How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker
Smoking ribs can be a tricky affair. You could either be solving a problem or creating something. Back in the days, I was creating a problem. With ribs, you can’t even use a thermometer because there isn’t a nice place to insert it. Truthfully speaking, nobody in the house liked the stuff I was cooking. Worse yet, they had the nerves to order French fries, pizza, and other unhealthy stuff when my food was right there on the dinner table.
Believe it or not, I was finding it difficult to enjoy my life. You spent so much time on something, and you know how it feels when it doesn’t work out. To top it all, the ribs were creating a terrible strike on my cooking skills. Coming back to the hostile response from my family members, I don’t blame them anymore. I was doing everything wrong. Finally, I immersed myself completely into the useful ability to cook better ribs. And, eventually, I pulled it off. Everyone had happy faces and filled tummies.
How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker
Step 1: Separating Membrane from the Ribs
The first thing that you will need to do over here is to remove the membrane from the ribs, unless you fancy eating something tough. The membrane is basically a piece of tissue attached to the underside of the ribs. If you were to cook them hot, they get too tough and chewy. If undercooked, they turn out to be quite rubbery. Worse yet, they prevent the flavors from penetrating deep into the ribs. Long story short, we got to throw them out so that they don’t serve as a barrier.
A blunt knife will do the trick over here. All you need to do is gently place the knife between the bone and the membrane, and loosen the membrane with the knife, while working your way towards the cut. Basically, try to get under the membrane so that you can pull it off with the help of a paper towel. If you do it a few times, you will find it relatively easy. Initially, it will prove to be a tedious task. In fact, it will be a slippery mess. So, be prepared for some grind.
Step 2: Adding Flavors to the Rib
Once the membrane is taken care off, you will have a healthier relationship with time because everything else won’t be as tedious as separating the membrane from the rib. With a short stretch of idleness, you can now prepare yourself to add delightful flavors to the ribs. For the same, you need to prepare a rub, which is pretty simple to make. Here is the small list of ingredients that you will need for a rub — 1 Tbsp. of garlic, 1 Tsp. of cayenne pepper, ¼ cup of brown sugar, ¼ cup of salt, ¼ cup of chili powder, and 2–3 Tbsp. of pepper.
Once you have these ingredients handy with you, simply mix them up well and rub them into the cut. As you may expect, this is going to be a bit messy process, but it’s a must to enjoy every bite of the ribs. Personally, I don’t hate this process. Removing membrane from the ribs can be a pain in rare occasions. However, adding flavors to the rib isn’t a deal-breaking problem for me. Anyways, once the rub is applied, let the meat soak the entire rub. Allow the ribs to marinate for anywhere between 6-24 hours.
Step 3: Getting Ready to Smoke Ribs
Believe it or not, the majority of the heavy lifting is done by now. It’s time to fire the smoker. So, build enough fire to hold a temperature of 225 to 250 degrees, which would be ideal for smoking the ribs. Your best bet would be to maintain this temperature throughout the cooking process. Generally speaking, you can smoke the ribs for 4-6 hours. The longer they are under the hood, the better they will turn out. So, choose to be generous with your time. It will be worth the patience. Also, do stop after the first two hours to remove the ribs from the smoker so that you can wrap them nicely in an aluminum foil for the remaining hours of cooking. This is done to keep abundant smoke flavor at bay. By doing so, the ribs will taste just right. Also, don’t forget to rotate the ribs every thirty minutes to ensure that all the sides are cooked evenly. You can taste a bit before fully removing the ribs from the masterbuilt smoker to be sure that they are cooked to perfection.
Remember, you will need a good amount of wood chunks over here. So, keep them handy. The conventional wisdom states that one should soak wood chips/chunks in water for at least a few hours before using them in an electric smoker. You need the wood to smoke and not burn. Wet wood smokes better than dry wood any day of the week. If it’s dry, it can catch fire and produce less smoke. So, what you really want is thoroughly wet wood so that it can produce lots of smoke for a long time. Over here, you can also consider larger pieces of smoke. Although you might have to soak them a bit longer, they will smoke and last more.
As you can see, this isn’t a secret that has been guarded by the Japanese for all these years. However, there are quite a few intrinsic details that could change the fate of the cooked ribs. Yes, the difference can be like night and day. So, get ready to prepare your best ribs ever in an electric smoker by paying attention to all the little details mentioned in the post. Hopefully, it will change the tide in your favor as it did for me years ago. Make no mistake, it’s not our staple food, but we indulge in it every once in a while. Unlike the past, my kids want me to smoke ribs more often. Trust me; they are damn choosy. I truly deserve a pat on my back!
How to Smoke Ribs in an Electric Smoker
5. The Price Differences
You’ll encounter a wide spectrum of prices for either type of device, from cheaper ones to very expensive ones. As a rough rule of thumb, grills tend to cost less than smokers, but there’s a little more to it.
With a smoker, you can make great things with lower-quality and less expensive cuts of meat, so you may spend more for a smoker upfront, but it can save you money in the longer term. Buying larger cuts of meat, even at the same quality, costs less than buying smaller cuts which have been processed by a butcher.
4. Smoking meat is a labor of love
When someone gets really into BBQ’ing, usually a smoker is right around the corner. There’s a lot to master on the grill, but smoking really takes it to the next level. It’s not like a Crockpot where you throw it on before work, get home and you’re good to go. It’s a lengthy, and involved process.
On the contrary, throwing something on the grill is a fast way to cook. It’s still a matter of heat and timing like a smoker is, but the process is much more condensed, leaving less of a window for possible errors when you’re grilling.
Grilling could be considered more straightforward, whereas smoking has a lot more for you to tweak, fine-tune, and perfect in the process… and it’s always worth the effort.
3. Grilling is faster, BUT…
You can grill around 400-500+ degrees, whereas a smoker is going to be more in the range of 70 to 170. All that extra heat on the grill might get your food cooked more quickly, but it comes at a price. When you allow it to cook slowly, it’s like you’re reading a love letter from the intricate and unique flavors of your sauces and meats.
2. Making the most of what you’ve got
If you’ve got a tougher cut of meat, the smoker is the way to go, the lengthy process at a low heat will work to tenderize the meat, whereas tossing it on a piping hot grill could leave you with rubber.
1. Size Matters
Another important consideration as to whether you should grill or smoke your meat depends on the size of it. Larger cuts of meat like roasts, whole chickens, shoulders, those are much better suited to cook in a smoker since the lower temperature has more time to heat up and cook the center before the edges become burnt.
A grill is better for streaks, burgers, dogs, chicken breasts, because those things aren’t as large and thick, and by the time the outside is cooked, the inside will also be good to go.
Alright, we’ve covered a lot of ground, but you still might not be exactly sure on which to go with, so let’s quickly recap some of the important points, and pepper in some new information as well.
Should I Buy a Smoker or a Grill?
Just to reiterate an important point, if you’ve going to be dealing with larger pieces of meat and you’re not super pressed for time, a smoker is the clear winner. The lower temperature allows you to evenly cook larger pieces of meat, and gives then an absolutely delicious flavor and texture – even if you aren’t using the most premium of cuts.
On the contrary, if you don’t want to cook a lot at once and you’ve got smaller portions to prepare, and if you don’t want to wait very long for it to cook, then the easy answer is a grill.
That’s simple enough, right? But for most of it, we don’t fall perfectly into one of those categories or the other, it’s a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B. That’s when it gets more difficult to decide, and we can start looking at things like your budget, your space, and possible additional uses.
The Most Important Aspect
Let’s not forget about taste, either. Isn’t that one of the most important factors to cooking your food, after all? If you enjoy the smoky tastes of hickory, Applewood, cherry, and more – you’ll get that from a nice smoke session of your favorite meats.
Now, you can still get a smoky flavor on the BBQ too, especially if you have a BBQ that allows for wood, but it’s just not going to be the same. Adding a squirt or two of liquid smoke is another option, but at the end of the day if it’s smokiness you’re after then you’ll want to get a smoker, there are no real substitutes. If you want a perfect steak with cross-over grill marks, you guessed it, you’ll want to throw it on a grill.
Whichever option you go for, the most important thing is your preparation and seasoning of your meat, choosing nice cuts (They don’t have to be the most expensive!), and getting your heat and cooking times down just right. Nothing can bring the best out of a slab of meat like a perfect cook, and nobody likes over-cooked, dry meat – so start with a good guide for cooking and temperatures, based on the size of your meat, and then just dial it in from there.
You’ll probably need to make some minor adjustments since every smoker or grill are a bit different, but after a few rounds you’ll be making some absolutely perfect proteins, with either option.