One of the pleasures of owning an oversized grill or smoker is the prospect of serving more than one type of meat as your main course. However, the timing can be tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. Let’s talk about smoking ribs and chicken at the same time.
Smoking Ribs and Chicken at the Same Time
If you want to smoke ribs and whole chickens together, add the chickens to the smoker after the ribs have cooked for 2 or 3 hours. If you’re using the 2-2-1 or 3-2-1 method, just remember to add the chicken after you’ve wrapped the ribs.
A Word About Internal Temperatures
In order to be safe to eat, pork needs to cook to an internal temp of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s permissible to take it off the heat when it reaches the 140-degree mark, as the meat will continue to cook as it rests.
As long as your meat has reached these temperatures, you can consume it without worrying about food-borne illnesses (at least the ones related to undercooking). When you’re talking about pork ribs, though, that’s not the end of the story.
Ribs can be tough and chewy if they’re not cooked long enough. In general, you should leave them on the smoker until they’ve cooked to 195 degrees. This is roughly the same temperature at which you would remove pork butt or shoulder from the smoker when making pulled pork.
At 195-200 degrees, the meat from the ribs will separate easily from the bone. It should have a tender texture that melts in your mouth. When you smoke ribs and chicken at the same time, you want to achieve these results at the same time the chicken reaches its optimal temperature.
Where To Position The Ribs and Chicken
Always set the chicken on the rack beneath the ribs when you’re cooking both at the same time. This will prevent any cross-contamination from occurring when the juices from the underdone chicken begin to drip off the rack.
As we’ll discuss later, you should add the chicken after the ribs have already cooked for a while. The ribs will also be wrapped in foil at this point, so you won’t have to worry as much about their cooking juices dripping onto the chicken.
How To Smoke Chicken And Ribs Together
First of all, decide what type of ribs you’re going to buy. Spare ribs come from the belly of the pig, and their meat is rich and fatty. St. Louis-style ribs are the same thing, but they’ve been trimmed to remove the cartilage and breastbone. Baby back ribs come from the loin section and are both smaller and leaner than spare ribs.
If you’re making smoked spare ribs, use the 3-2-1 method. This means removing them from the smoker after 3 hours, wrapping them in foil or butcher paper, and returning them to the heat for another 2 hours. During the final hour of cooking, you’ll take off the foil to allow the exterior to crisp up.
Since baby back ribs are leaner, they take less time to cook. That means the 2-2-1 method is preferable. As you’ve probably guessed, this entails wrapping the ribs at the 2-hour mark, again removing the wrapper for the last hour.
For both, you’ll want to set the smoker to 225-250 degrees, increasing it to 275 for the final stage. It’s possible to smoke the ribs at 275 the entire time if you’re in a hurry, but we prefer to go low and slow whenever possible.
Because chicken will reach its target temperature sooner than the ribs will, we would suggest adding it to the smoker after you wrap the ribs. This should give the meat the time it needs to cook through. Just to be on the safe side, keep an eye on the chicken’s internal temperature, and remove it as soon as the white meat hits the 165-degree mark.
Should You Wrap The Chicken in Foil Too?
Although wrapping the ribs in foil makes it easier to estimate the total cooking time, we don’t think this step is necessary when smoking chicken. The meat should cook through in 2 to 3 hours, depending on the size of the bird. That means you can add it to the smoker at the same time as the wrapped ribs, and everything should be done at the same time.
What’s more, wrapping the chicken will cause the meat to steam inside the foil. That will make the skin unpleasantly soggy. The foil will prevent the smoke flavor from permeating the meat as well, which would defeat the entire purpose of using the smoker to begin with.
When To Apply Sauce
While barbecue sauce can be a welcome addition to smoked meats, don’t add it until the meat is nearly finished cooking. Most types of barbecue sauce contain a ton of sugar, which will burn easily and impart a bitter flavor to the meat.
When you estimate that there are 15 to 30 minutes left in the smoke, apply the sauce using a heatproof brush. That will give it time to adhere to the meat without burning. If you’d like, you can serve additional sauce on the side.
Smoking Ribs and Chicken at the Same Time: A Step-By-Step Guide
Note that this guide assumes you’ll be preparing whole chickens along with the full rib racks. If you’re smoking the breasts or thighs alone, see Smoking Chicken Parts With Ribs, below.
1. Set the smoker to 225 degrees. Remove the membrane from the underside of the rib racks if the butcher hasn’t already done this part. Pat the racks dry with paper towels.
2. Apply a seasoning rub to the ribs, or a simple blend of black pepper and kosher salt if you prefer.
3. When the smoker has reached the right temperature, set the ribs on the upper rack with the bone side facing down. Smoke the racks for 3 hours if using spare ribs, or 2 hours for baby back ribs.
4. While the ribs are cooking, prepare the chicken. Trim away any excess skin or fat, if necessary, and pat the meat dry with paper towels. Season as desired and set aside.
Tip: A blend of kosher salt, crushed fennel seed, and herbs de Provence will complement the smoked meat nicely.
5. Remove the ribs from the smoker and wrap them in butcher paper or foil. If desired, you can add a bit of brown sugar, honey, or apple cider vinegar to the ribs before wrapping them. Make sure the wrapper is sealed tightly.
6. Add the ribs to the top section of the grill and place the chicken on the lower rack. You can place the wrapped ribs on the rack bone-side up for this part of the smoke.
7. Smoke the ribs and chicken together for 2 hours.
8. Take the ribs out of the smoker and carefully remove the wrapper. Increase the smoker temperature to 275 degrees.
9. Put the ribs back on the rack and allow them to cook for 30-45 minutes more. At this point, you can add a sauce to the ribs or chicken, or both.
10. Cook until the ribs have achieved an internal temp of 195 degrees. A probe inserted into the spot where the breast meets the drumstick should read at least 165 degrees.
11. If the ribs finish cooking before the chicken does, take them off the heat and wrap them in foil again. Set them in a low oven or faux Cambro until the chicken is done.
12. Allow both types of meat to rest for 15-30 minutes at room temperature before carving and enjoying.
Smoking Chicken Parts With Ribs
Obviously, chicken parts will take less time to cook than whole chickens. Use this timing guide to help you determine when to add breast, drumsticks, or thighs to the smoker when it’s set to 225 degrees.
Estimated Cooking Times:
- Bone-In Breasts and Boneless Thighs: 1.5 to 2 hours
- Bone-In Thighs and Drumsticks: 2 to 2.5 hours
The Bottom Line
Smoking ribs and chicken at the same time is fairly easy. Remember to keep an eye on the internal temperature of both meats to avoid overcooking. As long as you do that, you should be able to serve them together–and with superb results.
Best of luck, and happy grilling!