Smoked Barbecue Ribs, Memphis Style
BBQ season is coming round fast and you’re going to want this smoked barbecue ribs recipe. Scroll down for more info!
Mastering real, American barbecue
People often think that Jon must LOVE living with a food blogger. My instagram feed is always full of tasty treats that I’m making or eating out. There seems to be a never ending supply of cake in my house and special occasions always call for something over the top. In reality he’s convinced that I’m either trying to fatten him up or give him diabetes. Neither are true but it can be really hard living with a food blogger without piling on the pounds.
Another “hazard” of the job is the need to test the same recipes over and over again. I don’t want to post something which hasn’t been thoroughly tested and not all recipes go right the first time. Many require tweaking which is why I like to update some of the older recipes I posted back when the blog started in 2011. I’ve never made Jon eat the same thing more than 2 times a week but 2 times a month is not uncommon. So, when I told him that my nest recipe was going to be a meaty one I think he was relieved he didn’t have to be my guinea pig.
You may have already guessed that Jon’s a vegetarian and a lot of the recipes on the blog are meat free because of that. I am personally more than happy eating a (mainly) vegetarian diet and just saving meat for special occasions. But, when my Char Broil Big Easy Smoker, Roaster and Grill arrived I knew I had to come up with some epic, slow cooked meat recipes.
This thing can cook up to 11kg of poultry in one go. It comes with rib hooks, a grilling slab for steaks and is perfect for pulled pork and brisket. For me though the first recipe I wanted to perfect had to be smoked barbecue ribs. All good carnivores love nibbling such, succulent, flesh off of the bone so that’s what I set out to achieve.
If you want to check out my review of the Big Easy just click here.
American barbecue tradition
American barbecue dates back hundreds of years, the first written mention appearing sometime in the late 1600s. The “barbecue belt” is the true home of American style barbecue and can be found in the south east of America, an area bordered by Texas, Kentucky and Mexico. Here barbecue is king and they pride themselves in knowing how to cook the best, most succulent meat. The next time I go on holiday to America you can guess where I’m heading!
For top notch American barbecue you need very few ingredients: meat (usually pork or possibly beef); smoke (such as hickory, oak, maple or cherry wood); and barbecue sauce (although this is optional). Barbecue styles and techniques vary from region to region. Some places use a dry rub, others slather on their barbecue sauce as a marinade before cooking others add it during or after. For these smoked barbecue ribs I like to use a dry rub the night before and follow up with a drizzle of barbecue sauce after cooking.
Now I am absolutely no expert on this. I really must hold my hand up. Most of my American barbecue knowledge comes from TV and American style barbecue restaurants here in London. But I’ve been doing my best to learn all about the regional variations and if I had to hang my hat on anyone region I’d say these smoked barbecue ribs were not too dissimilar to those cooked in Memphis.
My research tells me that Memphis barbecue involves heavy smoking, dry rubs, and sweet-tangy barbecue sauce. They love their pork and especially a rack of ribs. The meat is smoked slowly, to impart maximum flavor. Pork ribs are served either wet (smothered in a sticky, saucy) or dry (naked with just the spice rub). A traditional Memphis rack of ribs is usually rubbed with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, oregano, and celery seed. All bar the celery seed and oregano are found in my rub so this recipe must be as close to Memphis style as you can get in the UK right?
Apparently the barbecue sauce they use in Memphis has it’s own celebration in Lynchburg each year at the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue (known as “The Jack”), where people compete to make the best sauce using Jack Daniel’s. A couple of times when we’ve made these ribs we’ve used wood chips made from Jack Daniel’s whisky barrels but I’ll be honest I prefer the hickory wood. If I do ever make it to the barbecue belt I’ll definitely have to check out The Jack.
Readers in the US – am I right or wrong? Would the folk in Memphis recoil in horror at how I’ve cooked my ribs?! Are they more like the ribs you’ve tried in another part of America? Let me know in the comments below!
Whilst I’ve cooked my ribs in proper smoker I’m sure you could have a go in your regular barbecue. Just place the wood chips in a tin foil tray or parcel before placing amongst the coals. Make sure you keep the lid on and keep an eye on the temperature. Too hot and they’ll be charred to dust!
The most important thing when cooking ribs is to get the internal temperature of the ribs right. Whilst 145F is thought to be safe to eat, you need to get the ribs to over 175F before the tough parts of the ribs really break down. I leave mine until I see a reading of at least 190F. Invest in a decent meat thermometer and enjoy!
- Hickory wood chips
- 4 tbsp paprika
- 4.5 tsp ground black pepper
- 4.5 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1.5 tsp garlic powder
- 1.5 tsp onion powder
- Barbecue sauce (optional)
- Flat leaf parsley (optional)
- To make the rub, stir together the paprika, black pepper, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder.
- Ideally prepare the spice mix and rub into both sides of the ribs the day before smoking.
- Place the ribs in the fridge overnight then take out a few hours before you want to cook the ribs and allow them to come up to room temperature.
- Load the smoke box with hickory wood chips and turn the smoker on high.
- Pre-heat the smoker until the wood chips have started to smoke.
- Cut a slit just below the rib bone at the narrow end of the rack of ribs.
- Hook the rib hook under the bone using this slit.
- Hang the ribs on the roasting basket with the bone side facing the walls of the smoker.
- Turn the heat down as low as possible and smoke for at least 30 minutes before checking their temperature.
- After 30 minutes they have usually reached 145F.
- Check at 15-20 minute intervals or until the ribs have caramelised on the outside and reached an internal temperature of 190F (usually after 45 minutes to 1 hour).
- Serve immediately with a drizzle of your favourite barbecue sauce and some leaves of parsley.
The next thing I want to master is a big hunk of Texan style brisket. The burnt ends I had at this one barbecue place off Carnaby Street were out of this world. It’s closed down since so I’ll just have to make my own!
Feel free to leave any tips and tricks you have for smoking in the comments!
Pin it for later!
In the meantime, why not pin this recipe for later?