When it comes to smoking ribs, it’s commonly been debated whether the meat should fall off the bone or whether it should be attached to the bone after cooking. This means when you bite the meat, it should fall cleanly off of the bone but this only happens when the pitmaster perfects the taste and texture of the meat they are cooking.
This article takes a closer look at how to smoke ribs to reach the desired doneness of the pitmaster and tells you how long to smoke ribs at either 250 or 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Smoking at these temperatures may save your cooking time, but will still give you the same great results, so read on to find out more!
Typical Cooking Methods
Those who like the meat to fall off the bone often choose the 321 rub cooking method. This includes 3 hours of smoking the meat and 2 more hours of smoking the wrapped rack, then a further 1 hour of smoking whilst also brushing the meat with the BBQ sauce or alternative seasoning.
This can be a lengthy process, but the results are worth it. However, those who support that the meat should be attached to bone claim when it falls off the bone before biting, it is overcooked and this causes the meat to lose quality and texture.
However, whichever method a pitmaster chooses, smoking ribs takes time. We recommend smoking them at low temperatures over a long time until the meat is safe to eat and has reached the perfect texture and doneness.
If you are cooking pork ribs, you can crank up the heat to increase the speed of the cooking time, but we would always suggest you stick with the slow and gradual method of smoking ribs for best results.
As we have just mentioned pork ribs in the above section, we are going to focus on these types of ribs in this article. However, you must bear in mind there are several different cuts of pork ribs and each different cut differs in texture and flavor. This means they require different cooking times and temperatures.
The four main cuts of pork ribs are baby back ribs, spareribs, St. Louis-style ribs, and Country-style ribs.
Spare ribs are often the kind which most people have heard of and they are long cuts of meat coming from the belly behind the shoulders of the pig. A rack of spareribs is flat and usually includes around 11-13 bones on a rack.
They contain a fair amount of fat which lowers the meat content but a lot of people consider them the tastiest. Due to their size and structure, spare ribs often take a lot longer to cook than baby back ribs so when smoking these, you need to increase your cooking time by 50%.
Baby back ribs usually weigh around 1-1.5 pounds and are the fattiest out of all the rib types. The ribs are easy to handle and curved in shape. They contain less meat than spareribs but the meat is leaner.
Baby back ribs take on average around 4 hours to cook, compared to the 6 needed to cook spare ribs and after this time you should reach your desired internal temperature and state of doneness.
St. Louis-style ribs come from the belly side of the pig and come in the form of a rectangular rack. This does not include rips, cartilage, or breastbone.
Country-style ribs come from the shoulder blade end of the pig’s loin and usually contain the least amount of fat. This means they often have the most meat on them out of all other rib types.
What Does It Mean To ‘Fall Off The Bone’?
When the meat falls off the bone, a lot of BBQ enthusiasts consider this the tastiest version of ribs. Many pitmasters have a hard time working out when the ribs are ready and when it is time to take them off the smoker or the grill. However, when the meat falls off the bone, this is often a good indication. It means you are able to pull the bones out of the meat without any tools or strenuous effort.
However, a lot of professional pitmasters do not believe this is when the ribs are perfectly cooked. Some disagree with this method and think when it starts to fall off this way it is overcooked. They suggest the meat has now lost its moisture and has dried out. This becomes especially relevant which leftovers are reheated.
According to these professional pitmasters, the ribs are done once their internal temperature reaches 195 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you do prefer your meat to fall off the bones, you need to wait until this temperature reaches around 203-205 degrees. You do however run the risk of overcooking them by leaving them this long.
The best way to get your meat to fall off the bone is the 321 method and you will need to use a meat thermometer to monitor the rib’s internal temperature.
You can also check the bone ends and if you can see a 1/4th to a 1/2th of an inch of a bone, it is a good indication that your ribs are probably done. You can even bounce the rack up and down on the grill and if it cracks, your ribs need to be removed from the smoker as soon as possible.
How Long To Smoke Ribs At 250 Degrees Fahrenheit
You might be wondering just how long you need to smoke ribs if you are cooking them at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. When cooking the ribs at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, baby back ribs will take about 5 hours to fully cook, but to cook spare ribs, you would need to increase this cooking time to 6-8 hours, depending on their size and weight.
Baby Back Ribs
When cooking baby back ribs at this temperature, you need to start by removing the silver skin on the rib rack with a sharp knife. The silverskin is a gray-colored membrane and this runs along the side of the bones. You need to ensure you trim this and any excess fat before beginning to smoke the meat.
Once you have done this, pat the meat on each side with a paper towel to dry it out and season generously. To season, apply mustard, either the Dijon or yellow kind, and rub this on the exterior of the rack. This will help your rub to stick.
When it comes to the BBQ rub, be as experimental as you like but ensure you apply plenty of it to the mustard for extra flavor. The main ingredients we recommend for a rub would be salt, freshly ground pepper, brown sugar, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and any other dry ingredients you desire.
Set your smoker to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and once it has reached this temperature, you need to place the rack inside but without wrapping directly on the grate. Let the ribs cook slowly in here for around 2 hours and avoid opening the door whilst they are cooking.
After the 2 hours is up, take out the meat and pop it on a double-layer heavy-duty aluminum foil. You need to have drizzled this foil with melted butter and honey and wrap the rack tightly in it before popping it back in the smoker for another 2 hours.
When it is time to take the ribs out, unwrap them first and allow them to cook for just one more hour unwrapped. Apply a BBQ sauce at this step during the last 30 minutes of cooking. Let the ribs rest for 15 minutes after removing them from the smoker and separate them before serving with a tasty sauce.
How Long To Smoke Ribs At 275 Degrees Fahrenheit
If you decide you want to smoke the ribs at 275 degrees Fahrenheit however, this might save time, but we recommend reserving this method for larger types of ribs with a lot of fat, such as spareribs.
Cooking these kinds of ribs at this temperature should take on average 5 hours but if you decide to cook baby back ribs at 275 degrees, they will only take around 3-4 hours.
If you want to prepare spare ribs at this temperature, you need to inspect your rack before smoking, and like when you smoke them at 250 degrees, remove the silver skin if it has been left on with a sharp knife.
Start from the corner and peel it off slowly with the knife. Ensure you remove any leftover pieces of the silver skin before trimming off the excess meat too.
Dry the spareribs by patting them down and coat in yellow or Dijon mustard to help your rub stick again. Use any BBQ rubs you desire and apply it to the meat and mustard by massaging them firmly.
You now need to set your smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and pop the rack of ribs in once the temperature has been reached and is stabilized. Close the door of the smoker and leave the ribs to cook for around an hour. Flip them over after this time has passed and let them cook for one more hour.
Once the second hour has passed, use heavy-duty aluminum foil which has been double-layered, and wrap the rib tightly to create a seal. Continue to cook the wrapped meat for two more hours.
Now you need to remove this wrapping and place the ribs, with the bones facing downwards on the grate and leave them for another hour. In the final 30 minutes, apply BBQ sauce on the ribs generously.
Remove the ribs as soon as the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit and allow them to rest for 15 minutes, before separating them and serving them up individually with plenty of sauce or sides.
Can I Smoke My Ribs At 300 Degrees?
Although we would not recommend it, you can smoke ribs at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, however, you should not rise above this.
Stick to fruit woods if you are smoking at this temperature such as cherry, peach, or apple, or even hardwoods like hickory or oak. Pop the ribs on the grill and close the lid before leaving them only 2.5 hours to cook through at 300 degrees.
Wood For Smoking Pork Ribs
We know when it comes to the taste of the ribs, everyone has their preferences. However, a lot of professional pitmasters and BBQ enthusiasts like to use a combination of sweet and smoky wood fruits such as cherry, apple, or even pecan when smoking leaner types of ribs, such as baby back ribs.
The sweet and smoky flavors provide a delicious counterpart to the leaner cut of meat. However, as spare ribs are a lot bigger and have a lot more fat on them, you might want to use oak wood.
This does not overpower the taste of the meat, yet still gives it a delicious, hearty, and robust flavor. If you want an extra smoky result, you can also add some mesquite or hickory to the oak or any other kind of wood chips you use for smoking.
We hope this article has shared some light on the different cooking methods of getting the tastiest, most tender, and juiciest ribs from your smoker.
Whether you choose to smoke them at 250 degrees Fahrenheit or 275 degrees Fahrenheit to speed up the cooking time, you will still need several hours and a lot of time and patience to get them right.
Traditionally, a long and slow cooking process at 225 degrees Fahrenheit will work, however, preparing them at higher temperatures, with the steps we have provided will still provide you with great results.
Just remember to use the cooking method best for your type of ribs and smoke at the correct temperature, and you should be on your way to some of the most delicious pork meat you’ve ever tried. Happy grilling!
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