5 Smoked Ribs Recipes To Unleash Your Inner Grill Master

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Among all the dishes in a BBQ cookout, smoked ribs are on another level. They’re the peak of the event and that’s why there’s a lot of pressure that goes into making them. 

I know this firsthand because I could make the top-of-the-line appetizers to wow you. I could even serve up some fun and interesting grilled desserts you’ve probably never tried before. 

But when it comes to making ribs, I just freeze and second-guess myself because they just seem like such an impossible feat. 

That was until I decided to get out of my head and just do it. Practice makes perfect, right? I started with the classic recipe and then worked my way up. Eventually, I got the hang of it.

And now, I’m making smoked ribs like a pro (or so I say to myself). 

So, if you still have some lingering fears and doubts surrounding smoked ribs, here are the recipes that got me through my slump. 

1. Classic BBQ Smoked Ribs

In theory, making smoked ribs should be easy because there are only six steps and just a handful of ingredients.

Half of these steps are the preparation and the other half is the cooking process, so when you think about it, there’s very little room for error. 

With that in mind, let’s start things off easy, and there’s no better recipe than this classic BBQ smoked ribs. 

I’ll take you step-by-step through the entire process so you can follow through.

The first step is to trim your meat. You’ll find that most of the pork spare ribs available in supermarkets and Costco have an odd flap that’s not connected to the bones.

You’ll want to slice this part off because it will most likely just catch fire on the grill. 

Once that’s done, the second step is to pull the membrane from the back of the ribs. This is crucial because you’ll want the flavors of your rub to seep through the meat. 

So, if you keep the thin film (membrane) intact, all the flavors will just accumulate at the top — which is a big no-no.

The third step is to season your meat. For this, you can either buy a pre-made BBQ rub at the market or make it from scratch. If you choose the second option, here’s what you’ll need.

A three-fourths cup of brown and white sugar, half a cup of paprika, a quarter cup of garlic powder, two tablespoons of ground black pepper, ginger powder, and onion powder, and a tablespoon of rosemary. 

Mix all of those ingredients and slather your rub on all sides of your ribs. 

After that, place your rack on the grill. If you don’t have a strategic grill set-up, these three tips can make such a difference in the outcome of your smoked ribs:

  1. Place a tray of water on the grill to help keep your meat soft and moist.
  2. Turn half of your grill off and the other half on low. 
  3. Place your ribs on the side that’s turned off for an added smoky flavor.

Once you’ve got your grill going, the fifth step is to baste. Because you’re using low indirect heat, the cooking process will take about five to six hours. 

During the last five minutes, brush your favorite BBQ sauce on top, and leave it on the grill to caramelize.

Now, we’re heading to our final step, which is cutting. Once your meat is tender and juicy, take it off the grill with tongs and transfer it to a cutting board to slice it into smaller pieces.

Take a moment to pat yourself on the back and appreciate your creation before taking a bite. 

You did it! You’ve just made classic smoked BBQ ribs.

2. Honey Garlic Smoked Ribs

Now that you’ve conquered the basics of smoking and grilling ribs, the rest of these recipes will be a breeze. 

The only difference will be the rubs that you slather on your rack, but other than that, all six steps will still apply. 

So, if you’re confident in trying a new recipe, how about giving these honey garlic smoked ribs a shot? 

Follow the preparation steps in the first recipe. Once you reach the third step — which is seasoning — here are the ingredients you’ll need.

To make the rub, get a quarter cup of brown sugar, a tablespoon of garlic powder, salt, and smoked paprika, and a teaspoon of onion powder and ground black pepper.

After rubbing your seasoning all over your ribs, place it on the grill or smoker to cook for around three to four hours. 

While that’s cooking, prepare your sauce to baste your rack. In the first recipe, we used the traditional BBQ sauce. For this one, we’re making our own honey sauce. 

So, grab a cup of honey, one and a half cups of apple juice, and half a cup of water. Add all these ingredients to a spray bottle and shake until well combined. 

Three to four hours later, spritz your meat with this concoction until every surface area is covered. Then, let the meat cook for another hour to two hours.

In the meantime, go ahead and make a honey-garlic dip for these ribs. This step is optional, but I think having a side of sauce is a great way to enhance the flavors of this dish.

For this step, you’ll need a cup of honey, two tablespoons of minced garlic, a quarter cup of brown sugar, and a quarter cup of soy sauce. Whisk these ingredients together and serve them with your sliced ribs. 

This recipe is not far off from the classic BBQ ribs, but it has more sweetness.

It’s a subtle difference that some people may overlook, but when you really get to the nitty-gritty, you’ll notice hints of honey and apple juice. 

3. Coffee-Rubbed Smoked Ribs

Two recipes in, and I think by this time, you already know what you’re getting yourself into.

Again, the same six steps follow. All you need to do is change up your rub. And if you want, you can also add an extra step at the end to prepare a side dip. 

But for this recipe in particular, we’re just going to switch up the seasoning to a coffee rub. This will give your ribs more char on top and a stronger smoky flavor. 

To make the coffee rub, you’ll need two tablespoons of freshly ground coffee, kosher salt, and paprika as the base.

Then, you’ll need to add a tablespoon of ancho chile powder, dark brown sugar, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground black pepper, plus half a teaspoon of cocoa powder and coriander.

Grab a rack (or two) of spare ribs, and slather this rub everywhere. Put it in the grill or smoker and let it cook for five to six hours. 

If you want to baste the ribs with your favorite BBQ sauce, go ahead. However, I have a much better recipe for this dish: I call it the coffee BBQ sauce (I know, the name’s not original at all).

To make this sauce, just add these ingredients to your saucepan and cook to a simmer for 25 minutes.

A cup each of tomato puree and brewed coffee, a three-fourths cup of brown sugar, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, two tablespoons of molasses and salt, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.

On top of those, you’ll need your spices, so toss in a teaspoon each of black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and mustard powder. Then, if you want some spice, add a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

And there you have it: a coffee BBQ sauce to baste your coffee-rubbed smoked ribs. 

4. Jamaican Jerk Smoked Ribs

If you’re looking for a spicier smoked ribs version, you’ve come to the right place, because these Jamaican jerk smoked ribs are bringing the heat to your table. 

You don’t even have to make the rub from scratch. You can easily find store-bought Jamaican jerk seasoning from Amazon, Costco, or Target — you name it. 

But, if you want to give yourself a bit of a challenge, you can blend your rub at home using A LOT of herbs and spices. 

These include a tablespoon of onion powder and garlic powder, two teaspoons of cayenne pepper, salt, ground black pepper, dried thyme, and sugar, and a quarter teaspoon of ground cumin.

That’s not all. You’ll also need a teaspoon of ground allspice, dried parsley, and paprika, half a tablespoon of hot pepper flakes, ground cinnamon, and ground nutmeg, and half a teaspoon of ground clove. 

Then, you know the drill: (1) whisk them together, (2) apply the rub on your rack, and (3) smoke to perfection.

If you want to customize the spice level of your dry rub, feel free to add more cayenne, paprika, and hot pepper flakes. It’s totally up to you.

5. Cherry Cola Smoked Ribs

For our fifth and final recipe, we have the cherry cola smoked ribs. I know you probably think mixing cola and ribs sounds weird, but there’s science behind this combo.

Cherry cola makes the ribs softer. Here’s why: both the sugar and acidity contents of this beverage effectively break down the proteins in the meat, making it a whole lot tender. 

But don’t worry, if you’re worried that your ribs will taste like cherry cola after it’s cooked, it won’t be. You won’t even know that there was soda involved in this recipe. 

So, just to reiterate, we’re still following the same six steps. We’re just tweaking the seasoning for this recipe. Instead of just a dry rub, we’re adding a wet rub to the mix.

For the dry rub, you’ll need a tablespoon of kosher salt, a teaspoon of smoked paprika, and half a teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and ground black pepper.

For the wet rub, you’ll need two tablespoons of yellow mustard, a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and two tablespoons of cherry cola.

With the previous recipes, you would normally apply the dry rub over your rack of ribs without any layer underneath.

However, for this recipe, we’re taking it up a notch by first spritzing the entire rack with the wet rub before slathering on the dry rub. This makes the spices stick to the meat better.

And then, for basting, you’ll need one and a half cups of cherry cola, two tablespoons of ketchup, a quarter teaspoon of ground black pepper, and some salt to taste.

Smoke your ribs for five to six hours. During the last few minutes, baste your rack. Finally, take it off the heat, and slice per usual.

Once you nail the steps of smoking ribs, you can make any recipe you want!

Unlock the Secret to Smoked Ribs

A lot of pros have been going back and forth on which method to use when it comes to smoking the perfect ribs.

Some say it’s the 3-2-1 method, where you cook for three hours, grill for another two hours with a foil wrap, then smoke the ribs for the last hour without the foil.

Others say it’s the hot and fast approach, where you smoke the ribs at high temperatures for a shorter time (around two hours max).

There are a lot more techniques where those came from, but at the end of the day, it all boils down to what works for you.

Once you find the system that gives you the results you want — stick to it. That’s my secret to mastering the art of smoking ribs!

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