All About Pork Ribs and the Thermal Path to Juicy Tenderness

All About Pork Ribs and the Thermal Path to Juicy Tenderness

Posted on: January 17, 2023

Pork ribs are among the most delicious, popular, and loved cuts of pork that can be cooked, smoked, and prepared in a variety of different ways. The bursting flavor of pork ribs makes them one of the most loved meals out there. If there’s anything that can make the experience of eating some tender and juicy pork ribs any better, it’s having your very own smoker at home that you can fire up anytime, whenever you feel like it.

Purchasing the right kind of ribs

The process of exploring and getting the perfect pork ribs starts here. Pork ribs come in different cuts, and you have to decide which is the best for you. Here are the different kinds of pork ribs you can buy from your nearest supermarket:

Baby back ribs: These are the type of ribs that come from high up on the back of the hog—it’s where they tend to wrap around the lion. To be specific, baby back ribs usually come from a younger animal, and they’re also the same kind of ribs found in bone-in rib chops. These ribs tend to be leaner, and they’re also meatier and more tender than spare ribs. They’re usually three to six inches wide. A typical rack of baby back ribs consists of anywhere from 8 to 13 ribs.

Pork spare ribs: These ribs come from the belly of the hog. They’re from the lower part of the ribs and extend all the way to the front of the pig. They also have parts of the sternum and brisket bones. These ribs tend to be higher in fat and are also tougher. However, a good cook in the smoker will have them slipping off the bone. These ribs tend to be anywhere from six to eight inches in width, and a rack can come with 11 to 13 ribs.

St. Louis cut ribs: This name refers to the kind of cut. These ribs are trimmed to the point where the brisket bones are removed as well as the sternum and the hanging flap of meat on the last rib. St. Louis ribs also tend to be more squared off and flatter than the other cuts. They’re usually anywhere from five to six inches wide.

Country-style ribs: these ribs basically come from the shoulder end of the lion. You can make these by splitting open the lion, through the middle, down. This leaves a narrow portion of the rib bone with the meat attached along with it. There’s also the narrow part of the feather bone with meat included.

Preparing the ribs

Now that you’ve understood the various kinds of pork ribs and their differences, it’s time to move on to how to trim and prepare them before they hit the smoker.

  1. Start by trimming the flap of what’s known as the “extra meat” off the bone.
  1. Next up, flip the ribs and remove the breastplate.
  1. Continue to remove the rather sinewy membrane on the underside of the slab—it will not melt off during the cooking process.
  1. Finally, trim off any excess fat remaining and apply the rub.

When it comes to applying the rub, there are many options and combinations you can choose from. The possibilities are endless. Once you’ve tried many rubs, you will find your favorite, and then you can stick with it.

Place the ribs on a baking sheet and continue to apply the rub on the pork. Remember, applying means patting it on the pork ribs and not rubbing it in.

Smoke the ribs

Finally, the best part of making pork ribs is here—it’s time to put them in the smoker!

  1. Preheat your smoker to 225 °F (107​ ​°C) using the wood chips of your liking.
  1. Ensure any unnecessary fat and meat have been trimmed off the pork ribs.
  1. Pat the ribs dry—this helps remove any excess moisture.
  1. Wrap the pork ribs in aluminum foil and place them in the smoker for 2 hours. It’s important to maintain a temperature of 225 °F (107 °C) to 250 °F (121 °C) during the smoking process.
  1. You can return to the smoker every 15 or 10 minutes to check.
  1. The ribs are done when their internal temperature is anywhere from 175 °F (79 °C) to 180 °F (82 °C).
  1. Remove the ribs from the smoker and let them rest for about 10 minutes before serving them.
  1. And that’s it, serve and enjoy!

This was a short yet comprehensive guide about pork ribs and how delicious they can be prepared using the techniques mentioned, combined with your favorite rub and, of course, in a smoker at home, making the entire experience memorable, convenient, and fun.

So, the next time you head to your local supermarket, you’ll know exactly which type of pork ribs to buy and how to prepare and smoke them, whether it’s for yourself or to enjoy with family and friends.

Check out a few more articles about smoked ribs:
How to Make 3-2-1 Smoked Ribs, and Why You Should Do It
Can You Freeze Smoked Ribs?
Baby Back vs. Spare Ribs: What You Need To Know About Pork Ribs

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.