Guest Recipe: Smokey Weber Grilled Baby Back Ribs

My friend Sean is pretty much the Weber grill master.  Anything that can be grilled, he tries it.  Here is his recipe for baby back ribs.  Warning: these take a lot of time, but they are definitely worth it.  Thanks, Sean!

Smokey Weber Baby Back Ribs

Smoking ribs on a Weber grill is my favorite thing to do on a grill. It seems no matter how tried and true your recipe or process is, it always challenges you more than cooking any other piece of meat. From finding and applying the right rub, maintaining grill temperature between 250 – 300 degrees throughout the process, removing the ribs and applying the mop every hour, and ultimately taking the ribs off the grill to the delight of all your starving guests, it’s a lot of work, and a lot of fun.

The process is fairly simple:

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Get a drip pan and fill it completely full of hickory chips. I have had the same ole’ bag of chips for years and they don’t cost much. If you use them a few times they will more than pay for themselves. A great add to the Weber pro’s toolbelt. Fill the drip pan completely full of water and set aside. You will need them to soak for at least 30 minutes, and as long as possible while you prep your ribs.

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In an empty sink, cut open each rack of ribs from the plastic wrap they come in long ways. You do this in the sink because each rack has a lot of bloody juice inside of it and it will splatter.

Turn the ribs meat side down and take a knife along the less meaty side and poke the white membrane away from the bone. Being extremely careful, slowly rip away the membrane in one piece away from the bone until fully removed. At the end, it gets pretty fatty, simply remove the excess fat with the knife. It’s extremely important to get this right in one fell swoop, or the process can take a lot longer and you will become frustrated. In order to ‘rip it right’ I always wash my hands completely before each rack so that my hands aren’t’ as slippery and I can do it right each time.

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Get your rub on. Measure and drop all the rub ingredients in a small sauce cup and mix with a teaspoon until the mixture is consistent. With your good hand, sprinkle a little at a time on each rack, 80% on the meaty side and 20% on the boney side. It’s really important to have an equal amount on each rack so switch between them on each sprinkle. The next step is important. Don’t rub in the rub! If you rub your hands all over the ribs, the rub will ‘clot’ and it won’t adhere to the ribs. Instead, with clean damp hands, “press” in the rub gently, and the rub will adhere perfectly. Set the ribs aside for at least 30 minutes so everything has time to settle in.

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Measure and mix all of the sauce ingredients and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. If it starts to bubble, turn down the heat and simmer.

While the initial sauce ingredients are cooking, take one slice of pineapple, and five cloves of garlic and mix together in a food processor as thin as possible. Place ingredients in the sauce mixture. Set aside the fully cooked sauce in a plastic resealable container so you can keep the extra for another day! I usually refrigerate it immediately to help it stand up a bit and get thicker.

Get the grill ready. If you don’t have a chimney starter, get one. I am a Weber fanboy, and I like to make the process as easy as possible. So I use a quick start nugget, and place the chimney starter on the grill bottom after removing the grates and setting aside. The chimney starter will light the coals right away, and after about 15 minutes you will notice the briquettes at the top have lit because they will be grey along the edges. At that point, dump all the charcoal onto one side if the grill and go inside and get your wood chips.

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Sprinkle the wood chips all over the briquettes. On the other side of the grill, fill up a drip pan with water and a few loose chips and place it inside the grill. At this point, you can put the grill grates back on, and close the grill lid and close the hole completely to get the heat down to grilling temperature.

You may be asking why we dump the charcoal on only one side of the grill. The reason is that we need to produce indirect low heat. In this situation, indirect is the key aspect. Regardless of temperature, using indirect (non right above the coals) will allow the grill to be used as an oven without directly burning your meat. Remember, you will have this meat on the grill for over  three hours so you must protect your meat as much as possible. Even 20 minutes with direct contact to the heat could burn your ribs so be careful. Secondarily, the target temperature for smoking is between 250 and 300 degrees. If you are like me you usually get above this temperature. If you use a rib rack and use indirect heat, the cooking time is between 3 and 4 total hours.
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Take the rack out to the grill. Place the rack on the indirect side of the grill. The official weber rib rack is a little unstable so don’t put the ribs in each slot until you get it on the grill. For the first hour of cooking, place the ribs in the rack bone side down all facing the same way. Close the grill, and set your timer for one hour. No matter what happens, have faith, and do not open the lid.

Remove the lid after the first hour and check your progress. You will see that you have made a lot! You will also see that some of the ribs have cooked more than others, so remember where the hot spots were.

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Take all the ribs off the grill and place them on a long dish and glop them on both sides with the mop generously. I usually use almost half the mop after the first hour. The vinegar in the mop will provide a great deal of acidity to the ribs, which has the effect of loosening the tendons in the meat, helping to provide the ‘fall of the bone’ you will need and expect when eating amazing ribs. Repeat the same steps the second hour, preparing the ribs for the key final hour of cooking.

While executing the process of mopping and rearranging the ribs in the rack a few key things to note:

  • Flip the ribs each time. First on the boney side then on the meaty side.
  • Note the hot spots and there will be hot spots. Put the more cooked ribs away from those slots and switch them with the less cooked ribs. If you do this, by the end, all the ribs should be cooked close to evenly
  • You should add 6 – 8 briquettes to the fire while you are mopping. Leave the lid off so that the coals get maximum air and the coals light while you are mopping.
  • Try to keep this process under 5 minutes. It’s kind of a production so if your ribs aren’t being cooked for 10 minutes that’s not idea.

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After the third hour, you ribs might be cooked. The way I test this is by grabbing an entire half rack with tongs in the middle of the rack. If the ribs start to tear away they are ready. Also, they should be coming off the bone almost a half of an inch. If they aren’t cooked, keep em on for up to one more hour. As you can see in the picture above you could be looking like barbeque happiness at this point. It’s fun. If so, its grill achievement unlocked.

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Now it’s time to take the ribs off the grill and apply the “texas crutch”.  Take the ribs off and bring them inside. You should have a large strip of foil ready for each rack. Place each rack in the foil one at a time and apply the sauce. Wrap them up and set aside for thirty minutes. This will do three things:

  • The cooking process will finish up
  • The sauce will settle in
  • It will give you time to prepare your sides and cook your veggies on the grill

Now, time to enjoy!

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Now, time to enjoy!!!

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