You haven’t tried the ultimate type of smoked meat until you try your hand at making the best hickory smoked ribs. Whether you’re making spare ribs, pork ribs, or beef ribs, the tips below will help you achieve a more delectable and delicious rack of ribs. Next time you prepare this meal for your family and friends, impress them with the knowledge you learned from this article.
Remove the Silver Skin on the Ribs
Before you begin seasoning your ribs for smoking, there is an important step you don’t want to forget—removing the silver skin from the meat. The membrane, or silver skin, is a thin layer covering the inner cavity of your ribs. If you leave this membrane on your meat, it can become chewy and tough after smoking. Remove the silver skin to help keep your ribs tender and tasty.
To remove the membrane, you will need a small butter knife and gloves to keep your hands clean. Grab your rack of ribs by the middle and hold it with the silver skin facing you. Bend the meat, take the butter knife and gently slide it between two bones under the membrane to lift it away from your meat.
Once you’ve lifted enough skin away, you can tear away the whole membrane in one piece. Discard the silver skin and set your ribs aside for further preparation. It’s important to note that you would go through this process for pork ribs, but if you’re cooking beef ribs, only remove the membrane from the top layer of meat; removing it from the side where the bones are could potentially cause your beef ribs to fall apart during the smoking process.
Brine Your Meat & Add Your Dry Rub
To achieve juicier meat, consider dry brining your rack of ribs before adding a dry rub and smoking it on the pit. Dry brining involves salting the meat up to 24 hours before cooking it. Doing this gives your ribs better water retention, flavor enhancement, better surface browning, and a crispier crust.
After dry brining and removing the membrane, you can season your ribs with a dry rub. Your rub could consist of salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder, paprika, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper. Typically, any combination of BBQ spices and herbs works best for this. Gently rub these spices into your meat; don’t be afraid to coat the surface generously. Set the ribs aside for the smoker.
Prepare Your Smoker
After preparing your ribs, you must also prepare your smoker or pit. To smoke your rack of ribs, we recommend cooking them indirectly and preheating your smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the best hickory smoked ribs, you need to be careful with your heat when smoking them because it needs to be hot enough to kill the harmful bacteria and cool enough not to evaporate all the moisture in the smoker.
To start smoking your ribs, how much hickory BBQ wood you add depends on the size of your smoker and how much smoke it leaks. You can always start with a smaller amount of wood and add more if you want more flavor. Adding too much immediately could overpower your ribs and make them taste bitter.
Consider the 3-2-1 Method
There are several methods for cooking a rack of ribs, so by all means, you do not need to use the 3-2-1 method, but it’s always an option! This method consists of smoking your meat bare for three hours, wrapping it in tinfoil for two hours, and smoking it bare for another hour while adding your barbeque sauce during the last 15 minutes.
For example, after preparing your ribs and the smoker, place your meat on the opposite side of your hickory wood with the bone side of your ribs down. Leave them to sit in the smoker for three hours. After the three hours are up, wrap the ribs in tinfoil with butter and garlic—place the wrapped ribs back onto the smoker for two more hours. The foil will keep the skin on your ribs from charring and turning black and help keep your meat juicy and moist.
During the last hour, unwrap the ribs and place them back into the smoker. This is when you can crank the heat to around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. When the timer has 15 minutes left, slather and coat your ribs with your favorite barbeque sauce. Remember also to let your ribs rest for a few minutes after they are complete before serving them to your family and friends.
Be Mindful of Your Cook Length
Each cut of meat you buy from the store will vary in weight, thickness, and composition. For instance, a two-inch cut of meat will take up to 10 hours to reach a temperature of 203 degrees Fahrenheit, while a one-inch thickness will take around five hours to achieve the same temperature. Ideally, your ribs should be at an internal temperature of 190 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe for consumption.
We recommend using a meat thermometer to monitor the temperature of your meat. You will know your ribs are done when they pull apart easily. You will know they’re overcooked if the meat becomes mushy—so be mindful and careful when smoking your ribs, and ensure you’re monitoring their progress throughout the smoke session.
Add Post-Oak To Tone Down the Flavor
Hickory generally has a more intense flavor than cherry and fruit woods, but it’s not as strong as mesquite. You’ve most likely seen hickory flavoring in bacon. However, some individuals might find the taste of hickory to be strong, so they combine this wood with another, like post-oak, to help tone down the flavor profile of your ribs.
So, if you only used hickory wood to smoke your ribs last time, and the flavor was too intense for you, consider adding post-oak to your smoker alongside the hickory. Finding the perfect combination for your tastebuds may take a few tries.
Ensure you have all the right tools at your disposal before smoking your meat to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Good luck achieving the best-tasting hickory smoked ribs—it might just be your next favorite Sunday night dinner!