them than the typical baby back rib and they sell for a premium price.

Baby backs are generally the most versatile of the ribs to cook. You can grill them or smoke them. They are, in my opinion, the best rib to grill as they are smaller and leaner and will cook in a shorter period of time than spares they are more geared to the high temperatures that grilling is all about. Because of their size they will cook quicker than spare ribs.

If you were grilling baby backs then I would recommend removal of the membrane prior to cooking. They are not going to be exposed to the smoke and fire long enough to break down the membrane by cooking. So spend some time and remove the membrane.


So-called country style ribs are not ribs at all. Now don’t get mad because these little gems are cut to look like a rib but they come from the blade side of the loin or in many cases they are a pork butt cut into strips. They resemble fatty pork chops cut into pieces that resemble a rib. These you can get for under a $2 a pound when you find them on sale and they make great BBQ. Nothing wrong with them they just are not a real rib.

They have no membrane and are usually cut in about 1 inch thick pieces about 3 to 5 inches in length. Recommended cooking of these is low and slow. But they can be grilled as well.


Simply rub down the rack of ribs you are cooking with Worcestershire sauce and apply Texas BBQ Rub to the ribs. You can order some right here and it will be shipped to you fresh and full of flavor for those ribs. We recommend either the Original Texas BBQ Rub or our Grand Champion Rub for your ribs. Which one of those depends on if you like a little sweet followed by a nice mellow spice kick delivered with our Original Rub or the less spicy Grand Champion Rub. They are both fantastic! Try out both of them if you are not sure which one to use and find your favorite one. Our Original Rub is a 5 time National Award Winning BBQ Rub and is my go to rub. Don’t wait any longer order right now! It only takes a couple of minutes to order and your rub will be delivered to your mailbox or set on the front porch by the post office. You can go to our secure order form by clicking on this link:

Simply apply Worcestershire sauce or some other liquid to the rib then simply apply Texas BBQ Rub to the meat side of the rib. For spare ribs about ¾ cup on the meat side of the rack of ribs. For baby backs it will be about 2/3 as much rub to cover the rib rack. I recommend putting your rub on only the meaty side of the rib. Putting rub on the bone side and then cooking bone side down the rub is just going to fall off. For country style ribs you will have to do each “rib” separately by adding just a little rub to the “rib” after you cover with Worcestershire sauce.

Place the ribs on the grill or pit with the bone side down. For country style ribs just lay them on the cooking grate.

For indirect smoking/cooking (no wrapping), cook at 220-225 degrees for about 5 to 6 hours for whole untrimmed spare ribs, 3 to 4 hours for baby backs, about 4 to 5 hours for the St. Louis cut spare ribs and about 3 to 4 hours for the country style ribs. No need to turn them over they will be fine and you don’t want to loose any rub by flipping them over during cooking. Using Texas BBQ Rub you will notice the ribs going thru a phase where they are looking kind of dry. At this stage the rub is setting on your rib and forming that great tasting bark. After a couple of hours of the rib looking dry you will suddenly notice the rib starting to glaze back over as the juices of the rib are starting to be pulled out of the rib. They will look like you have actually sauced them or covered them with some kind of liquid. This is Texas BBQ Rub working on the rib from the inside out and at this time your ribs are getting close to being done.

How do you determine when the ribs are done?

        ........................... Continued in Part 2 ................

Anything Goes!! / Smoked stuffed peppers
« on: April 15, 2015, 01:25:56 PM »
Anyone have recipes for smoked stuffed peppers. I have some for the oven which I can use but thought maybe someone had some that they already tried in the smoker. I will be using chopped beef and pork as the stuffing. Thanks.

Thought this would be good to have on the forum for reference. Let's see what our resident experts have to say about it. It does say for Sausage making only if that applies.

Beef / Store corned beef to Pastrami
« on: March 30, 2015, 11:12:25 PM »
I come from New York. I have had some of the best pastrami in the world. I now live in Florida and still get some great pastrami. But, I had to try my own. I bought a cryo vac corned beef, about 3 lbs. I soaked it in water for 24 hours to release some salt. I then rubbed it with a rub from this site and let it sit 24 hours in frig. I then smoked it at 225 for 15 hours, IT 190.

I sliced a piece to taste it. It was tasty,not salty and a bit dry. Was it done? NO! THE SECRET TO GREAT PASTRAMI IS TO STEAM IT. Yes, it makes all the difference in the world. More moisture, better color, tenderizes and brings out the flavor.

So after leaving it in frig overnight, I steamed it for an hour. Should have been  2 but we got hungry...oh well. I think you can see the difference in the photos. It was fantastic. My 3 lb corned beef ended up at 1.6 lb cooked.

That being said, I will probably go to the deli restaurants for the sandwiches. For literally  a few bucks more I get excellent pastrami with all the trimmings and no work.

BTW the first pic is the meat after soaking it for 24 hours

14.5 lbs Packer brisket from butcher. Choice at $4.59/ lb. Cryovac packed. Rinsed and put in Divots pork butt brine for 16 hours. Used a cooler with ice in a bag on top of meat. Stays very cold. Rinsed meat from brine. Injected with Divots brisket injection. Did not let it sit at all.

Immediately put on mustard and Memphis Dust. Put in smoker. Used 5-7/8 oz of hickory chunks (3-pieces, almost 4oz) and 2 oz apple wood chips. Set temp to 225 and smoked for 17.5 hours to 192 degrees. Rested for 4 hours foiled in cooler.

Meat was excellent in taste, tenderness, bark, moisture (a tad drier than I would have liked - next time pull at 190 and rest only 2 hours). Big smoke ring from the Tender Quick.

Follow the forum comments and you can't go wrong.

Anything Goes!! / First jerky and a broken jerky dryer
« on: March 02, 2015, 11:14:32 PM »
I received my jerky drier today. Bummer! The female power plug inside the unit has a wire that has broken off the switch. I called Steve and left a message. No response as yet.

Meanwhile I have 3.5 lbs of marinated jerky that I was going to make today. Tomorrow I will smoke it for a couple hours at 140-150 and put it in the oven for 5-6 hours as low as I can get it. Not a happy camper. So much for my first jerky.

Jerky / Where do I begin with jerky?
« on: February 24, 2015, 12:53:11 PM »
I was never really exposed to jerky. As a matter of fact, I have never had homemade jerky. Only that store bought stuff. I would like to try something simple. I do not have a dryer or dehydrator. So what do you suggest...where do I begin?

Anything Goes!! / DivotMaker cracks 5000 posts
« on: February 23, 2015, 10:49:00 PM »
Congratulations Tony. Thank you for your amazing participation and support!

Pork / First brined pork loin
« on: February 12, 2015, 01:06:18 AM »
Well I figured it was about time that I tried a pork brine. So I got a 4.1 lb boneless pork loin and put it in DMs pork brine (no pink salt) for 18 hours. Washed it and dried it and put in fridge for a couple hours. I wasn't ready to cook it yet. I just wanted it out of the brine.

I rubbed it with mustard and Daves Famous rub. Here is where I used the "progressive smoke". I used a really wine fragrant oak barrel chip...smelled great...followed by a 1-3/4 apple chunk then 1-1/8 hickory chunk (see pic). Wood chunks were boated (later foil was removed to get more smoke), all on a SI chip tray.

Set temp to 235. Got smoke in 5 minutes. Could actually smell the wood as it progressed. Smoked to IT of 147, 2 hours. Then put it on a hot gas grill for less than 10 minutes and foil wrapped it. Put it in towels in cooler for about 2 hours when we were ready to eat.

Unbelievable! Tender, moist and smoked to perfection. We all agreed we never had such a fantastic pork loin. Brined pork...YUM!

Anything Goes!! / Where do you place your wood chunk in the smoke box?
« on: January 27, 2015, 02:53:31 PM »
Here is something I tried that I feel helps me get even a better smoke. Maybe it can help you too.

I have a #3. In experimenting with chunks, pellets and chips I noticed something interesting. When I laid out a layer of pellets on the chip tray in the smoker box and smoked, when I was finished I had a complete range of cooked pellets from ash which was closest to the back of the smoker through pellets which had little or no burn in the front of the smoker where the element is coldest.

I have always put my chunks in the back and have had excellent results. I also noticed in my exploration though, that when the wood would begin to burn, it had the amazing fruit smell and TBS.  I would just sit and soak up that fantastic smell. However, after it really started perking, I noticed that the smell changed to a harsher burned wood (not combustion) smell and that the TBS changed to a different color. I noticed the same thing with a pile of wood chips and a pile of pellets. I never liked that. Why couldn't that TBS and fragrant smell continue through the whole process? So I decided to play with the placement of the wood chunk in the smoke box based on what I discovered with the pellets. I figured that if I could get a little less heat to the wood, I can get it just right. After trying a few times I found a spot near the middle a bit closer to the back that works real well and gives me the TBS and fragrance that I expect from chunks throughout the smoke.

Yes, it did give the food a sweeter smoke that was noticeable to me and my family. However, it was also a lighter smoke but really is excellent.

Please note that it might take longer for the wood to catch before you see smoke. I find that not using foil is helpful, but you can try with it as well. Apparently the #4 has a different heating element configuration, so it might act differently.

What other experiences have you had with wood placement?

I never tried boiling the brine first, cooling it and then using it. I always use it directly from filtered tap water. Some recipes call for it. Has anyone tried it or have thoughts on it?

Kansas City here I come! Tuesday I am flying to Kansas City for a week. Visiting family. I know it's crazy but seeing my family is the best. So, I intend to go to Oklahoma Joe's BBQ restaurant. What other Kansas City places do you recommend?

Model 3 & 3D - The Big Brother / Stainless coating
« on: December 13, 2014, 11:38:28 PM »
It appears the stainless on the #3 has a kleer coat of some kind on it because of the shiny surface. Does anyone know if this true or not?

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