This will make ribs that need no sauce, yield no leftovers and might give you diabetes. For party settings, I remove the bones and cut diagonally against the grain of the meat in half inch strips by about 3 inches long to make serving and finger food grazing much easier. This recipe works with pork spare loin just as easily as with ribs; if you're going to do a loin, it's going to cook a little faster, so watch it more.
rack of spare ribs (or 3)
2 cups white granulated sugar
4 cups brown granulated sugar
1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cups coarse ground black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
1 can of Dr Pepper
1/2 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of Sriracha
3 tablespoons of Yellow Mustard
Before anything else is done, start getting your smoker up to temp around 240-270F. Anywhere in there is going to be fine, closer to 240 will mean a slower cook, but better texture in the meat. Do not put ribs on a cold smoker. I've tried it, that slow start seems to cause the meat to stay a little tougher too long. There's also bacterial issues to keep in mind, don't do it unless you want potential food poisoning.
Spare ribs : I cook the whole rack together, no trimming necessary, it's going to cook off anyway. However, due to bone spurs showing up on the ribs lately (they're being sloppy cutting them?) I rinse them off in slow running cool water in the sink and run my hand over all the edges and outside. Probably 1 in 3 ribs, I find slivers of bone that someone might have eaten. If you precut the ribs before cooking, they're going to cook faster but I dont think as evenly as some have more fat than others. Cooking together allows the fat to render throughout and you don't get a lot of crispy outside edges. Your prefernece, but I cook them as one solid rack.
Prepare the rub. 2 cups white sugar. 2 cups brown sugar. 1/2 cup kosher salt (regular table salt is fine, but I prefer bigger grain). 1/2 cup black pepper. 1/4 cup garlic powder (optional, but i like it)
As a binding agent of rub to meat, I use yellow mustard and sriracha. About 2-1 ratio of mustard to sriracha. The binder will all cook off and you won't taste the mustard, but there will be a nice hint of the spice heat from the sriracha.
Swirl on a couple of ribbons of mustard, then 1 of sriracha then smooth it out with your hand so all the meat is covered on one side.
Sprinkle on the dry rub a bit thickly on one side, pick the ribs up and move them around so the rub flows all over the meat. Let it sit for about 2 minutes then pick the ribs up vertically and let the leftover rub fall off. It should have an even layer of rub sticking the binder. Flip over the rib and do the same on the backside. let that rest again to form the bark.
Cook, step 1. The Smoke.
You do not want a heavy smoke, it should be transparently blue-gray and moving cleanly. Otherwise, you will oversmoke the ribs and taste it.
For wood, I like a good seasoned oak. Mesquite and Hickory are ok, but too easily over-smoke the meat. You can do an apple or pear wood also.
Place ribs on smoker, silver skin side down (it acts as a slight membrane to help protect the meat, so that's why we don't trim it and it cooks anyway so it's wasted work)
Consistency of smoke and temp is a big deal here, this is where the meat really is getting smoked and establishing a smoke ring and taking on the flavor of the smoke. Too cold, you won't cook well. Too much smoke, the meat will take on all that black sooty smoke and you'll taste it later.
I like a water pan in the smoker to add humidity, I never spray mist the ribs. I've tried misting, it didn't make a noticeable difference and it has a habit of knocking off the bark to reveal the meat underneath if the mist is too strong.
Cook, step 2. The Foil.
Sometime around the 3 hour mark, the meat should hit somewhere in between 165-175. At this point, foil. This allows us to consistently get past any stall, but also to bake on a bit of a home-made bbq sauce and to add a good bit of moisture back to the meat that has cooked out by this point.
I make a larger sheet of foil by stacking 2 sheets on top and folding them together about 3x for 3/4 inch along the long edge. I'm aiming for a nearly 2 ft x 2 ft square. Or.. you can buy bigger foil...
On the newly created big open square of foil, spread 1 cup brown sugar the middle for about a 10 inch circle
Lay the rack of ribs on that circle, silver skin side down again
On top of the ribs, apply some swirls of honey, maybe a few small swirls of sriracha then spread another cup of brown sugar on top of those. Don't worry about making eveyrthing smeared and even, as it cooks it'll all melt around and spread out. You don't want to break the bark of the rub on the meat right now.
(this part is hard to explain, will try to get a pic next time) fold up all 4 sides of the foil to make the tallest walls you can, crunching each of the 4 corners together to try to make a large foil boat with the ribs in the middle still
Pour about 1/2 can of dr pepper around the outside of the ribs into this boat. If it starts leaking out onto your work surface, you sucked at making a foil boat.
Close up the top of the foil to tent the top of the foil. Be careful not to pull the sides too tight, as the foil may rip on any protruding bones.
Put the now foiled boat tent rib pack back on the smoker
You now have 2 OPTIONS to consider for the remainder of the cook.
1) I have started (post-cook and post-rest, right before slicing) pulling all bones from the ribs, then slicing the rack diagonally across the grain into strips about 2 in by 3/4 inch. I find in a party setting, the ribs are now a finger food, and it's easier for people to grab some via tongs and put on their plate. People love this. To get the meat that tender, cook another 2 hours-ish, until the meat temp hits 201F. To remove the bones, i grab the protruding end with a pair of pliers, give a simple half twist and they slide out completely at this temp.
2) If you want to leave them on the bone, and slice traditionally, You can take them to 191F and they'll be great but not fall off the bone (some people care)
Cook, step 3. The Crisp.
Whichever option you picked, after the meat reaches temp, take the ribs out of the foil and put them back on the smoker for 30 minutes. This will crisp up the sweet bark you've made.
Cook, step 4. The Rest.
After the final 30 minutes on the smoker, I always wrap the rack in butcher paper and throw them in a cooler for 30-90 minutes. This really does yield a much better texture to the meat and allows everything to settle in, fat-wise
If people are whining about being hungry, you can skip this step, but the difference is noticeable