Since we had a nice weekend on the North Shore of Boston, I decided I'd clean out my smoker today and fire it up for the season.
I went to my butcher yesterday and bought a 7 pound brisket - after reading all the posts here I had to try one for the first time. (I'm still planning to do the bacon-over boston butt...but the brisket was calling me). Unfortunately, when I opened the brisket last night it gave off a pretty foul odor so I wrapped it back up. When I took it back to my butcher, he apologized and hooked me up with a nice big steak and a rack of baby back ribs.
I normally cook ribs on my weber kettle using indirect grilling. Most of the time, they come out perfect. (When my wife likes bbq, I know I've done something right.)
But tonight I tried them in my smoker (Brinkmann horizontal offset) and they really weren't that good. Taste-wise, they were full of flavor. However they had a lot of chew and there was much gristle left attached to the bone after we ate them. I don't think the ribs were that great quality (I might need a new butcher) but I know a good part of it was my fault.
If any experienced rib smokers can help me diagnose my problem(s) - I'll be grateful.
I prepped the rack by tearing off the sheath, and then squeezing lemon juice all over them. I then applied a bbq rub (pretty standard paprika, salt, pepper, brown sugar, etc) to the rack. I let them sit for a half hour in the fridge then brought them to room temperature.
I fired up the smoker to roughly 225, initially using kingsford coals. (hard to tell exactly how hot the cooking area is, as my thermometer is 4" long and is at the far end of the smoker near the chimney). I assumed that 250 on the thermometer was 225 in the area where the ribs were.
I put a pan of water with cut-up apples in it next to the firebox to act as a baffle. I soaked some nice big hickory chunks for an hour or so and tossed them on the coals. I kept a steady stream of smoke going, witout over-doing it. I've learned the hard way to use restraint when creating smoke.
Every half hour, I mopped the ribs with a mixture of cider vinegar, Jim Beam, a splash of apple juice, salt, pepper, tabasco, garlic flakes and onion flakes. (I think one problem might have been that there wasn't enough juice or water in my mop...it was basically vinegar and booze - probably evaporated the moisture in the meat)
I replenished the coals every hour or so with Cowboy brand lump charcoal. (I like to get a long, consistent fire going w/ briquettes then go with the lump later on cause it burns cleaner and heats up faster) As the temperature went into the 50's in the evening, i replenished the coals more frequently. The fire never spiked about 250 on my thermometer.
I watched the ribs and after 4 hours the meat appeared pulled back from the bone. They looked done, so sprinkled them with rub, wrapped them in foil and brought the smoker temp down to 140 or so...I put them in the coolest spot of the cooking area.
As luck would have it, 2 neighbors dropped by. One had a round of beers and two kinds of sauce he had been cooking all day. The other had a handful of ribs he just pulled off of his weber bullet smoker. As always, they were insanely good - unlike mine
Along with the ribs, I made a few pans of smoked salt which turned out great. (Followed Steven's recipe in his Sauces book - awesome stuff!). I put some in jars and gave it to my neighbors as a token of thanks for the beer, company, ribs and sauce.
When they left a half an hour later, I pulled the ribs out of the smoker. I unwrapped the foil and dug in. They weren't juicy at all...I'd say they were sinewey with a lot of chew. It was almost as if they had that paper-like sheath running all through the meat. I think I over-cooked them and my mop acted to dry out the meat. However, the rub was tasty - my neighbor's sauce was insanely good and the smoked salt tasted great sprinkled on asparagus.
While I had a really great day bbq-ing, I'm disappointed in my baby back ribs. I can nail them everytime in my weber kettle, but each time I've tried to do them in the smoker - I turned them into pork jerky.
Any tips, advice or lambastings you can pass along would be most welcome.