Tips & Techniques

What is the Best Way to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker?

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The best way to smoke your ribs is going to depend on the flavor and tenderness that you like. Below is an 8 step how-to guide to help you figure out how to make the best ribs you’ve ever had.

1. Choose Your Ribs

There are two different types of ribs that you can choose and whichever you choose could ultimate decide how you cook them.

Spare Ribs

Spare ribs are cut from the belly area of the pig and are longer and have more meat then baby back ribs. Some argue that this type is more flavorful, but that’s really up to you to decide.

Baby Back Ribs

Baby back ribs are cut of the back of the pig just right above the loin muscle. They are shorter and more fatty and are known for being more tender.

2. Choose A Wood

Close view of hickory wood smoking chips for flavoring barbecue and grilled foods.

There are loads of wood options to choose from, but the woods below have been tried and proven to give ribs the best flavor. Whichever wood you choose, should be bought as wood chips to be used in an electric smoker.

  • Hickory
  • Oak
  • Cherry
  • Apple
  • Pecan

3. Remove Membrane

When you purchase a rack of ribs it comes with a thin film on the back that you will want to remove. Try using a small knife to life a part of the film of the ribs. Once you have gotten a grabbable piece separated, grab a hold with a paper towel, for traction and then pull the membrane off.

4. Marinate or Dry Brine

Next, you’ll have to decide if you want to marinate the ribs or not. If you decide not to marinate then you will need to dry brine your ribs, but we will talk more about that later.

Marinating your ribs is a easy way to add even more flavor. When it comes to buying marinade from the store there are tons of options. The only limitation that you’ll run into is avoiding choosing a marinade that won’t conflict with the other flavors that you choose, for example the flavors of wood/s, the flavor of the rub, the flavor of the BBQ sauce if you choose one.

Of course, you can easily make one yourself instead of buying one from the store. To make a marinade you will just need a the following;

  • An Oil (Like olive)
  • An Acid (like lemon juice)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • herbs (optional but great)

Make sure that you have enough marinade that the ribs are completely submerged in whatever container you use. Seal the container, put it in the fridge and let the ribs soak for at least 8 hours.

Dry Brine

If you decide not to marinate your ribs then you should dry brine them. To do this just cover your ribs in a thin and even layer of salt and then let them sit in the fridge for 4 hours.

5. Add A Rub

The best kind of rub to use on ribs is a dry rub. This is because a dry rub will create a tasty crust on the side of the meat. Like marinades, rubs can be bought from the store and there are thousands of options. However, you can also chose to make your own as long as it includes pepper and sugar.

To apply the rub, you’ll first want to use a paper towel to mostly dry off the ribs after they have finished marinating. Leaving a little bit of moisture on the meat will be crucial for a crust to form. If you dry brined the ribs then you may want to spread a little water over the rack.

After the meat is dry, spread the rub all over the front and back of the rack and then, as the name suggests, use your hands to “rub” the seasoning into the meat so that it sticks.

6. PreHeat Smoker

Before you you start heating up your electric smoker, you should make sure that the wood chip box and grates are clean. Once the grates are clean go ahead a spray them down with cooking oil. Then you’ll plug your electric smoker into whichever energy source you are using and set the temperature to 225 Fahrenheit. After, add your wood chips of choice and turn on your smoker. Then close the door and give the smoker about ten to twenty minutes to preheat. After it has reached 225 you can put the ribs in the smoker.

As the ribs cook, be sure to periodically check to see if more wood chips are needed. Since the ribs will take hours to cook, you will need to add additional chips to keep the level of smoke you want in the cooker.

7. Pick A Smoking Method

There are several different methods for smoking ribs and these will work on any type of smoker not just an electric smoker.

3 2 1

In this method the ribs are smoked unwrapped for 3 hours, then removed from the smoker to be wrapped and placed back on the smoker for 2 more hours, and then spend a final hour or so on the smoker unwrapped again. The last hour should really just be until the ribs have reached the desired tenderness (should have reached an internal temperature of 145 Fahrenheit by this point). In the last hour, check on your ribs every 15 minutes and spritz them with vinegar.

This method will create the most tender ribs and is a great method for spare ribs.

2 2 1

This method is almost exactly the same as the 3 2 1 method except for that first unwrapped stage in the smoker which is only two hours long.

This method is best for baby back ribs and while it will leave meat tender, it will not create as strong of a smoke flavor as the first method.

No Wrap

This method does not involve wrapping the ribs at all. Go ahead and just leave your ribs in the smoker for 4 – 6 hours and just forget about them, except to occasionally spritz vinegar on them (about every 30 minutes or so).

This method will create a nice crispy outside on the ribs and give them a strong smoky flavor.

8. Brush Ribs With BBQ Sauce (optional)

This step is completely optional, but if you like BBQ sauce on your ribs they you may want to put your favorite sauce on this rack. To do that, just brush the sauce on to the top of your ribs when they only have 15 minutes left in the smoker. Doing this will let the sauce become glaze-like and stick better to the meat.

After 15 minutes, take the rack out of the smoker, slice the ribs up and serve them hot.

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