These smoked spare ribs are rubbed with sugar, chili powder, cumin, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne then smoked for 5 hours. A Texas-style barbecue sauce is the final flourish.
Learning to smoke ribs to finger-lickin’ perfection is super simple. And this smoked spare ribs recipe is an exquisite example of just how easy it can be. Authentic barbecue flavor in your own backyard. No smoker required. No smoking experience required, either, for that matter. Although bear in mind, there are people who spend a lifetime getting smoked ribs just right, so give yourself some time to smooth out any kinks. Practice, practice, practice. [Editor’s Note: Readers without a smoker, take comfort. We included directions for how to smoke these spare ribs on a grill. (Who loves you?!)]–Renee Schettler
Smoked Spare Ribs
- 2 (2-pound) racks pork spare ribs membranes removed* (see * Note)
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar (or substitute maple, date, or palm sugar)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce
- Let the ribs rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, make the rub by combining the sugar, chili powder, cumin, salt, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, white pepper, and cayenne pepper with a fork.
- Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Then coat the ribs with the rub, using your hands to completely cover the surface of the meat with the spices.
- Following the instructions below, smoke the ribs at 225°F (107°C) for 5 hours (about 1 hour more than the number of pounds of meat). Keep the coals smoldering at low heat so that the ribs don’t burn, catch fire, or overcook. Check the ribs periodically to make sure they aren’t drying out. Flip and move the ribs 90° every hour in order to get crosshatch sear marks across the flesh. The meat is done when it is tender and releases easily from the bone. If using a smoker: Put your soaked chips in the smoking basket and your meat on the top racks. If using a jury-rigged smoker: If buying a new smoker is too expensive for you, you can build one for yourself with just a large terra-cotta pot and a large terra-cotta bowl large enough to fit a hot plate and a round grill rack, bricks, and an aluminum pie plate. Here’s how to construct it: Raise the pot off the ground with some bricks but leave the hole at the bottom of the pot uncovered for the hot plate cord. Place the hot plate in the bottom of the pot, and pull the hot plate's cord through the hole so you can plug it into an outlet or extension cord. Put your soaked wood chips into an aluminum pie plate and put that on top of the hot plate. Place the grill rack on top of the pot so that it sits inside the pot, but well above the hot plate. Cover with the bowl, which is your lid. Turn on the hot plate and you’re smoking! If using a gas grill: Can you smoke meat with a regular gas grill? We’ve done it, and it’s effective if not perfect. This is an unsophisticated version of smoking, and real pit masters frown on it, but we’ve done it many times. The taste is not as intense, but the meat is still tender and delicious. If you want to try it, here’s how: Put your soaked wood chips in an aluminum pie plate and cover the top tightly with aluminum foil. With a butter knife, poke about 10 holes in the foil. Remove the grates from one side of your grill and place the pie plate directly on those burners. Light your grill and set only the burners underneath the wood chips on their lowest setting. If there is a large vent on the side of the grill with the wood chips, plug it with an old rag to prevent the smoke from escaping. Keep your meat on the opposite side of the grill, where the grates are still in place. Wait for the wood to start smoking—at least 15 minutes—before you place your meat on the grill.
- Remove the ribs from the heat, and let them rest uncovered for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Texas-Style Barbecue Sauce and lotsa napkins.
*How do I remove the membrane from spare ribs?To remove the membrane or silver skin from a rack of ribs, slip a small spoon (bowl side down) under the corner of the membrane and then grab it with a paper towel—it's slippery—and slowly pull it off. And if you're not feeling confident about this, any butcher will do it for you.
Originally published November 7, 2013